Femtoliter droplet handling in nanofluidic channels: A laplace nanovalve
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Analytical technologies of ultrasmall volume liquid, in particular femtoliter to attoliter liquid, is essential for single-cell and single-molecule analysis, which is becoming highly important in biology and medical diagnosis. Nanofluidic chips will be a powerful tool to realize chemical processes for such a small volume sample. However, a technical challenge exists in fluidic control, which is femtoliter to attoliter liquid generation in air and handling for further chemical analysis. Integrating mechanical valves fabricated by MEMS (microelectric mechanical systems) technology into nanofluidic channels is difficult. Here, we propose a nonmechanical valve, which is a Laplace nanovalve. For this purpose, a nanopillar array was embedded in a nanochannel using a two-step electron beam lithography and dry-etching process. The nanostructure allowed precise wettability patterning with a resolution below 100 nm, which was difficult by photochemical wettability patterning due to the optical diffraction. The basic principle of the Laplace nanovalve was verified, and a 1.7 fL droplet (water in air) was successfully generated and handled for the first time.
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