An active micromixer uses a surface acoustic wave, preferably a Rayleigh wave, propagating on a piezoelectric substrate to induce acoustic streaming in a fluid in a microfluidic channel. The surface acoustic wave can be generated by applying an RF excitation signal to at least one interdigital transducer on the piezoelectric substrate. The active micromixer can rapidly mix quiescent fluids or laminar streams in low Reynolds number flows. The active micromixer has no moving parts (other than the SAW transducer) and is, therefore, more reliable, less damaging to sensitive fluids, and less susceptible to fouling and channel clogging than other types of active and passive micromixers. The active micromixer is adaptable to a wide range of geometries, can be easily fabricated, and can be integrated in a microfluidic system, reducing dead volume. Finally, the active micromixer has on-demand on/off mixing capability and can be operated at low power.