Open Science - Desktop Digital Biology Laboratory

Some call it the personal computer of synthetic biology, we call it the desktop digital microbiology lab. Fully integrated personal biolab.

Similar projects worth following
Recent advances in Synthetic biology open up new possibilities in healthcare, agriculture, chemicals, materials, energy, and bioremediation. To date this is still a very labor intensive task that requires skilled technicians and scientists. However, manual work is time consuming and wages drive development costs, thereby restricting possibilities for rapid prototyping in synthetic biology.

Digital Biology is the computer aided programming of bioprotocols using digital microfluidic biochip devices based on electrowetting on dielectric technology. In the growing ecosystem of Digital Biology people from the DIYBio and Hackteria Network gathered to do open research, exchange knowledge on the topic and develop first prototypes.

OpenDrop is an early open hardware device to proof the concept and bring the technology into peoples hands. The microfluidic array of 8x16 gold coated electrodes is designed to be manufactured on standard printed circuit board technology. A carrier system developed for the devices provides a super hydrophobic surface on which the droplets of liquid move though electrostatic forces without any mechanical parts. The driving voltage of up to 250VDC is generated on the device. The experiments are controlled though an embedded arduino micro and visualized on an OLED display. A working prototype is demonstrated on video.

Main collaborators include Urs Gaudenz, GaudiLabs / Rüdiger Trojok and Mirela Alistar, BioFlux / Digi.Bio, Bengt Sjölén, Critical Engineering.

Researchers from various institutions are interested in the open development.
Nathan Saichek from the human micro-biome project is looking into streamlining their pipeline with the technology. Luis Ruben Soenksen, PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) built a device to run experiments on multi-organ on chip interaction.

In our vision, we want to advance from automated biology to digital biology:

- fully integrated, running all the tasks on the same machine
- easy to use, with a web-based software for biological design of new experiments
- be linked to publicly available biodata
- general-purpose, allowing easy reconfiguration and design of new experiments
- cheap, offering open-source and do-it-yourself assembly kits

The OpenDrop project is free hardware, shared under an open source hardware license and all source available on

  • Tutorial Video on how to do the Super Hydrophobic Foil.

    info08/15/2016 at 19:56 0 comments

    Detailed process on how to prepare the carrier with a thin foil and how to apply a hydrophobic coating for the OpenDrop digital microfluidic device is now documented in a video tutorial online.

    Part 1: preparing the carrier: Part 2, applying the fluor polymer:

  • Organ-on-OpenDrop

    info06/23/2016 at 08:29 0 comments

    Check out this nice demo video of the OpenDrop by Luis Ruben Soenksen, PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Luis is planing to do research in drug organ interactions in communicated tissues (organ-on-a-chip) and sharing results with the community.

  • OpenDrop with Spectrometer

    info06/23/2016 at 08:23 0 comments

    A simple 3D printable spectrometer was developed that fits with the OpenDrop V2. The DIY design is based on the PublicLabs Spectrometer using a conventional computer WebCam as a sensor and a piece of DVD as a diffraction grating. With this spectrometer the hole in the centre of each electrode can be used to optically inspect the droplet sitting on the electrode.

    For more details see here:

  • New research results

    info06/19/2016 at 18:32 0 comments

    The last two weeks we made good progress with exploring the possibilites of the new OpenDrop V2.1 design. The feedback amplifier to detect the postion of the droplets seems to work. And also a test with moving droplets in the vertical was successful. For more details see here:

  • Welcome Collaborators - we need your help.

    info06/17/2016 at 17:22 0 comments

    Welcome to all of our followers. OpenDrop is an open source project and we welcome collaborators. We are part of a bigger Digital Biology Ecosystem. So deviates, addition and new platforms are welcome.

    Here we need you help: The OpenDrop uses a hydrophobic foil to move the droplets. The electrowetting effect used depends strongly on the thickness of the foil. We use Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) foil, a fluorine-based plastic with a thickness of 12 um (0.012 mm / 0.0005 inch). Thinner is better! -> Who can find a supplier or other source where to get thinner ETFE foil (like 6um, 0.006 mm / 0.00025 inch)?

    Please leave you suggestion in the comments. Thanks!

View all 5 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    Please consider that the OpeDrop project is still under development and that you need to have good understanding of the circuit and the basic principles to build such a device. Also the electronic boards with SMD components and high-voltage circuits needs advanced skills to prototype. All the files to build the currenct OpenDrop device, including PCB production (Gerber) files and bill of materials (BOM) can be found in out GitHub repository (see link). If you have questions feel free to ask.

View all instructions

Enjoy this project?



chronalmount wrote 10/12/2023 at 13:17 point

What an interesting project! It's been a while since you've posted any updates; I'd love to hear about your progress.

  Are you sure? yes | no

info wrote 06/17/2016 at 17:11 point

The fluid for now is water with some ink. Many of the substances used in biology a water based solutions. Any other polar liquid should work as well.

  Are you sure? yes | no

bram wrote 06/18/2016 at 16:00 point

Ok, thanks.

  Are you sure? yes | no

bram wrote 06/17/2016 at 15:20 point

What is the fluid you are using?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates