2019 Volume 36 Pages 50-71
Emulsion—a liquid dispersed in another liquid—is in many respects very similar to granular matter. In the early 2000s a new technology—droplet microfluidics—began emerging from the wider field of microfluidics. Droplet microfluidics was quickly established as a discipline of science and engineering and has been used for the generation of highly uniform emulsions. The last few years have brought significant advances to the field, directed towards a wide range of applications in material sciences—from synthesis of nanoparticles in droplets to assembling complex droplets and using droplets as templates for ordered materials, with applications in food, cosmetic and diagnostic industries. Droplet microfluidic platforms are also successfully used as analytical tools in molecular biology and biochemistry, in e.g. high-throughput screening, digital assays, encapsulation of single cells, sequencing technologies, and in point-of-care diagnostic applications. This article provides an accessible overview of the physical phenomena observed in multiphase flow at the microscale and the techniques in droplet microfluidics systems. We also present the most interesting applications and potential further directions of research in this fascinating young field of science and engineering.