Design of quality-control droplet-detection subsystem. Before each cycle of synthesis the inkjet print head is moved over the light beam of a red diode such that the stream of droplets ejected from each pump intersects the beam at right angles. (a) If a nozzle is defective, there is no droplet ejected into the light beam, light is not scattered and the narrow beam is absorbed by a bar placed before the lens of the photomultiplier tube. (b) If the nozzle is functioning, a droplet intersects the light beam and scatters the light, which is then focused on the photomultiplier tube (PMT) to signal that the nozzle is functioning correctly. The state of the droplet is held by a D-type flip-flop. The circuit is reset just before droplet ejection and the state is read immediately after. If nozzle failures are detected, the software reschedules the motion and firing of the printing head so that the most efficient printing path is taken.
Lausted et al. Genome Biology 2004 5:R58 doi:10.1186/gb-2004-5-8-r58