The lateral-flow immunoassay (LFA) is a well-established point-of-care detection assay that is rapid, inexpensive, easy to use, and portable. However, its sensitivity is lower than that of traditional lab-based assays. Previously, we improved the sensitivity of LFA by concentrating the target biomolecules using aqueous two-phase systems (ATPSs) prior to their detection. In this study, we report the first-ever utilization of dextran-coated gold nanoprobes (DGNPs) as the colorimetric indicator for LFA. In addition, the DGNPs are the key component in our pre-concentration process, where they remain stable and functional in the high salt environment of our ATPS solution, capture the target protein with conjugated antibodies, and allow the rapid concentration of the target protein in our ATPS for use in the subsequent LFA detection step. By combining this pre-concentration step with LFA, the detection limit of LFA for a model protein was improved by 10-fold. We further improved our ATPS from previous studies by enabling phase separation at room temperature in 30 min. By using DGNPs for the concentration and detection of protein biomarkers in the sequential combination of the ATPS and LFA steps, we move closer to developing an effective protein detection assay which uses no power or lab-based equipment.
Microfluidics has experienced massive growth in the past two decades, and especially with advances in rapid prototyping researchers have explored a multitude of channel structures, fluid and particle mixtures, and integration with electrical and optical systems towards solving problems in healthcare, biological and chemical analysis, materials synthesis, and other emerging areas that can benefit from the scale, automation, and the unique physics of these systems. Inertial microfluidics, which relies on the unconventional use of fluid inertia in microfluidic platforms, is one of the emerging fields that make use of unique physical phenomena that are accessible in microscale patterned channels. Channel shapes that focus, concentrate, order, separate, transfer, and mix particles and fluids have been demonstrated, however physical underpinnings guiding these channel designs have been limited and much of the development has been based on experimentally-derived intuition. Here we aim to provide a deeper understanding of mechanisms and underlying physics in these systems which can lead to more effective and reliable designs with less iteration. To place the inertial effects into context we also discuss related fluid-induced forces present in particulate flows including forces due to non-Newtonian fluids, particle asymmetry, and particle deformability. We then highlight the inverse situation and describe the effect of the suspended particles acting on the fluid in a channel flow. Finally, we discuss the importance of structured channels, i.e. channels with boundary conditions that vary in the streamwise direction, and their potential as a means to achieve unprecedented three-dimensional control over fluid and particles in microchannels. Ultimately, we hope that an improved fundamental and quantitative understanding of inertial fluid dynamic effects can lead to unprecedented capabilities to program fluid and particle flow towards automation of biomedicine, materials synthesis, and chemical process control.