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Adaptive Droplet Routing in Digital Microfluidic Biochips Using Deep Reinforcement Learning

Tung-Che Liang · Zhanwei Zhong · Yaas Bigdeli · Tsung-Yi Ho · Krishnendu Chakrabarty · Richard Fair

Keywords: [ Deep Reinforcement Learning ] [ Healthcare ] [ Hardware and Systems ] [ Other ] [ Applications - Other ]


We present and investigate a novel application domain for deep reinforcement learning (RL): droplet routing on digital microfluidic biochips (DMFBs). A DMFB, composed of a two-dimensional electrode array, manipulates discrete fluid droplets to automatically execute biochemical protocols such as high-throughput DNA sequencing and point-of-care clinical diagnosis. However, a major concern associated with the use of DMFBs is that electrodes in a biochip can degrade over time. Droplet-transportation operations associated with the degraded electrodes can fail, thereby compromising the integrity of the bioassay outcome. While it is not feasible to detect the degradation of an electrode by simply examining its appearance, we show that casting droplet transportation as an RL problem enables the training of deep network policies to capture the underlying health conditions of electrodes and to provide reliable fluidic operations. We propose a new RL-based droplet-routing flow that can be used for various sizes of DMFBs, and demonstrate reliable execution of an epigenetic bioassay with the RL droplet router on a fabricated DMFB. To facilitate further research, we also present a simulation environment based on the OpenAI Gym Interface for RL-guided droplet-routing problems on DMFBs.

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