Microfluidic Mixing Triggered by an External LED Illumination

The mixing of confined liquids is a central yet challenging operation in miniaturized devices. Microfluidic mixing is usually achieved with passive mixers that are robust but poorly flexible, or active mixers that offer dynamic control but mainly rely on electrical or mechanical transducers, which increase the fragility, cost, and complexity of the device. Here, we describe the first remote and reversible control of microfluidic mixing triggered by a light illumination simply provided by an external LED illumination device. The approach is based on the light-induced generation of water microdroplets acting as reversible stirrers of two continuous oil phase flows containing samples to be mixed. We demonstrate many cycles of reversible photoinduced transitions between a nonmixing behavior and full homogenization of the two oil phases. The method is cheap, portable, and adaptable to many device configurations, thus constituting an essential brick for the generation of future all-optofluidic chip.