An Energy Efficient Thermally Regulated Optical Spectroscopy Cell for Lab-on-Chip Devices: Applied to Nitrate Detection

Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Jul 22;12(8):861. doi: 10.3390/mi12080861.


Reagent-based colorimetric analyzers often heat the fluid under analysis for improved reaction kinetics, whilst also aiming to minimize energy use per measurement. Here, a novel method of conserving heat energy on such microfluidic systems is presented. Our design reduces heat transfer to the environment by surrounding the heated optical cell on four sides with integral air pockets, thereby realizing an insulated and suspended bridge structure. Our design was simulated in COMSOL Multiphysics and verified in a polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) device. We evaluate the effectiveness of the insulated design by comparing it to a non-insulated cell. For temperatures up to 55 °C, the average power consumption was reduced by 49.3% in the simulation and 40.2% in the experiment. The designs were then characterized with the vanadium and Griess reagent assay for nitrate at 35 °C. Nitrate concentrations from 0.25 µM to 50 µM were tested and yielded the expected linear relationship with a limit of detection of 20 nM. We show a reduction in energy consumption from 195 J to 119 J per 10 min measurement using only 4 µL of fluid. Efficient heating on-chip will have broad applicability to numerous colorimetric assays.

Keywords: absorbance; colorimetric; heaters; lab on chip; microfluidic; nitrate.