A microfluidic device denoted the Phase Chip has been designed to measure and manipulate the phase diagram of multicomponent fluid mixtures. The Phase Chip exploits the permeation of water through poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) in order to controllably vary the concentration of solutes in aqueous nanoliter volume microdrops stored in wells. The permeation of water in the Phase Chip is modeled using the diffusion equation, and good agreement between experiment and theory is obtained. The Phase Chip operates by first creating drops of the water/solute mixture whose composition varies sequentially. Next, drops are transported down channels and guided into storage wells using surface tension forces. Finally, the solute concentration of each stored drop is simultaneously varied and measured. Two applications of the Phase Chip are presented. First, the phase diagram of a polymer/salt mixture is measured on-chip and validated off-chip, and second, protein crystallization rates are enhanced through the manipulation of the kinetics of nucleation and growth.
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