Optical Calorimetry in Microfluidic Droplets


Chamoun, J.; Pattekar, A. V.; Afshinmanesh, F.;Martini, J.; Recht, M.I.. Optical Calorimetry in Microfluidic Droplets. Lab on a chip.


A novel microfluidic calorimeter that measures the enthalpy change of reactions occurring in 100 m diameter aqueous droplets in fluoropolymer oil has been developed. The aqueous reactants flow into a microfluidic droplet generation chip in separate fluidic channels, limiting contact between the streams until immediately before they form the droplet. The diffusion-driven mixing of reactants is predominantly restricted to within the droplet. The temperature change in droplets due to the heat of reaction is measured optically by recording the reflectance spectra of encapsulated thermochromic liquid crystals (TLC) that are added to one of the reactant streams. As the droplets travel through the channel, the spectral characteristics of the TLC represent the internal temperature, allowing optical measurement with a precision of 6 mK. The microfluidic chip and all fluids are temperature controlled, and the reaction heat within droplets raises their temperature until thermal diffusion dissipates the heat into the surrounding oil and chip walls. Position resolved optical temperature measurement of the droplets allows calculation of the heat of reaction by analyzing the droplet temperature profile over time. Channel dimensions, droplet generation rate, droplet size, reactant stream flows and oil flow rate are carefully balanced to provide rapid diffusional mixing of reactants compared to thermal diffusion, while avoiding thermal quenching due to contact between the droplets and the chip walls. Compared to conventional microcalorimetry, which has been used in this work to provide reference measurements, this new continuous flow droplet calorimeter has the potential to perform titrations 1000-fold faster while using 400-fold less reactants per titration.

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