(19)
(11)EP 3 177 401 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
24.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/26

(21)Application number: 15744611.3

(22)Date of filing:  05.08.2015
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B01L 3/00(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2015/068014
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/020414 (11.02.2016 Gazette  2016/06)

(54)

A METHOD FOR FUSING OR CONTACTING REACTOR AND REAGENT DROPLETS IN A MICROFLUIDIC OR MILLIFLUIDIC DEVICE

VERFAHREN FÜR EINEN VERSCHMELZ- ODER KONTAKTIERUNGSREAKTOR UND REAGENSTRÖPFCHEN IN EINER MIKROFLUIDISCHEN ODER MILLIFLUIDISCHEN VORRICHTUNG

PROCÉDÉ DE FUSION OU DE CONTACT DE RÉACTEUR ET GOUTTELETTES DE RÉACTIF DANS UN DISPOSITIF MICROFLUIDIQUE OU MILLIFLUIDIQUE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 06.08.2014 EP 14306248

(43)Date of publication of application:
14.06.2017 Bulletin 2017/24

(73)Proprietors:
  • Etablissements J. Soufflet
    10400 Nogent-sur-Seine (FR)
  • Ecole Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris
    75005 Paris (FR)
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
    75016 Paris (FR)
  • Sorbonne Université
    75006 Paris (FR)

(72)Inventors:
  • GARNICA RODRIGUEZ, Jairo Ivan
    91300 Massy (FR)
  • BOITARD, Laurent
    75010 Paris (FR)
  • DREVELLE, Antoine, Serge, Dominique
    F-10100 Romilly (FR)
  • BREMOND, Nicolas, Pierre
    F-75005 Paris (FR)
  • BIBETTE, Jérôme
    F-75005 Paris (FR)

(74)Representative: Regimbeau 
87 rue de Sèze
69477 Lyon Cedex 06
69477 Lyon Cedex 06 (FR)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-2008/079274
US-A1- 2006 003 439
  
  • CHARLES N. BAROUD ET AL: "Dynamics of microfluidic droplets", LAB ON A CHIP, vol. 10, no. 16, 1 January 2010 (2010-01-01), page 2032, XP055165517, ISSN: 1473-0197, DOI: 10.1039/c001191f
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description


[0001] Droplet-based flow reactors have proven to be of particular value for the controlled synthesis of functional materials whose properties are strongly influenced by the reaction conditions. For instance, significant improvements in product control (with respect to both batch and continuous flow synthesis) have been demonstrated for a broad range of optoelectronic materials including metal nanocrystals, quantum dots and conjugated polymers. To date, however, droplet synthesis has been largely limited to simple one-step procedures, in which all reagents are loaded into the droplets at the outset, greatly restricting the range of chemistries that can be employed. To properly exploit the benefits of droplet flow, and widen the palette of accessible chemistries/materials, there is an obvious need to develop multistep droplet reactors in which reagents can be sequentially added into the flowing droplets as the reaction proceeds.

[0002] In a droplet flow process, the continuous phase is a liquid that preferentially wets the channel walls, and the reagent phase is divided into a train of discrete, near-identical low-volume droplets that travel through the channel at a common speed. The composition of the droplets may vary from one droplet to another, when droplets with different active ingredients are desired or when droplets contain a progressive (such as growing) ingredient such as microorganisms, typically spore of fungi. Owing to their small (typically submicrolitre) volumes the droplets are extremely uniform with regards to chemical composition and temperature, and so provide a highly controlled environment for carrying out chemical reactions. Moreover, since the droplets are kept away from the channel walls by the continuous phase, the chance of reactor fouling due to precipitation of reagents or products on the channel wall is virtually eliminated, ensuring a stable, unchanging reaction environment.

[0003] Droplet fusion is a very important operation for digital micro/millifluidics, as it allows the combination of reagents for the initiation of biological and/or chemical reactions. In a fluidic channel, droplet coalescence requires the removal of the continuous phase separating them. When two droplets come into close contact, a thin liquid bridge forms between the droplets. The high curvature meniscus formed around the bridge creates an imbalance of the surface tension that coalesces the two droplets. Close contact between droplets for a critical minimum amount of time is necessary for coalescence. To achieve droplet fusion, spatial and temporal synchronization are required. Existing droplet fusion technologies exhibit disadvantageous complex channel designs and/or inter-droplet contamination. This invention allows the self-synchronized injection of reagent droplets and their fusion, advantageously their passive fusion, with reactor droplets in three-phase fluidic systems without interdroplet contamination, as well as without contamination of the reagent reservoir, in simple channel designs.

Existing technologies


Passive droplet fusion



[0004] The geometry-mediated passive droplet fusion is based on the drainage of the continuous phase in expansion volumes (Figure 1). This method is characterized by an advantageous low inter-droplet contamination, but requires channels of added design complexity and exhibits lower throughputs than active fusion methods.

[0005] Surface wettability-induced passive droplet fusion (figure 2) is based on the use of hydrophilic patches to induce fusion between pairs of aqueous droplets. Despite of not requiring droplet synchronisation, the main disadvantage of this method is the high inter-droplet contamination during the passage through the wetting patch.

[0006] In another passive method, reagents are added to passing droplets (Figure 3). Although inter-droplet contamination has been reduced (but not stopped) by using hydrophilic narrow channels, this approach has low control of the specific amount of reagent added to a passing droplet as successful reagent injection of substrate requires a careful balance of the volumetric flow rates of the continuous and dispersed phases.

Active droplet fusion



[0007] Active droplet fusion methods are more complex than many passive droplet fusion schemes, since many require fabrication of electrodes and precise timing of electrical signals in order to fuse droplets. These methods use electricity to generate the surface tension instabilities required for droplet coalescence. One of the most advanced designs is the picoinjector shown in Figure 4. When a droplet passes by the picoinjector, the electrodes are activated, producing a water/oil interface thin-film instability that allows the reagent to enter the drop. High throughput (several kilohertz) and subpicoliter injection precision were claimed. The main inconvenient of this method is the possible contamination of the injection solution reservoir during in situ fusion with a passing droplet. From the use of electricity come concerns of biocompatibility of electrical signals on biological molecules, such as DNA or proteins.

Three-phase microfluidic system



[0008] WO2008/79274 discloses a three-phase microfluidic system comprising a continuous phase, reactor droplets and a spacer. The spacer is formed by immiscible liquids or hydrophobic particles to prevent coalescence of reactor droplets. This application also discloses the addition of reagent droplet by injection using a T-junction microfluidic device but does not specifically describes how the injection occurs. In particular it does not teach or suggest to break-up the reagent droplet before coalescence. The method used in this document will not prevent contamination, in particular contamination of the reservoir but also contamination between the flowing droplets in particular when the train is not regular. The method used in this document is not self-synchronized and will not allow to control, nor to adjust, the volume of the reagent droplet on case by case basis. In addition, the method used in this document will not allow to select the "target" reactor droplet.

Description of the figures:



[0009] 

Figure 1: Geometry-mediated passive droplet fusion (prior art)

Figure 2: Surface wettability-induced passive droplet fusion (prior art)

Figure 3: Reagents added to passing droplets (prior art)

Figure 4: Picoinjector in an active droplet fusion system by the use of electrodes (prior art)

Figure 5: three-phase micro/millifluidic system of the invention

Figure 6 : Pictures of the main stages of a preferred self-synchronised fusion scheme of the invention: 6a: Reagent droplet generation; 6b: Reagent droplet detachment from nozzle; 6c: Droplet contact and continuous phase drainage; 6d: Droplet fusion

Figure 7: Schematic representation of the spacer plug in the invention where the injection zone is IZ, D is the diameter of the channel, L the length of the spacer plug.

Figure 8: Main elements of the self-synchronised fusion module. 1. Teflon tube. 2. Reagent reservoir. 3. Pierced hole. 4. Injected reagent droplet. 5. Reactor droplet. 6. Fluorinated oil continuous phase. 7. Compressed air spacer. 8. Acrylic manifold mount. 9. Mounting nut. 10. Solenoid valve.

Figure 9a: Fluorescence signal of the added fungal millifluidic train

Figure 9b: Fluorescence signal of the added fungal millifluidic train (zoom)

Figure 10: Enzymatic activity of a A. niger mutant library

Figure 11: Equivalent circuit of the device

Figure 12: Graph for detachment model prediction vs. measurements of min droplet radius

Figure 13: Variable volume injection ---fluorescence signal

Figure 14: Variable volume injection --- increase on injected droplet size

Figure 15: Variable volume injection --- calculated VT/VR ratio

Figure 16. Enhancement of meniscus retraction by capacitor introduction. Without air bubble (left). With air bubble (right). 16a: water, 16b:Fluorinated oil, 16c:meniscus, 16d: air bubble



[0010] The present invention discloses for the first time a method for fusing or contacting reactor and reagent droplets in a three-phase microfluidic or millifluidic system, in which the reagent droplet, injected in the train with the help of a lateral inlet named injector, is detached from the reagent reservoir before coalescence with the reactor droplet. More specifically, the reagent droplet detaches before being in contact with the reactor droplet. The method of the invention involves two successive but not concomitant steps: first producing in the train a droplet of a reagent which detaches before the second step of merging. By the method of the invention, one forms in situ reagent droplet, which formation can be synchronized and, if required, selective. The reagent droplet is formed in-situ, the resulting droplet is hanging at the injection point (lateral inlet) and breaks-up from the reagent reservoir before the reactor droplet reaches the injection point.

[0011] By the method of the invention droplets are fused without contamination, namely without contamination of the reservoir and without cross-contamination between the droplets, even in presence of microorganisms in droplets, and even more in presence of fungi.

[0012] The method of the invention can be used for active or passive fusion, meaning that the use of electrodes for fusing droplets is optional, and more advantageously no electrode is used (passive fusion). In addition, the channel of the microfluidic or millifluidic device can be regular. In particular, it does not comprise bifurcation geometry at the place where the reagent droplet is added, and for example the channel can be a rounded channel without bifurcation geometry.

[0013] The method of the invention can be used for regular or irregular train. In particular, by the method of the invention, one is able to operate a train comprising reactors that are not equidistant.

[0014] Micro/millifluidic means microfluidic or millifluidic. Microfluidics refers systems in which small volumes of fluids are handled in micro metric scale channels/tubes. Millifluidics refer to systems in which small volumes of fluids are handled in milli metric scale channels/tubes.

[0015] The invention is directed to a method for fusing or contacting reactor and reagent droplets in a microfluidic or millifluidic device, comprising the steps of
  1. (a) In the channel of said microfluidic or millifluidic system, generating a three-phase micro/millifluidic train comprising a continuous phase, at least two reactor droplets, and at least one spacer plug between two reactor droplets An and An+1, wherein n is an integer ≥ 0
  2. (b) injecting with the help of a lateral inlet named injector, into the train, reagent in a non-wetting single droplet B, wherein said droplet B is generated in situ during the passage at the injection point of the spacer plug directly preceding reactor droplet An+1, wherein the droplet B is detached from the injection point before the reactor droplet An+1 reaches the injection point with the formation of a reagent fluid meniscus at the injector end, and wherein the reagent fluid meniscus is retracted within the lateral inlet when the reactor droplet An+1 is at the injection point;
  3. (c) then, fusion or contact of the droplet B with reactor droplet An+1 away from the injection point
  4. (d) when n≥1, reiteration of steps (b) and (c).


[0016] The channel of said microfluidic or millifluidic system has a cylindrical geometry or a planar one. In the following description, we will refer to a cylindrical geometry and thus we will define the size of the channel by reference to its diameter. These references should be replaced by height and the width of the channel where the train of drops circulates for a planar geometry.

[0017] In the present description, it is meant by "injection point" the droplet B generation point that corresponds to the injector location. Hereafter, droplet B is also called reagent droplet.

[0018] In the description, the terms "reagent droplet", "reagent fluid" are used to define the droplet, respectively the fluid, which comprises the reagent. Similarly, the terms "reactor droplet", "reactor fluid" are used to define the droplet, respectively the fluid, which comprises the reactor.

[0019] The term "plug" is used to define a droplet whose volume V is larger than πD^3/6, where D is the diameter of the tube where the train of drops circulates for a cylindrical geometry, or larger than πHW^2/4 where H and W stand respectively for the height and the width of the channel where the train of drops circulates for a planar geometry.

[0020] In the method of the invention, the micro/millifluidic system comprises at least three phases: the continuous phase (2), the spacer phase (1) and the reactor droplet phase (3) (Figure 5). The zone in the continuous phase between the spacer plug and the reagent droplet forms a capillary bridge (hatched zone in figure 5). In the method of the invention, the continuous phase wets the channel, the spacer and the reagent droplet and the reactor droplet, so that plugs of the spacer and droplets of the reagent and/or reactor are surrounded by a thin film of the continuous phase and do not touch the channel. The capillary bridge is thus continuously linked to the other capillary bridge. The presence of the continuous phase close to the channel wall may be inferred from the boundaries of the other two components, which both tangentially curve away from the channel wall at the spacer plug/reactor droplet interfaces.

[0021] The presence of at least three phases means that an interfacial force γ between respectively the continuous phase/the spacer, the continuous phase/the reactor fluid, the spacer/the reactor fluid can be measured. Similarly, one can measure an interfacial force between respectively the continuous phase/the reagent fluid, the spacer/the reagent fluid.

[0022] The spacer droplet and the reactor droplets are preferably fully wet by the continuous phase. The condition on the spreading parameters S_i = γ_jk - (γ_ij+ γ_ik) where (i,j,k)=(1,2,3) are given in figure 1 from Torza and Mason, 1970 (Three-Phase Interactions In Shear and Electrical Fields, S. TORZA AND S. G. MASON, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, vol. 33, No. 1, May 1970).

[0023] On the chemical point of view,
  • the continuous phase is substantially immiscible with the fluid of the reactor droplet and with the fluid of the reagent droplet
  • the spacer fluid is substantially immiscible with the continuous phase, the reactor droplet fluid and the reagent droplet fluid


[0024] One important characteristic of the method is that in step b) the reagent fluid is non-wetting. This means that the reagent fluid does not wet the channels walls and the injection walls.

[0025] Steps b) and c) of the method of the invention preferably comprise the following subsequent main stages:
  1. i) Generation of a hanging reagent droplet, i.e. still connected to the reagent reservoir, having a controlled volume (step b)
  2. ii) Detachment of the reagent droplet from injection point (step b)
  3. iii) Contact of reagent droplet with reactor droplet and through the drainage of the continuous phase (step c)
  4. iv) Droplet fusion either active or passive (step c)


[0026] The volume of the hanging reagent droplet is determined by the injection pressure, that is greater than the pressure implemented for moving the train.

[0027] Pictures of the main stages of a preferred self-synchronized fusion scheme are reported in figure 6.

[0028] The method will be, in this paragraph, described by reference to the figure 6. In this particular embodiment, the reagent is added by a lateral inlet. The self-synchronization feature of this invention is shown in Figures 6a, where a reagent droplet remains attached to the reagent reservoir, and thus forms a hanging droplet at the lateral inlet until the extremity of the spacer plug reaches the hanging reagent droplet. Then, detachment occurs and the recently formed reagent droplet goes into the continuous phase capillary bridge defined by the volume that separates the back tip of the spacer plug and the front tip of the reactor droplet (thus creating a mobile passive fusion chamber), as seen in Figure 6b. The non-contamination feature of this method is shown in Figure 6c, where the reagent droplet keeps its integrity after detachment. Then droplet fusion occurs away from the reagent droplet generation point (Figure 6d), keeping uncontaminated the reagent solution reservoir. Additional evidence of the non-contamination feature is shown in Figure 6c: when the reactor droplet passes under the lateral inlet, the reagent fluid meniscus experiences a retraction from the lateral inlet end, ensuring no contact between the reactor droplet and the reagent reservoir.

[0029] The zone in the continuous phase between the spacer plug and the reagent droplet forms a capillary bridge. In a preferred embodiment, the reagent droplet remains attached to the injection point and breaks-up when the capillary bridge in front of reactor droplet An+1 reaches the reagent droplet.

[0030] The method of the invention involves a new droplet formation mechanism: the interfacial tension induces break-up of the hanging droplet.

[0031] The reagent droplet detaches when the capillary force acting on the hanging droplet is larger than the capillary force that holds the hanging droplet. This mechanism defines a smallest reagent droplet size that can be produced.

[0032] The minimal volume of injected fluid is the necessary volume to obtain a hanging droplet that will break-up. Advantageously, the minimal radius of the reagent droplet, rmin is defined by the following equation : rmind×γ1223

° where d is the lateral inlet diameter (or the width or the height when the inlet is not round)

° γ12 is the surface tension between phase 1 (reagent) and phase 2 (continuous phase)

° γ23 is the surface tension between phase 2 (continuous phase) and phase 3 (spacer)



[0033] In a preferred embodiment, the volume of the droplet B is advantageously above 5 pL, more advantageously above 10 pL. In a preferred embodiment, the volume of droplet B is above 2 nL.

[0034] The maximal diameter will be determined by the man skilled in the art on a case by case basis. In particular, the maximal size of the reagent droplet is the size of the main channel to avoid any risk that the injected droplet cuts the spacer into two parts.

[0035] When the spacer fluid is a gas, in particular air, the maximal diameter formed by the interfacial tension induced droplet formation is mainly independent of flow rate of the continuous phase and corresponds about to the size of the tube where the train moves. The maximal volume of fluid that can be injected is the volume at which the droplet becomes a plug (that is diameter of the droplet is superior or equal to the channel diameter). Indeed, when the fluid does not form a droplet anymore but becomes a plug, there is a risk that the injected fluid split the spacer plug.

[0036] On the other hand, for a viscous spacer like mineral oil, the hanging droplet can be detached via a viscous force which is an increasing function of the fluid velocity, i.e. the continuous phase flow rate. The critical droplet size above which the shear-induced breakup occurs is inversely proportional to the velocity of the spacer and the viscosities of the continuous and spacer phases. Then the droplet is ejected from the spacer location and may finally contact to or fuse with the reactor droplet in a contamination free way. The delay time between droplet formation and expulsion can easily be determined by the skilled person, for instance by changing the location where active fusion is induced as well as the detection module location.

[0037] The volume of the droplet injected in step b) mainly depends on the channel size. In a particular embodiment, the volume is below 190 nL.

[0038] In a preferred embodiment, the ratio r/R, where r is the radius of the reagent droplet and R is the radius of the channel (or the half-width or half height when the channel is not round) ranges from 0.1 to 1, advantageously from 0.1 to 0.9, more advantageously from 0.2 to 0.7, even more advantageously from 0.25 to 0.60.

[0039] The lateral inlet diameter, d, (or the width or the height when the lateral inlet is not round) is small before the diameter, D, (or the width or the height when the channel is not round) of the channel. In particular, d<D. In preferred embodiments, d/D <0.5, in particular d/D ranges from 0.05 to 0.5.

[0040] Thus d depends on the channel size D. In a particular embodiment, d is below 200µm, advantageously comprised between 50 µm and 200 µm for millifluidic conditions or comprised between 10 µm and 50 µm for microfluidic conditions.

[0041] Reagent droplet size, and thus reagent droplet volume, can be varied. Indeed, r_min/d ≈ 1 (see figure 12), thus r_min/D≈ d/D, and r_max/D≈0.5.

[0042] In the method of the invention, the presence of the spacer plug is necessary for this new break-up then coalescence mechanism.

[0043] The spacer plug shows a flat interface at the injection point. The length of the spacer L is preferably in accordance with the following equation:

where

° D and d are as defined above (or can be replaced by W, w the width or H, h the height when the channel or the lateral inlet is not round)

° ε is a number greater than 2, in particular ranging from 2 to 100. This number, which depends on the ratio d/D, will be adjusted by the skilled person.



[0044] More preferably, the length of the spacer, L, is at least two times D, more preferably at least three times D.

[0045] The injection preferably occurs when the injection point is in front of a flat surface of the spacer plug. The injection zone is schematically represented in figure 7: the injection zone IZ corresponds to the flat section of the spacer plug, where a≥D/2 and b≥D/2.

[0046] Advantageously, the spacer's tip is spherical.

[0047] After injection, the generated reagent droplets remain attached -during the passage of the spacer fluid- to the end of the injector (a lateral inlet in Figure 6a) if the shear of the continuous thin film is insignificant to produce droplet neck rupture i.e. when the velocity of the spacer is low enough or the spacer viscosity is low like for a gas spacer. Visual inspection of captured videos indicates that droplet detachment occurs when the continuous capillary bridge -formed between the three phases- contacts the reagent hanging droplet (Figure 6b). The interfacial tension between the spacer phase and the continuous phase provides the necessary force for inducing reagent droplet detachment. After detachment, the continuous capillary bridge acts as a mobile droplet fusion chamber (Figure 6c), which allows contact between the reactor and the reagent droplets as well as drainage of the continuous phase between the two droplets which is necessary for droplet fusion (Figure 6d). After fusion, the reagent phase and the reactor one then mix thanks to the internal flow induced by the motion of the reactor droplet (Figure 6d).

[0048] During step b), when the reactor droplet detaches from the injection point, the reagent fluid meniscus experiences a retraction from the injector end, ensuring no contact between the reactor droplet and the reagent reservoir. The reagent fluid meniscus retracts from the injector end before the reactor droplet An+1 reaches the injection point and is still retracted when reactor droplet An+1 is at the injection point.

[0049] In order to increase the retraction of the meniscus, one preferably uses an injection device which comprises another compressible fluid and/or comprises a compressible material. For instance, the chamber of the injection device, hereafter called injection chamber, placed between the reagent reservoir and the injection point, may comprise the reagent fluid and air. When the reagent droplet breaks-up, detachment occurs and the meniscus experiences a retraction from the injector end due to the pressure change. This phenomenon can be emphasized by connecting the injection device to a capacitor or a capacitance: playing with resistance/capacitance, one can create pressure variations and thus emphasize meniscus retraction.

[0050] In a preferred embodiment, the reagent droplet is injected through a lateral inlet which emerges in the channel or tube where the droplet train is circulating. The injection device is preferably a picoinjector or a nanoinjector, but can also be any adapted mean. Preferably, the lateral inlet is a hole in the channel and the channel, on both lateral sides of the hole, is surrounded by a first coating which comprises an oil, said first coating is then coated by a polymer. The polymer can be a hydrophilic polymer, such a polyacrylic, or a hydrophobic polymer, depending on the nature of the reagent fluid.

[0051] The injection can be continuous or discontinuous, but is preferably discontinuous. A discontinuous injection will allow the control of the volume of the reagent droplet on case by case basis. Furthermore, with a discontinuous injection, one can choose the "target" reactor droplet and accordingly inject only when requested. Accordingly, before step b), the method advantageously comprises a step of detecting reactor droplet An+1. The reactor droplet An+1 can be detected by a detection means selected from the group consisting of optical means (such as laser beam, fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, imaging), electrical means (such as impedance), magnetic means, radioactivity means, acoustic means. Furthermore, the method can comprise after the step of detecting reactor droplet An+1 but before step c) a step of singling out the detected droplet An+1 and adjusting accordingly the volume of the reagent droplet, which volume is null (no injection) or above 1 pL.

[0052] With a discontinuous injection, the method can be implemented even when the train of reactor droplets is irregular. An irregular train is defined by a variation of the size of the drops and/or the distance between the drops that compose the train. In the method of the invention, the train is a perfect train or an irregular train.

[0053] In a preferred embodiment, the injection of the reagent phase is actuated by a valve, in particular a solenoid valve, aligned to the lateral inlet by a polymeric manifold, the valve is connected to reagent reservoir. The device may further comprise a capacitor or a capacitance, in order to emphasize the meniscus retraction, and /or a resistance, in order to precisely control the injected volume.

[0054] The spacer can be a gas or a liquid immiscible with the reagent, reactor and continuous phases. In a first embodiment, the spacer is a gas selected from the group consisting of compressed air, argon, nitrogen, CO2 or a combination of the aforementioned.

[0055] In this embodiment, the fluid of the droplet containing the reagent can be a fluid insoluble with the reagent droplet, such as mineral oil or silicone oil. In such a case, after injection, the system is a four-phase system. This four-phase train would be attractive for performing assays where difficulties exist in the solubility of a particular reagent in the reactor phase.

[0056] In a second embodiment, the spacer is an immiscible liquid with the continuous and the reactor and the reagent phase, such as mineral oil.

[0057] Usually, the channel of the micro/millifluidic devise is preferably made of fluorinated polymer, and more particularly of Teflon®. The continuous phase preferably comprises fluorinated oil and possibly a surfactant. The man skilled in the art is used with these components.

[0058] The man skilled in the art will select the fluid of the reactor droplet and of the droplet which contains the reagent on the case by case basis, depending on the reaction which is expected, on the basis of his technical knowledge. The reactor droplets are discrete, low-volume droplets, sometimes near-identical low-volume droplets, which travel through the channel at a common speed.

[0059] For example, one can use the following reagents-reactors:

Spore production: Potato Dextrose Agar plates

Growth media: Peptone-Glucose-Salts pH 4.6

Enzymatic activity: Bodipy FL EnzChek kit (in acetate buffer 4.6): This kit contains a starch substrate with quenched fluorescence. This substrate is efficiently degraded by amylase, digestion relieves the quenching and yields highly fluorescent fragments. The accompanying increase in fluorescence is proportional to amylase activity and can be monitored with fluorescence.



[0060] As examples of practical applications for the present method, one can recite combinatorial chemistry, chemical and biological screens, genetic sequencing. As example of biological screens, one can recite screening of microorganisms producing metabolites (enzymes, drugs). Thus the invention also refers to the method for its use in combinatorial chemistry, chemical and biological screens, genetic sequencing.

[0061] The three-phase train is generated inside a milli/microfluidic channel tube by using a T-junction by methods known by the skilled person, the liquid flow rates are controlled with pumps and the gas pressure with pressure controller.

[0062] In a preferred embodiment, the device is a millifluidic device.

[0063] The invention also relates to a millifluidic or microfluidic device comprising:
  • A milli/microfluidic channel tube filled with a three-phase micro/millifluidic train comprising a continuous phase, at least two reactor droplets, and at least one spacer plug between two reactor droplets An and An+1, wherein n is an integer ≥ 0
  • An aperture opening on said channel, said aperture is connected to a reservoir containing reagent in liquid phase
  • A valve coupling said reservoir and said aperture
  • A detector, placed upstream from said aperture.


[0064] The detector allows the synchronization of the opening of the valve with the coming of reactor droplet. In particular the valve is a solenoid valve. The volume of injected reactant is controlled by the open time (pulsation time) of the valve.

[0065] The equivalent circuit if the millifluidic or microfluidic device can be as follows:
Two resistors R1 and R2 are in series. The junction between said two resistors is connected to an element IC in series with a resistor R3.

[0066] The element IC consists of a capacitor C1 and a resistor R4 disposed in parallel.

[0067] The equivalent circuit is represented on figure 11.

[0068] In the following description the device will be described by reference to the device wherein the lateral inlet is a hole in the channel as illustrative but not limitative embodiment. Thus, the invention also relates to a millifluidic or microfluidic device comprising a channel tube pierced by a hole, an injection chamber formed by the space inside the coating surrounding the channel, on both lateral sides of the hole, a reagent reservoir and optionally a valve. Usually, the tube is made of Teflon®. The size of the hole is as described above for the lateral inlet.

[0069] Preferably, the device comprises a valve between the reagent reservoir and the injection chamber. In particular the valve is a solenoid valve. The volume of injected reactant is controlled by the open time (pulsation time) of the valve.

[0070] The device further comprises a resistance between the reagent reservoir and the injection chamber, more particularly between the reagent reservoir and the valve. In particular, the resistance can be a thin Teflon® tube connecting the reagent reservoir and the injection chamber, more particularly the valve. The resistance is used for providing a large flow resistance and thus for obtaining a constant added droplet volume. In millifluidic system, the tube has for example an internal diameter of 100µm to 300µm, more particularly 200µm.

[0071] The channel, on both lateral sides of the hole, is surrounded by a polymeric coating. The coating is herein also called a manifold. The polymer can be any adapted polymer and is selected by the man skilled in the art, on the basis of his technical knowledge, depending on the nature of the reagent. In a particular embodiment, the polymer is an acrylic. Between the polymer and the channel, the coating advantageously further comprises an oily phase. The nature of the oil is preferably identical to the oil of the continuous phase.

[0072] The manifold is used to align the reagent reservoir and/or the valve and the hole. The reagent reservoir and/or valve is aligned and attached to the manifold by an appropriate means such as a mounting nut accessory.

[0073] The injection chamber is the space inside the manifold aligned with the pierced hole, in particular between the valve and the pierced hole. The equivalent circuit diagram of the injection chamber is a resistance and a capacitance in parallel.

[0074] In a preferred embodiment the capacitance is the compressible fluid present in the chamber of the injection device.

[0075] In another embodiment, the capacitance is a thin flexible membrane which will act as an artificial gas bubble. Such a membrane can be sealed to a hole drilled in the chamber.

[0076] In another embodiment, the capacitance is tube having a wall made of a material having a low elastic modulus.

[0077] The equivalent circuit of the device is represented on figure 11 wherein R1 and R2 correspond to the flow resistance of the droplet train on both sides of the injection point, R3 is the resistance described above and R4 is the resistance that arises from the flow of the reagent fluid through the injection chamber, while C1 is the capacitance inside the injection chamber.

[0078] The invention has for object a milli/microfluidic device whose equivalent circuit is represented on figure 11.

[0079] The device will now be described by reference to the device represented on figure 8, as illustrative but not limitative embodiment.

[0080] Thus, the millifluidic or microfluidic device comprises a channel tube (figure 8, 1) pierced by a hole (figure 8, 3), an injection chamber formed by the space inside the acrylic manifold surrounding the channel (figure 8, 8), on both lateral sides of the hole, a reagent reservoir (figure 8, 2) and a valve (figure 8, 9).

[0081] The invention will be illustrated by the following non limitative examples.

Example 1: Three-phase millifluidic train generation



[0082] The three phase train consists of a continuous phase (fluorinated oil Novec HFE 7500 + 0.5% v/v perfluoro-octanol surfactant), a reactor droplet (Peptone-Glucose-Salts media, pH 4.6), and a spacer fluid (air or mineral oil). The train is generated inside a 750um ID FEP Teflon® tube by using a T-junction, the liquid flow rates are controlled with syringe pumps and the gas pressure with a pressure controller. For the air spacer train, the flow rates of fluorinated oil and media are 6.5 and 7.5 ml/h, respectively and the air pressure is 1 Bar. For the mineral oil spacer train, the flow rates of fluorinated oil, media and mineral oil are 5, 5 and 10 ml/h, respectively.

[0083] The experimentally measured values of surface (pendant droplet method) are as follows:

° γ (HFE+PFO 0.5%) / Air: 12.5 mN/m +/- 0.5 mN/m

° γ (HFE+PFO 0.5%) / Mineral Oil : 3.7 mN/m +/- 0.5 mN/m

° γ (HFE+PFO 0.5%) / Water: 30.5 mN/m +/- 0.5 mN/m



[0084] For the experimental validation of the droplet ejection mechanism, fluorescein isothiocyanate FITC 1E-04 M are used as a reactor droplet fluid. Water droplets are injected into millifluidic trains with air or mineral oil spacers. Injection is triggered by reactor droplet fluorescence detection and actuated by a solenoid valve through pierced holes of three different radius (30, 50 and 90 µm). Rmin is the minimum droplet radius that follows the proposed detachment mechanism and it is determined by image analysis of video captures of the injection process.

[0085] The values are reported in the table below:
Table 1
 AirMineral Oil
Hole Radius (µm)RminRmin
30 66 85
50 80 123
90 158 218
Error: ±4 µm on droplet radius, ±2 µm on hole radius

Graph for detachment model prediction vs. measurements of min droplet radius



[0086] The results are reported in figure 12

Materials and Methods


1. Generation of a millifluidic droplet train on a 750um ID FEP Teflon® tube. (Syringe pumps and/or pressure controller).



[0087] Train elements:
  1. a. Spacer fluid: Compressed air or mineral oil (length at least 3 times the tube internal diameter)
  2. b. Continuous phase: Fluorinated oil Novec HFE 7500 + 0.5% v/v perfluoro-octanol surfactant
  3. c. Reactor droplet: Peptone-Glucose-Salts media + BodipyFL (height between 80 and 85% the tube internal diameter)

2. Injection of reactant droplet (Methylene blue aqueous solution or acetate buffer (pH 4.5) solution + BodipyFL). The module elements are shown in Figure 8.



[0088] Stages:
  1. a. Fluorescence signal detection of reactor droplet
  2. b. Injection of reactant droplet in front of reactor droplet (through a hole pierced in the tube). Injection actuated by a solenoid valve (VHS type, The Lee Co.) aligned to the pierced hole by an acrylic manifold (manifold mount kit, The Lee Co.). Assessment via image captures (GuppyPro firewire camera + Nikon 10x objective). Figure 6a.
  3. c. Attachment of reactant droplet to pierced hole. Figure 6a.
  4. d. Synchronisation: Reagent droplet detachment from pierced hole into continuous phase capillary bridge (mobile passive fusion chamber). Assessment via image captures. Figure 6b.
  5. e. Contact between reagent droplet and reactor droplet on mobile passive fusion chamber. Assessment via image captures. Figure 6c.
  6. f. Drainage of continuous phase on mobile passive fusion chamber. Assessment via image captures. Figure 6c.
  7. g. Droplet fusion. Assessment via image captures and fluorescence signal monitoring. Figure 6d.

Results



[0089] Reagent droplet injection test in millifluidic trains with air (Figure 6) and mineral oil as spacer fluids, have shown the four typical stages of the self-synchronised scheme: reagent droplet generation, reagent droplet detachment from nozzle, droplet contact and continuous phase drainage and droplet fusion.

[0090] By using a methylene blue solution as a reagent solution, the mixing flow pattern after droplet fusion can be observed.

[0091] The fluorescence peak profile of a millifluidic train after addition of a BodipyFL 5x solution is obtained. The absence of gaps indicates dosage on all droplets, while the constant maximum level indicates a constant volume of the added droplets.

Implementation example



[0092] Spores of Aspergillus niger mutant strains are diluted in PGS media after extraction to obtain an OD of 0.000375. This concentration allows the encapsulation of single spores inside PGS media reactor droplets. A millifluidic train with air spacers of 3105 reactor droplets is produced in a 30 m long FEP Teflon® tube (750 um ID). For train generation, the flow rates of Novec 7500 (with 0.5% v/v perfluoro-octanol surfactant) fluorinated oil and PGS media are 6.5 and 7.5 ml/h, respectively and the air pressure is 1 Bar. The train is circulated in back and forth directions by applying constant pressure (250 mBar). After the full train passes a laser droplet detector, the droplet train flow direction is automatically switched. In order to determine the enzymatic activity after 30 h of fungal growth at 30°C, 5 nL Bodipy FL droplets are injected into each droplet of the millifluidic train by using the module of the invention, applying a pressure of 250 mBar for train circulation, 300 mBar for reagent droplet addition, and generating 3 ms pulses of solenoid valve opening, for a 50 µm radius pierced hole. A 45 s delay between droplet addition and fluorescence detection is obtained by locating separating the addition and fluorescence modules by 30 cm. This delay ensures the collection of a single data point for each droplet within the linear section of the enzymatic activity curve, as shown by numerous preliminary tests. The fluorescence signal of the added train is shown in Figure 9b (zoom). In this curve, the baseline corresponds to the signal of the empty droplets, while the peaks correspond to the fluorescence by amylase activity of the 558 droplets occupied with fungi.

[0093] Figures 9a and 9b indicate the high quality of the addition module, expressed as the constant fluorescence intensity of the empty droplets.

[0094] The enzymatic activity of the Aspergillus niger mutant library analysed with the millifluidic system is shown in Figure 10, where a perfect differentiation between empty and occupied droplets was obtained, as well a wide distribution on the enzymatic activity of the library.

Example 2: Example of variable volume injection:



[0095] To determine the added droplet volume by fluorescence, fluorescein concentrated droplets are added into a millifluidic train formed by diluted fluorescein droplets with air bubbles as spacers. Millifluidic train generation conditions are identical to the presented in the previous example 1. Solenoid valve actuation is based on droplet detection by fluorescence. FITC fluorescein 1E-04 M droplets are injected into each droplet of the millifluidic train (FITC fluorescein 1E-06 M droplets) by using the module of this invention (pierced hole radius: 50 µm), applying 10 ms pulses of solenoid valve (VHS type, The Lee Co.) opening, a 150 mBar pressure for train circulation, and variable pressures from 150 to 300 mbar for reagent droplet addition. After complete millifluidic train injection, flow is reversed to record the fluorescence signal of the added droplets. The fluorescence signal of the injected train is shown in Figure 13, where each step corresponds to a different pressure of reagent droplet addition. The increase of reagent droplet volume with increasing pressure is shown in Figure 14, which correspond to snapshots of captured videos. A mass balance allows the quantification of the target droplet volume to reagent droplet volume ratio (VT/VR) with the expression VT/VR=(CF-CT)/(CR-CF), where CF, CT and CR are the concentrations of the added, target and reagent droplets. Given the proportionality between fluorescein concentration and fluorescence peak height, CF and CT correspond to the fluorescence peak heights for the added and target droplets. With CR/CT=100, the calculated values for (VT/VR) -using the average peak height value for each step- are plotted in Figure 15, as a function of the applied pressure reagent droplet addition. VT/VR ratios from 98 to 16 were obtained in the pressure range studied, highlighting the flexibility of the developed module for producing reagent droplets over a wide range of volumes. This feature has potential applications for the generation of concentration gradients within micro- and millifluidic systems.

Example 3: Meniscus retraction increase



[0096] In order to demonstrate the meniscus retraction increase by the introduction of a capacitor in the injection system, an air bubble is introduced inside the reagent reservoir. The meniscus position after detachment during reagent droplet formation is recorded by video capture. Figure 16 shows the maximum meniscus retraction under continuous reagent flow (water, 100 mBar applied pressure), through a 50 µm radius hole, on a Fluorinated oil Novec 7500 + 0.5% v/v perfluoro-octanol surfactant stream flowing at 2.5 ml/h. Compared with a parallel test performed without the air bubble (Figure 16, left) where identical operational conditions are kept, meniscus retraction is larger when the air bubble is present (Figure 16, right). This effect is due to the increase on the pressure change by the compressibility of the air bubble, after reagent droplet break-up.


Claims

1. A method for fusing or contacting reactor and reagent droplets in a microfluidic or millifluidic device, comprising the steps of

(a) In the channel of said microfluidic or millifluidic system, generating a three-phase micro/millifluidic train comprising a continuous phase, at least two reactor droplets, and at least one spacer plug between two reactor droplets An and An+1, wherein n is an integer ≥ 0 and wherein the continuous phase wets the channel, the spacer, the reagent droplet and the reactor droplet, and the spacer and droplets of the reagent and/or reactor do not touch the channel;

(b) injecting with the help of a lateral inlet named injector, into the train, reagent in a non-wetting single droplet B, wherein said non-wetting droplet B does not wet the channels walls and the injection walls,, wherein said droplet B is generated in situ during the passage at the injection point of the spacer plug directly preceding reactor droplet An+1, wherein the droplet B is detached from the injection point before the reactor droplet An+1 reaches the injection point with the formation of a reagent fluid meniscus at the injector end, and wherein the reagent fluid meniscus is retracted within the lateral inlet when the reactor droplet An+1 is at the injection point;

(c) then, fusion or contact of the droplet B with reactor droplet An+1 away from the injection point;

(d) when n≥1, reiteration of steps (b) and (c).


 
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the reagent droplet remains attached to the injection point and breaks-up when the capillary bridge in front of reactor droplet An+1 reaches the reagent droplet.
 
3. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the ratio r/R, where r is the radius of the reagent droplet and R is the radius of the channel, ranges from 0.1 to 1.
 
4. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the volume of the droplet injected in step b) is above 1 pL.
 
5. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the ratio d/D where d is the diameter of the lateral inlet and D is the diameter of the channel for a cylindrical geometry, or the D is the height or the width of the channel for a planar geometry, ranges from 0.05 to 0.5.
 
6. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the injection is discontinuous.
 
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the reagent droplet is actuated by a valve, in particular a solenoid valve.
 
8. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein before step b), reactor droplet An+1 is detected by a detection means selected from the group consisting of optical means, electrical means, magnetic means, radioactivity means, acoustic means.
 
9. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein step b) further comprises after the step of detecting reactor droplet An+1 but before step c) a step of singling out the detected droplet An+1 and adjusting accordingly the volume of the reagent droplet, which volume is null or above 1 pL.
 
10. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the spacer is a gas or a liquid immiscible with the continuous and the reactor and the reagent phase.
 
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the spacer is an immiscible liquid, such as mineral oil.
 
12. The method of any one of preceding claims, wherein the device is a millifuidic device.
 
13. The method of any one of preceding claims for its use in combinatorial chemistry, chemical and biological screenings, genetic sequencing.
 
14. A milli/microfluidic device comprising:

- A milli/microfluidic channel tube filled with a three-phase micro/millifluidic train comprising a continuous phase, at least two reactor droplets, and at least one spacer plug between two reactor droplets An and An+1, wherein n is an integer ≥ 0

- An aperture opening on said channel, said aperture is connected to a reservoir containing reagent in liquid phase

- A valve coupling said reservoir and said aperture

- A detector, placed upstream from said aperture configured to detect the reactor droplet An+1 before injecting the reagent droplet B.


 
15. A milli/microfluidic device according to claim 14, whose equivalent circuit is the following:

- Two resistors R1 and R2 are in series. The junction between said two resistors is connected to an element IC in series with a resistor R3;

- The element IC consists of a capacitor C1 and a resistor R4 disposed in parallel.


 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zum Verschmelzen oder Kontaktieren von Reaktor- und Reagens-Tröpfchen in einer Mikrofluidik- oder Millifluidik-Vorrichtung, umfassend die Schritte des

(a) Erzeugens eines dreiphasigen Mikro-/Millifluidik-Zuges im Kanal des Mikrofluidik- oder Millifluidik-Systems, der eine kontinuierliche Phase, mindestens zwei Reaktor-Tröpfchen, und mindestens einen Spacer-Pfropf zwischen zwei Reaktor-Tröpfchen An und An+1 umfasst, wobei n eine ganze Zahl ≥ 0 ist, und wobei die kontinuierliche Phase den Kanal, den Spacer, das Reagens-Tröpfchen und das Reaktor-Tröpfchen benetzt, und der Spacer und die Tröpfchen des Reagens und/oder Reaktors den Kanal nicht berühren;

(b) Injizierens, mit der Hilfe eines als Injektor bezeichneten seitlichen Einlasses, eines Reagens in einem nicht benetzenden Einzeltröpfchen B in den Zug, wobei das nicht benetzende Tröpfchen B die Kanalwände und die Injektionswände nicht benetzt, wobei das Tröpfchen B in situ erzeugt wird während des Durchtritts des Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 direkt vorausgehenden Spacer-Pfropfs an der Injektionsstelle, wobei das Tröpfchen B mit der Bildung eines Reagens-Fluidmeniskus am Injektorende von der Injektionsstelle gelöst wird, bevor das Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 die Injektionsstelle erreicht, und wobei der Reagens-Fluidmeniskus in den seitlichen Einlass eingezogen ist, wenn sich das Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 an der Injektionsstelle befindet;

(c) dann Verschmelzens oder Kontaktierens des Tröpfchens B mit Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 von der Injektionsstelle entfernt;

(d) Wiederholens der Schritte (b) und (c), wenn n ≥ 1.


 
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Reagens-Tröpfchen an der Injektionsstelle haften bleibt und aufbricht, wenn die Kapillarbrücke vor Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 das Reagens-Tröpfchen erreicht.
 
3. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Verhältnis r/R, wobei r der Radius des Reagens-Tröpfchens ist, und R der Radius des Kanals ist, von 0,1 bis 1 reicht.
 
4. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Volumen des in Schritt b) injizierten Tröpfchens mehr als 1 pL beträgt.
 
5. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Verhältnis d/D, wobei d der Durchmesser des seitlichen Einlasses ist, und D bei einer zylindrischen Geometrie der Durchmesser des Kanals ist, oder D bei einer planaren Geometrie die Höhe der die Breite des Kanals ist, von 0,05 bis 0,5 reicht.
 
6. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Injektion diskontinuierlich erfolgt.
 
7. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, wobei das Reagens-Tröpfchen von einem Ventil, insbesondere einem Magnetventil, ausgelöst wird.
 
8. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei vor Schritt b) Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 von einem Detektionsmittel detektiert wird, ausgewählt aus der Gruppe bestehend aus optischen Mitteln, elektrischen Mitteln, magnetischen Mitteln, radioaktiven Mitteln, akustischen Mitteln.
 
9. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei Schritt b) nach dem Schritt des Detektierens von Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1, aber vor Schritt c) weiter einen Schritt des Herausgreifens des detektierten Tröpfchens An+1 und entsprechenden Anpassens des Volumens des Reagens-Tröpfchens umfasst, welches Volumen null oder mehr als 1 pL beträgt.
 
10. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei es sich bei dem Spacer um ein Gas oder eine Flüssigkeit handelt, das/die mit der kontinuierlichen und der Reaktor- und der Reagens-Phase unvermischbar ist.
 
11. Verfahren nach Anspruch 10, wobei es sich bei dem Spacer um eine unvermischbare Flüssigkeit, wie etwa Mineralöl handelt.
 
12. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei es sich bei der Vorrichtung um eine Millifluidik-Vorrichtung handelt.
 
13. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche zu dessen Verwendung in kombinatorischer Chemie, chemischen und biologischen Screenings, Gensequenzierung.
 
14. Milli-/Mikrofluidik-Vorrichtung, umfassend:

- ein Milli-/Mikrofluidik-Kanalrohr, das mit einem dreiphasigen Mikro-/Millifluidik-Zug gefüllt ist, der eine kontinuierliche Phase, mindestens zwei Reaktor-Tröpfchen, und mindestens einen Spacer-Pfropf zwischen zwei Reaktor-Tröpfchen An und An+1 umfasst, wobei n eine ganze Zahl ≥ 0 ist,

- eine Apertur, die sich an dem Kanal öffnet, wobei die Apertur mit einem Reservoir verbunden ist, das Reagens in flüssiger Phase enthält,

- ein Ventil, das das Reservoir und die Apertur koppelt,

- einen stromaufwärts von der Apertur platzierten Detektor, der dazu konfiguriert ist, das Reaktor-Tröpfchen An+1 vor dem Injizieren des Reagens-Tröpfchens B zu detektieren.


 
15. Milli-/Mikrofluidik-Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 14, dessen Ersatzschaltung die folgende ist:

- Zwei Widerstände R1 und R2 sind in Reihe geschaltet. Der Verbindungspunkt zwischen den zwei Widerständen ist mit einer Element-IC verbunden, die mit einem Widerstand R3 in Reihe geschaltet ist;

- Die Element-IC besteht aus einem Kondensator C1 und einem Widerstand R4, die parallel angeordnet sind.


 


Revendications

1. Méthode de fusion ou de mise en contact de gouttelettes de réacteur et de réactif dans un dispositif microfluidique ou millifluidique, comprenant les étapes de

(a) dans le canal dudit système microfluidique ou millifluidique, génération d'un train micro/millifluidique à trois phases comprenant une phase continue, au moins deux gouttelettes de réacteur, et au moins un bouchon d'entretoise entre deux gouttelettes de réacteur An et An+1, dans laquelle n est un entier > 0 et dans laquelle la phase continue mouille le canal, l'entretoise, la gouttelette de réactif et la gouttelette de réacteur, et l'entretoise et les gouttelettes du réactif et/ou du réacteur ne touchent pas le canal ;

(b) injection à l'aide d'un orifice d'entrée latéral appelé injecteur, dans le train, de réactif dans une gouttelette unique non mouillante B, dans laquelle ladite gouttelette non mouillante B ne mouille pas les parois des canaux et les parois d'injection, dans laquelle ladite gouttelette B est générée in situ pendant le passage au niveau du point d'injection du bouchon d'entretoise précédant directement la gouttelette de réacteur An+1, dans laquelle la gouttelette B est détachée du point d'injection avant que la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 n'atteigne le point d'injection avec la formation d'un ménisque de fluide de réactif à l'extrémité de l'injecteur, et dans laquelle le ménisque de fluide de réactif est rétracté dans l'orifice d'entrée latéral lorsque la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 se situe au point d'injection ;

(c) puis, fusion ou mise en contact de la gouttelette B avec la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 loin du point d'injection ;

(d) lorsque n > 1, réitération des étapes (b) et (c) .


 
2. Méthode selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la gouttelette de réactif reste attachée au point d'injection et se sépare lorsque le pont capillaire devant la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 atteint la gouttelette de réactif.
 
3. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le rapport r/R, où r est le rayon de la gouttelette de réactif et R est le rayon du canal, varie de 0,1 à 1.
 
4. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le volume de la gouttelette injectée dans l'étape b) est supérieur à 1 pL.
 
5. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le rapport d/D où d est le diamètre de l'orifice d'entrée latéral et D est le diamètre du canal pour une géométrie cylindrique, ou le D est la hauteur ou la largeur du canal pour une géométrie plane, varie de 0,05 à 0,5.
 
6. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle l'injection est discontinue.
 
7. Méthode selon la revendication 6, dans laquelle la gouttelette de réactif est actionnée par une vanne, en particulier une électrovanne.
 
8. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle avant l'étape b), la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 est détectée par un moyen de détection sélectionné dans le groupe consistant en un moyen optique, un moyen électrique, un moyen magnétique, un moyen de radioactivité, un moyen acoustique.
 
9. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle l'étape b) comprend en outre après l'étape de détection de la gouttelette de réacteur An+1, mais avant l'étape c) une étape de ciblage de la gouttelette détectée An+1 et de réglage en conséquence du volume de la gouttelette de réactif, lequel volume est nul ou supérieur à 1 pL.
 
10. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle l'entretoise est un gaz ou un liquide immiscible avec la phase continue, et la phase de réacteur et la phase de réactif.
 
11. Méthode selon la revendication 10, dans laquelle l'entretoise est un liquide immiscible, tel qu'une huile minérale.
 
12. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le dispositif est un dispositif millifluidique.
 
13. Méthode selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes pour son utilisation dans la chimie combinatoire, les examens chimiques et biologiques, le séquençage génétique.
 
14. Dispositif milli/microfluidique comprenant :

- un tube de canal milli/microfluidique rempli d'un train micro/millifluidique à trois phases comprenant une phase continue, au moins deux gouttelettes de réacteur, et au moins un bouchon d'entretoise entre deux gouttelettes de réacteur An et An+1, dans lequel n est un entier > 0

- un orifice d'ouverture sur ledit canal, ladite ouverture est connectée à un réservoir contenant du réactif en phase liquide

- une vanne accouplant ledit réservoir et ladite ouverture

- un détecteur, placé en amont de ladite ouverture configuré pour détecter la gouttelette de réacteur An+1 avant l'injection de la gouttelette de réactif B.


 
15. Dispositif milli/microfluidique selon la revendication 14, dont le circuit équivalent est le suivant :

- Deux résistances R1 et R2 sont en série. La jonction entre lesdites deux résistances est connectée à un élément de CI en série avec une résistance R3 ;

- L'élément de CI est constitué d'un condensateur C1 et d'une résistance R4 disposés en parallèle.


 




Drawing



































Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Patent documents cited in the description




Non-patent literature cited in the description