Conventional methods of environmental analysis can be significantly improved by the development of portable microscale technologies for direct in-field sensing at remote locations. This report demonstrates the vast potential of gold nanoparticle-based microfluidic sensors for the rapid, in-field, detection of two important classes of environmental contaminants – heavy metals and pesticides. Using gold nanoparticle-based microfluidic sensors linked to a simple digital camera as the detector, detection limits as low as 0.6 μg L−1 and 16 μg L−1 could be obtained for the heavy metal mercury and the dithiocarbamate pesticide ziram, respectively. These results demonstrate that the attractive optical properties of gold nanoparticle probes combine synergistically with the inherent qualities of microfluidic platforms to offer simple, portable and sensitive sensors for environmental contaminants.
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