Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) should constitute an important natural step towards the improvement of the analytical performance of microfluidic electrochemical sensing. SWCNTs inherently offer lower detection potentials, higher surfaces and better stability than the existing carbon electrodes. However, pristine SWCNTs contain some carbonaceous and metallic impurities that influence their electrochemical performance. Thus, an appropriate processing method is important for obtaining high purity SWCNTs for analytical applications. In this work, a set of 0.1 mg mL−1 SWCNT dispersions with different degrees of purity and different dispersants (SDBS; pluronic F68 and DMF) was carefully characterized by near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy giving a Purity Index (NIR-PI) ranging from 0.039 to 0.310. The highest purity was obtained when air oxidized SWCNTs were dispersed in SDBS, followed by centrifugation. The SWCNT dispersions were utilized to modify microfluidic chip electrodes for the electrochemical sensing of dopamine and catechol. In comparison with non-SWCNT-based electrodes, the sample with the highest NIR-PI (0.310) exhibited the best analytical performance in terms of improved sensitivity (3-folds higher), very good signal-to-noise ratio, high resistance-to-fouling in terms of relative standard deviation (RSD 7%; n = 15), and enhanced resolution (2-folds higher). In addition, very well-defined concentration dependence was also obtained with excellent correlation coefficients (r ≥ 0.990). Likewise, a good analytical sensitivity, suitable detection limits (LODs) and a very good precision with independence of the concentration assayed (RSDs ≤ 5%) was achieved. These valuable features indicate the suitability of this material for quantitative analysis. NIR-PI and further TEM and XRD characterization demonstrated that the analytical response was driven and controlled by the high NIR-PI of the SWCNTs used. The significance of this work is the demonstration for the first time of the sensitivity–purity relationship in SWCNT microfluidic chips. A novel and valuable analytical tool for electrochemical sensing has been developed: SWCNTs with high purity and a rich surface chemistry with functional groups, both essential for analytical purposes. Also, this work helps to better understand the analytical potency of SWCNTs coupled to microfluidic chips and it opens new gates for using these unique dispersions in real-world applications.
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