Synthesis of gold nano-particles in a microfluidic platform for water quality monitoring applications



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A microfluidic lab-on-a-chip (LOC) device for in-situ synthesis of gold nano-particles was developed. The long term goal is to develop a portable hand-held diagnostic platform for monitoring water quality (e.g., detecting metal ion pollutants). The LOC consists of micro-chambers housing different reagents and samples that feed to a common reaction chamber. The reaction products are delivered to several waste chambers in a pre-defined sequence to enable reagents/ samples to flow into and out of the reaction chamber. Passive flow actuation is obtained by capillary driven flow (wicking) and dissolvable microstructures called ?salt pillars?. The LOC does not require any external power source for actuation and the passive microvalves enable flow actuation at predefined intervals. The LOC and the dissolvable microstructures are fabricated using a combination of photolithography and soft lithography techniques. Experiments were conducted to demonstrate the variation in the valve actuation time with respect to valve position and geometric parameters. Subsequently, analytical models were developed using one dimensional linear diffusion theory. The analytical models were in good agreement with the experimental data. The microvalves were developed using various salts: polyethylene glycol, sodium chloride and sodium acetate. Synthesized in-situ in our experiments, gold nano-particles exhibit specific colorimetric and optical properties due to the surface plasmon resonance effect. These stabilized mono-disperse gold nano-particles can be coated with bio-molecular recognition motifs on their surfaces. A colorimetric peptide assay was thus developed using the intrinsic property of noble metal nano-particles. The LOC device was further developed on a paper microfluidics platform. This platform was tested successfully for synthesis of gold nano-particles using a peptide assay and using passive salt-bridge microvalves. This study proves the feasibility of a LOC device that utilizes peptide assay for synthesis of gold nano-particles in-situ. It could be highly significant in a simple portable water quality monitoring platform.