This paper reports a method for the production of arrays of nanolitre plugs with distinct chemical compositions. One of the primary constraints on the use of plug-based microfluidics for large scale biological screening is the difficulty of fabricating arrays of chemically distinct plugs on the nanolitre scale. Here, using microfluidic devices with several T-junctions linked in series, a single input array of large (approximately 320 nL) plugs was split to produce 16 output arrays of smaller (approximately 20 nL) plugs; the composition and configuration of these arrays were identical to that of the input. This paper shows how the passive break-up of plugs in T-junction microchannel geometries can be used to produce a set of smaller-volume output arrays useful for chemical screening from a single large-volume array. A simple theoretical description is presented to describe splitting as a function of the Capillary number, the capillary pressure, the total pressure difference across the channel, and the geometric fluidic resistance. By accounting for these considerations, plug coalescence and plug-plug contamination can be eliminated from the splitting process and the symmetry of splitting can be preserved. Furthermore, single-outlet splitting devices were implemented with both valve- and volume-based methods for coordinating the release of output arrays. Arrays of plugs containing commercial sparse matrix screens were obtained from the presented splitting method and these arrays were used in protein crystallization trials. The techniques presented in this paper may facilitate the implementation of high-throughput chemical and biological screening.
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