Recently, the development of electrochemical biosensors as part of microfluidic devices has garnered a great deal of attention because of the small instrument size and portability afforded by the integration of electrochemistry in microfluidic systems. Electrode fabrication, however, has proven to be a major obstacle in the field. Here, an alternative method to create integrated, low cost, robust, patternable carbon paste electrodes (CPEs) for microfluidic devices is presented. The new CPEs are composed of graphite powder and a binder consisting of a mixture of poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) and mineral oil. The electrodes are made by filling channels molded in previously cross-linked PDMS using a method analogous to screen printing. The optimal binder composition was investigated to obtain electrodes that were physically robust and performed well electrochemically. After studying the basic electrochemistry, the PDMS-oil CPEs were modified with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) and cobalt phthalocyanine (CoPC) for the detection of catecholamines and thiols, respectively, to demonstrate the ease of electrode chemical modification. Significant improvement of analyte signal detection was observed from both types of modified CPEs. A nearly 2-fold improvement in the electrochemical signal for 100 μM dithiothreitol (DTT) was observed when using a CoPC modified electrode (4.0 ± 0.2 nA (n = 3) versus 2.5 ± 0.2 nA (n = 3)). The improvement in signal was even more pronounced when looking at catecholamines, namely dopamine, using MWCNT modified CPEs. In this case, an order of magnitude improvement in limit of detection was observed for dopamine when using the MWCNT modified CPEs (50 nM versus 500 nM). CoPC modified CPEs were successfully used to detect thiols in red blood cell lysate while MWCNT modified CPEs were used to monitor temporal changes in catecholamine release from PC12 cells following stimulation with potassium.
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