In a nutshell, is it possible to FACS a sample that is in oil rather than in a buffer (water based solution)? I would greatly appreciate any help with this. Thank you

  • $\begingroup$ Not sure about FACS, but what you describe is similar to droplet digital PCR (ddPCR). The samples are still in an aqueous buffer, but they are emulsified in oil, creating many microscopic droplets that each contain some sample and are isolated from each other. BioRad makes a machine that does this, but whatever you are detecting would have to produce a fluorescent signal. $\endgroup$
    – ndusek
    Jan 10, 2018 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks ndusek, yes it seems detection of fluorescence is possible inside oil. Its only a question if a FACS could achieve the same. $\endgroup$
    – Jule
    Jan 10, 2018 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


It's possible that there's some specialized modified machine that can do it, but conventional flow cytometry machines can't do it. This article suggests one possible approach:

Unfortunately, FACS instruments are incompatible with nonaqueous suspensions, so to sort a water-in-oil emulsion, it is necessary to carry out a further emulsification to produce a water-in-oil-in-water double emulsion. The resulting sample, now dispersed in an aqueous phase, is amenable to FACS sorting.

--One in a Million: Flow Cytometric Sorting of Single Cell-Lysate Assays in Monodisperse Picolitre Double Emulsion Droplets for Directed Evolution

There are also microfluidics machines that might be able to do it, but I think you'd have to build your own rather than being able to buy a solution (which would be expensive in any case, I think).


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