In this paper a novel optofluidic setup, fabricated on a single layer device for in-line droplet characterization yielding droplet-size, droplet-frequency, and optical properties with compatibility for full on-chip integration is presented. Chips were fabricated using a simple, fast, and cost effective technology. A T-junction arrangement on the device is used for droplet generation. The optical part of the setup consists of an external light source, external silicon photodetectors, integrated air micro-lenses, and an integrated waveguide. The design makes use of partial light reflection/transmission at the solid-liquid interface to count, size, and discriminate droplets based on their optical properties. When passing the interrogation point, droplets having a lower refractive index as the continuous phase result in light deflections. Both, reflected and transmitted light, are detected simultaneously. A relation of those two signals is then used for the analysis resulting in a continuously stable signal. The generated pattern is unique for different droplets and can be exploited for droplet characterization.
Using this arrangement, droplets of de-ionized water (DI) were counted at frequencies of up to 320 droplets per second. In addition, information about the droplet sizes and their variations could be obtained. Finally, 5 mol/L CaCl2 and DI droplets, having different indices of refraction were examined and could clearly be discriminated based on their unique reflected and transmitted light signals. This principle can be applied for the detection of dissolved molecules in droplets as long as they influence the index of refraction. Examples could be the determination of DNA or protein content in the droplet.