Broad-Band Spectrum, High-Sensitivity Absorbance Spectroscopy in Picoliter Volumes

Anal Chem. 2021 Jun 1;93(21):7673-7681. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c00587. Epub 2021 May 19.

Abstract

Picoliter-volume droplets within segmented flows can be probed in a rapid and efficient manner using optical detection methods. To date, however, most detection schemes for droplet content analysis have relied on the use of time-integrated fluorescence measurements. Despite its undoubted utility, the implementation of absorbance-based detectors is particularly challenging due to the reduced optical path lengths that are characteristic of microfluidic systems and deleterious scattering at droplet-oil interfaces. Unsurprisingly, efforts to develop sensitive absorbance-based detection schemes for the interrogation of rapidly moving droplets have primarily focused on ensuring adequate analytical sensitivity and, to date, have been exclusively limited to single-wavelength measurements. To address this limitation, and expand the information content associated with absorbance measurements on-chip, we herein describe a detection scheme for the extraction of broad-band absorbance spectra from pL-volume droplets with high sensitivity. The combination of a confocal optical system (that confines incident light to a reduced detection volume) and a postprocessing algorithm (that effectively removes the contribution of the carrier oil from the extracted spectra) engenders significant improvements in signal-to-noise ratios. Our system is initially calibrated by acquiring absorbance spectra from aqueous solutions of fluorescein isothiocyanate. These measurements confirm both excellent linearity over the studied range (from 0 to 100 μM) and a concentration limit of detection of 800 nM. The methodology is then used to monitor the salt-induced aggregation of gold nanoparticles with millisecond time resolution. This approach for small-volume absorbance spectroscopy allows for both high-throughput and high-information content measurements in subnanoliter volumes and will be highly desirable in a wide variety of bioanalytical applications where sensitivity and throughput are priorities.

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescein
  • Gold
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques*
  • Spectrum Analysis

Substances

  • Gold
  • Fluorescein