Droplet-based microfluidics detector for bioaerosol detection
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Detection of bioaerosols is important in fields ranging from environmental health monitoring to biosurveillance, and current detector weaknesses have motivated the development of new technologies. In this work, a detector was built, which applies the principles of droplet microfluidics to bioaerosol detection. Droplet microfluidics is a subfield of microfluidics based on the creation of monodisperse microdroplets with compartmentalized reagents and supports enhanced assays and fluidic manipulations. The bioaerosol detector operates by aerodynamically focusing aerosols directly into these droplets to harness the benefits of the microreactor environment. A breadboard detector system, which consisted of an aerodynamic focusing lens, aerosol-focusing capillary, microfluidic droplet chip, and optical microscope, was constructed. Computational fluid dynamic simulations and Lagrangian particle tracking modeling were conducted to identify the optimal conditions for focusing. Preliminary experiments, where aerosols were deposited onto a solid substrate, demonstrated sub 200-µm spot diameters for aerodynamic diameters of 2–5 µm. Test aerosols were then generated, and collected into the microfluidic liquid interface on the chip as verified by microscopy. Recovery efficiency of the aerosols was dependent on aerosol size and ranged from about 27% to nearly 100%. Finally, to prove bioaerosol collection and detection, a droplet propidium iodide (PI) assay was performed: the system distinguished between E. coli and non-biological aerosols within 20 s. Overall, this work established the technique of direct collection of bioaerosols into a convenient droplet microfluidic platform for detection.
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