Quantum dots (QDs) provide opportunities for the development of bioassays, biosensors, and drug delivery strategies. Decoration of the surface of QDs offers unique functions such as resistance to non-specific adsorption, selective binding to target molecules, and cellular uptake. The quality of decoration has substantial impact on the functionality of modified QDs. Single-phase microfluidic devices have been demonstrated for decorating QDs with biological molecules. The device substrate can serve as a solid-phase reaction platform, with a limitation being difficulty in the realization of reproducible decoration at high density of coverage of QDs. Magnetic beads (MBs) have been explored as an alternative form of solid-phase reaction platform for decorating QDs. As one example, controlled decoration to achieve unusually high density can be realized by first coating MBs with QDs, followed by the addition of molecules such as DNA oligonucleotides. Uniformity and high density of coatings on QDs have been obtained using MBs for solid-phase reactions in bulk solution, with the further advantage that the MBs offer simplification of procedural steps such as purification. This study explores the use of a droplet microfluidic platform to achieve solid-phase decoration of MBs with QDs, offering control of local reaction conditions beyond that available in bulk solution reactions. A microchannel network with a two-junction in-series configuration was designed and optimized to co-encapsulate one single 1 µm MB and many QDs into individual droplets. The microdroplet became the reaction vessel, and enhanced conjugation through the confined environment and fast mixing. A high density of QDs was coated onto the surface of single MB even when using a low concentration of QDs. This approach quickly produced decorated MBs, and significantly reduced QD waste, ameliorating the need to remove excess QDs. The methodology offers a degree of precision to control conjugation processes that cannot be attained in bulk synthesis methods. The proposed droplet microfluidic design can be widely adopted for nanomaterial synthesis using solid-phase assays.
Microfluids and Nanofluids – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 4, 2018