In this work, we mechanically perturb a liquid-in-liquid jet to manipulate the size and structure of the droplets formed from break-up of the jet. The induced break-up is relatively insensitive to fluctuations in the surrounding fluid flow. When the amplitude of perturbations is large and the interfacial tension of the liquid–liquid system is low, the size of the droplets can be precisely tuned by controlling the rate at which the liquid exits the tip of the dispensing nozzle through the frequency of perturbation. When applied to microfluidic devices with the appropriate geometry, our perturbation-induced droplet approach offers a strategy to manipulating droplet structures. We demonstrate that by varying the imposed perturbation frequency and phase lag, the structure of the multi-compartmental drops and the configuration of the resultant drops in the same flow condition can be manipulated. Moreover, after careful treatment of the wettability of the devices, we show that the structure of the droplets can be precisely controlled to change from single emulsion to double emulsion within the same device. The perturbation-induced droplet generation represents a new paradigm in the engineering of droplets, enhancing current droplet-based technologies for applications ranging from particle fabrication to confined micro-reactions.
2015. Vol. 25, no 8