Electrokinetic concentration enrichment within a microfluidic device integrated with a hydrogel microplug



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A simple and efficient technique for the concentration enrichment of charged species within a microfluidic device was developed. The functional component of the system is a hydrogel microplug photopolymerized inside the microfluidic channel. The fundamental properties of the nanoporous hydrogel microplug in modulating the electrokinetic transport during the concentration enrichment were investigated. The physicochemical properties of the hydrogel plug play a key role in determining the mode of concentration enrichment. A neutral hydrogel plug acts as a physical barrier to the electrophoretic transport of charged analytes resulting in size-based concentration enrichment. In contrast, an anionic hydrogel plug introduces concentration polarization effects, facilitating a size and charge-based concentration enrichment. The concentration polarization effects result in redistribution of the local electric field and subsequent lowering of the extent of concentration enrichment. In addition, an electroosmotic flow originating inside the pores of the anionic hydrogel manipulates the location of concentration enrichment. A theoretical model qualitatively consistent with the experimental observations is provided.