From automated genome engineering to thermal nanoparticle characterization, microfluidics is an inherently interdisciplinary field with applications that are increasingly complex. In this seminar, I will discuss the design, fabrication, and performance of two distinct microfluidic technologies that deliver novel capabilities to the scientific community. First, I will highlight the integration of a microelectroporation device with a digital microfluidics platform for high-efficiency microbial transformation. This work has enabled volume-scaling and automation of a core protocol routinely executed by synthetic biologists for engineering novel life forms to produce exotic and innovative materials. Second, I introduce complex thermophoresis, a paradigm that proposes the integration of novel thermophoretic transport functions into a single platform for nanoparticle and biomolecular characterization. Governed by subtle interfacial characteristics of suspended particles, temperature-driven particle transport offers a flexible and sensitive mechanism for particle manipulation as well as a means for probing interfacial properties of colloids. As an exemplary device, I discuss the use of a thermophoretic trap array to enable measurement of interfacial properties such as charge and solvation entropy from the stochastic motion of single nanoparticles. This work aims to establish a new method for measuring distributions of thermophoretic responses of nanoparticles to their surrounding environments, which can be linked to fundamental interfacial properties such as charge, dielectric character (ligand binding), and solvation entropy. Together, these examples reveal the power of microfluidics in its varied instantiations and show explicitly how device technologies may be leveraged to advance biological manufacturing and measurement science.
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University
Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Fellow
U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center