Label-free high-throughput detection and content sensing of individual droplets in microfluidic systems†
This study reports a microwave-microfluidics integrated approach capable of performing droplet detection at high-throughput as well as content sensing of individual droplets without chemical or physical intrusion. The sensing system consists of a custom microwave circuitry and a spiral-shaped microwave resonator that is integrated with microfluidic chips where droplets are generated. The microwave circuitry is very cost effective by using off-the-shelf components only. It eliminates the need for bulky benchtop equipment, and provides a compact, rapid and sensitive tool compatible for Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) platforms. To evaluate the resonator's sensing capability, it was first applied to differentiate between single-phase fluids which are aqueous solutions with different concentrations of glucose and potassium chloride respectively by measuring its reflection coefficient as a function of frequency. The minimum concentration assessed was 0.001 g ml−1 for potassium chloride and 0.01 g ml−1 for glucose. In the droplet detection experiments, it is demonstrated that the microwave sensor is able to detect droplets generated at as high throughput as 3.33 kHz. Around two million droplets were counted over a period of ten minutes without any missing. For droplet sensing experiments, pairs of droplets that were encapsulated with biological materials were generated alternatively in a double T-junction configuration and clearly identified by the microwave sensor. The sensed biological materials include fetal bovine serum, penicillin antibiotic mixture, milk (2% mf) and D-(+)-glucose. This system has significant advantages over optical detection methods in terms of its cost, size and compatibility with LOC settings and also presents significant improvements over other electrical-based detection techniques in terms of its sensitivity and throughput.