Protein droplet actuation on superhydrophobic surfaces: A new approach toward anti-biofouling electrowetting systems
Abdul Latip, Eli Nadia
Among Lab-on-a-chip techniques, Digital microfluidics (DMF), allowing the precise actuation of discrete droplets, is a highly promising, flexible, biochemical assay platform for biomedical and bio-detection applications. However the durability of DMF systems remains a challenge due to biofouling of the droplet-actuating surface when high concentrations of biomolecules are employed. To address this issue, the use of superhydrophobic materials as the actuating surface in DMF devices is examined. The change in contact angle by electrowetting of deionised water and ovalbumin protein samples is characterised on different surfaces (hydrophobic and superhydrophobic). Ovalbumin droplets at 1 mg ml-1 concentration display better electrowetting reversibility on Neverwet®, a commercial superhydrophobic material, than on Cytop®, a typical DMF hydrophobic material. Biofouling rate, characterised by roll-off angle measurement of ovalbumin loaded droplets and further confirmed by measurements of the mean fluorescence intensity of labelled fibrinogen, appears greatly reduced on Neverwet®. Transportation of protein laden droplets (fibrinogen at concentration 0.1 mg ml-1 and ovalbumin at concentration 1 mg ml-1 and 10 mg ml-1) is successfully demonstrated using electrowetting actuation on both single-plate and parallel-plate configurations with performance comparable to that of DI water actuation. In addition, although droplet splitting requires further attention, merging and efficient mixing are demonstrated.