Available technologies, Life Sciences, Research tool


Toward a better automation of microfluidic systems


Microfluidics or “lab-on-chip” is the miniaturization of devices to integrate chemical and biological processes on a hand-held device

-This is a valued liquid handling tool for low reagent consumption, automation of time-consuming assays and high-throughput screening

-In droplet microfluidics, droplets are formed and manipulated by pressure-based flows into microchannels using external pump

-In digital microfluidics (DMF), droplets are created and individually manipulated on an array of electrodes by electrostatic (no channels)


-Global market expected to reach $27.9B in 2023 (23% CAGR 2018-2023)

-Largest share (61%) for the in-vitro diagnostic segment

-Other growing applications in drug delivery, life science research and lab testing

-Largest market (37%) located in North America

-Fastest growth in Europe (23.4% CAGR) and Asia (26.6% CAGR)



The automation component of DMF is facing many challenges, including the integration of external components (“world-to-chip”) interfaces. Two interfaces have been developed and integrated to the DMF platform (Fig.1). The first interface is a reagent delivery system (ITO-well-DMF). The volume of the reservoir is increased by 50-fold, eliminating the need of manual refill and increasing the reproducibility. The second interface is a thermal electric cooler (TEC) module working as a closed-loop control system. This component offers a precise temperature control on the chip.

Microfluidic image

√ Applications in biological and chemical experiments

Lab-on-chip platform for the automation of biological and chemical experimentation which requires fluidics and temperature control. The proof-of-concept has been demonstrated for the optimization of heat shock bacterial transformation parameters (Fig.2) and enzymatic assays.


√ Advantages

-Reduction of manual intervention

-High reproducibility of droplet dispensing

-Accurate temperature control

√ Status of development

TRL 3 – Experimental proof of concept

√ Intellectual property

US provisional patent application


The ID2M platform combines hydrodynamic pressure and electrostatic force offered in a three-layer hybrid microfluidics device to control droplets with a single cell. The system can perform on-demand operations on single droplets in channels. These operations consist of on-demand droplet generation through a double T-junction droplet generator, tuning of their volume on-demand, merging and mixing of several droplets to create a serial dilution and sorting encapsulated droplets to multiple channels by a cell trapping system.


√ Applications

High-throughput screening system

(Ex: generation of a mutant library, sorting and recovery of gene edited single cells)

√ Advantages

-Fine droplet control within channels

-Reduction of experimental reagent volumes

-Elimination of manual intervention

-Single-cell analysis

√ Status of development

TRL 3 – Experimental proof of concept

√ Intellectual property

US provisional patent application


If you are interested by this technology, please contact :

Sébastien Bergeron, Director Business Development
sebastien.bergeron@axelys.ca, (450) 522-6430


Concordia University

Main inventor

Photo Steve Shih

Dr. Steve Shih, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Concordia University

Dr. Steve Shih completed his B.A.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto and then went to University of Ottawa to complete his Master’s degree in Chemistry.  He then returned to Toronto to complete his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering with Prof. Aaron Wheeler specializing in microfluidic technologies. His contribution during his Ph.D. include developing automated high-throughput digital microfluidic methods for cell-based assays, point-of-care diagnostics, and biofuel-related applications. After learning microfluidics, he then spent 3 years as a postdoctoral research at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and UC Berkeley working closely with Dr. Nathan Hillson, Dr. Jay Keasling, and Dr. Anup Singh. His main focus was to automate DNA assembly and transformation processes using digital microfluidic platforms. He was also designing novel microfluidic techniques for screening active enzymes used for biofuel producing microbes and integrating it to mass spectrometry. As of January 2016, he is an Assistant Professor at Concordia University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a cross-appointment in the Department of Biology. He is also a member of the only Center for Applied Synthetic Biology in Canada. His current interests are to automate processes related to synthetic biology and to improve microfluidic fabrication techniques such that it is translatable to the general public.

External references

Ahmadi, F. et al. (2019) An integrated droplet-digital microfluidics system for on-demand droplet creation, mixing, incubation, and sorting. Lab Chip. 19, 524-535 (PDF link)

Moazami, E., et al. (2019) Integration of World-to-Chip Interfaces with Digital Microfluidics for Bacterial Transformation and Enzymatic Assays. Analytical Chemistry. 91, 5159-5168 (PDF link)

Samlali, K. et al. (2020) One cell, one drop, one click: hybrid microfluidic mammalian single-cell isolation. (Online publication)