A programmable microfluidic chip in action.

Programmable Microfluidics

Welcome! We are developing flexible microfluidic chips and high-level software libraries to enable large, complex biology experiments to be easily executed on a single platform. Please see the materials below for more details, and watch this page for future updates.


New!  General language for biology protocols presented at design-automation workshop (abstract, slides)

New!  Check out Micado, an AutoCAD plugin for automatic routing and GUI generation for programmable microfluidic chips (March 2008).




Chip Operations Transport and Storage Primitives

50x real-time
Mix-and-store. Using a programmable microfluidic device, two samples are loaded into a rotary mixer, mixed to homogeneity, and stored in a storage cell. In this device, samples are isolated from one another using a continuous phase (oil). Microfluidic latch. The microfluidic latch enables a fluid sample to be aligned to a given location on a microfluidic device. By partially deflecting a control valve, the latch catches an aqueous sample while allowing the background oil phase to freely pass. This enables programmability and scalability, as samples can be moved reliably from one location to another without depending on precise timing or external feedback.
10x real-time
Mixing (close-up). A close-up of the rotary mixer during operation of the device. Unit-sized samples are loaded on opposite sides of the mixer, and the mixed result is transported to storage. The control software automatically derives complex mixtures using a sequence of these simple equal-proportion mixes. Microfluidic latch (close-up). Close-up video of the microfluidic latch as decribed above. For additional details on the latch, see our Lab-on-a-Chip paper.
50x real-time
Mix-and-store (alternate device). In this device, samples are separated by air rather than oil. This allows faster fluid transport, though channels must be cleaned with water between operations. Mixing is accomplished during transport of samples from a metering device to the storage cells. Storage alignment (alternate device). When samples are separated by air rather than oil, a sample can be aligned with the end of a closed storage cell by simply purging the air into the PDMS device.


The BioStream software (described in our Lab-on-a-Chip paper) provides a high-level programming environment for designing, simulating, and executing complex biology experiments on microfluidic chips. The source code for BioStream is freely available. For a pointer to the most recent version, please send email to Bill Thies (thies@mit.edu). In the future, a release bundle will be posted on this webpage.