Detection of trace amounts of insoluble pharmaceuticals in water by extraction and SERS measurements in a microfluidic flow regime
Detection of trace amounts of poorly water-soluble pharmaceuticals or related (bio)solutions represents a key challenge in environment protection and clinical diagnostics. However, this task is complicated by low concentrations of pharmaceuticals, complex sample matrices, and sophisticated sample preparative routes. In this work, we present an alternative approach on the basis of an on-line flow extraction procedure and SERS measurements performed in a microfluidic regime. The advantages of our approach were demonstrated using ibuprofen (Ibu), which is considered as a common pharmaceutical contaminant in wastewater and should be monitored in various bioliquids. The extraction of Ibu from water to the dichloromethane phase was performed with an optimized microfluidic mixer architecture. As SERS tags, lipophilic functionalized gold multibranched nanoparticles (AuMs) were added to the organic phase. After microfluidic extraction, Ibu was captured by the functionalized AuM surface and recognized by on-line SERS measurements with up to 10–8 M detection limit. The main advantages of the proposed approach can be regarded as its simplicity, lack of need for preliminary sample preparation, high reliability, the absence of sample pretreatment, and low detection limits.