Magnetic optical sensor particles: a flexible analytical tool for microfluidic devices†
In this study we evaluate magnetic optical sensor particles (MOSePs) with incorporated sensing functionalities regarding their applicability in microfluidic devices. MOSePs can be separated from the surrounding solution to form in situ sensor spots within microfluidic channels, while read-out is accomplished outside the chip. These magnetic sensor spots exhibit benefits of sensor layers (high brightness and convenient usage) combined with the advantages of dispersed sensor particles (ease of integration). The accumulation characteristics of MOSePs with different diameters were investigated as well as the in situ sensor spot stability at varying flow rates. Magnetic sensor spots were stable at flow rates specific to microfluidic applications. Furthermore, MOSePs were optimized regarding fiber optic and imaging read-out systems, and different referencing schemes were critically discussed on the example of oxygen sensors. While the fiber optic sensing system delivered precise and accurate results for measurement in microfluidic channels, limitations due to analyte consumption were found for microscopic oxygen imaging. A compensation strategy is provided, which utilizes simple pre-conditioning by exposure to light. Finally, new application possibilities were addressed, being enabled by the use of MOSePs. They can be used for microscopic oxygen imaging in any chip with optically transparent covers, can serve as flexible sensor spots to monitor enzymatic activity or can be applied to form fixed sensor spots inside microfluidic structures, which would be inaccessible to integration of sensor layers.