Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

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Number of Pages



An intelligent, portable, and high throughput digital microfluidic (DMF) system is developed. Chapter 1 introduces microfluidics and DMF systems. In Chapter 2, a low-cost and high resolution capacitive-to-digital converter integrated circuit is used for droplet position detection. A field-programmable gate array FPGA is used as the integrated logic hub of the system for highly reliable and efficient control of the circuit. In this chapter a fast-fabricating PCB (printed circuit board) substrate microfluidic system is proposed. Smaller actuation threshold voltages than those previously reported are obtained. Droplets (3 µL) are actuated using 200 V, 500 Hz DC pulses. Droplet positions can be detected and displayed on a PC-based 3D animation in real time. The actuators and the capacitance sensing circuits are implemented on one PCB to reduce the size of the system. In Chapter 3, an intelligent EWOD (electrowetting on dielectric) top plate control system is proposed. The dynamic top plate is controlled by a piezoelectric (PZT) cantilever structure. A high resolution laser displacement sensor is used to monitor the deflection of the top plate. The gap height optimization and the harmonic vibration significantly improve the droplet velocity and decrease the droplet minimum threshold actuation voltage. The top plate vibration induced actuation improvement is magnitude and frequency dependent. 100 µm and 200 µm vibrations are tested at 25 Hz. Vibration frequencies at 5 Hz, 10 Hz, and 20 Hz are tested while the magnitude is 200 µm. Results show greater improvements are achieved at larger vibration magnitudes and higher vibration frequencies. With a vibrated top plate, the largest reduction of the actuation voltage is 76 VRMS for a 2.0 µl DI water droplet. The maximum droplet instantaneous velocity is around 9.3 mm/s, which is almost 3 times faster than the droplet velocity without top plate vibration. Liquid that has different hysteresis such as acetonitrile with various concentrations are used as a control to show its compatibility with the proposed DMF chip. Contact line depinning under top plate vibration is observed, which indicates the underlying mechanism for the improvements in actuation velocity and threshold voltage. The top plate control technique reported in this study makes EWOD DMF chips more reliable for point of care diagnostics. In Chapter 4, the mechanisms of the improvements were investigated by observing the detailed changes in the contact angle hysteresis using both parallel and nonparallel top plates. In Chapter 5, on-chip cell cultures are used for anti-biotic resistant bacteria detection. The passively dispensed on-chip cell cultures realize the isolated micro environment electrochemistry measurement, shorten the culturing time, and reduce the required sample volume. The design of the next generation ultra-portable DMF system is covered in the Appendix. Detailed technical notes and hardware design is covered in the Appendix. The proposed portable and high throughput DMF system with on-chip cell cultures have a great potential to change the standards for micro-environment culturing technologies, which will significantly improve the efficiency of actuation, sensing, and detecting performance of the DMF systems.


Bacteria cultures; Digital microfluidics; Droplet control; Lab on a chip; Micro technology


Biomechanical Engineering | Biomedical | Biomedical Devices and Instrumentation | Electrical and Computer Engineering | Mechanical Engineering