Subnanoliter precision piezo pipette for single-cell isolation and droplet printing

Barbara Francz, Rita Ungai-Salánki, Éva Sautner, Robert Horvath, Bálint Szabó

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although microliter-scale liquid handling with a handheld pipette is a routine task, pipetting nanoliter-scale volumes is challenging due to several technical difficulties including surface tension, adhesion and evaporation effects. We developed a fully automated piezoelectric micropipette with a precision of < 1 nanoliter, improving the efficiency of imaging-based single-cell isolation to above 90%. This improvement is crucial when sorting rare or precious cells, especially in medical applications. The compact piezoelectric micropipette can be integrated into various (bio)chemical workflows. It eliminates plastic tubes, valves, syringes, and pressure tanks. For high-quality phase-contrast illumination of the sample, e.g., cells or tiny droplets, we constructed rings of LEDs arranged concentrically to the micropipette. The same device can be readily used for single-cell printing and nanoliter-scale droplet printing of reagents using either fluorescent or transparent illumination on a microscope. We envision that this new technology will shortly become a standard tool for single-cell manipulations in medical diagnostics, e.g., circulating tumor cell isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020



  • Droplet
  • Nanoliter
  • Piezoelectric
  • Single cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry

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