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Anal Chem. 2011 Apr 15;83(8):3033-41. doi: 10.1021/ac103058g. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

Lateral transport of solutes in microfluidic channels using electrochemically generated gradients in redox-active surfactants.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1691, USA.


We report principles for a continuous flow process that can separate solutes based on a driving force for selective transport that is generated by a lateral concentration gradient of a redox-active surfactant across a microfluidic channel. Microfluidic channels fabricated with gold electrodes lining each vertical wall were used to electrochemically generate concentration gradients of the redox-active surfactant 11-ferrocenylundecyl-trimethylammonium bromide (FTMA) in a direction perpendicular to the flow. The interactions of three solutes (a hydrophobic dye, 1-phenylazo-2-naphthylamine (yellow AB), an amphiphilic molecule, 2-(4,4-difluoro-5,7-dimethyl-4-bora-3a,4a-diaza-s-indacene-3-pentanoyl)-1-hexadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (BODIPY C(5)-HPC), and an organic salt, 1-methylpyridinium-3-sulfonate (MPS)) with the lateral gradients in surfactant/micelle concentration were shown to drive the formation of solute-specific concentration gradients. Two distinct physical mechanisms were identified to lead to the solute concentration gradients: solubilization of solutes by micelles and differential adsorption of the solutes onto the walls of the microchannels in the presence of the surfactant concentration gradient. These two mechanisms were used to demonstrate delipidation of a mixture of BODIPY C(5)-HPC (lipid) and MPS and purification of BODIPY C(5)-HPC from a mixture of BODIPY C(5)-HPC and yellow AB. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that lateral concentration gradients of redox-active surfactants formed within microfluidic channels can be used to transport solutes across the microfluidic channels in a solute-dependent manner. The approach employs electrical potentials (<1 V) that are sufficiently small to avoid electrolysis of water, can be performed in solutions having high ionic strength (>0.1M), and offers the basis of continuous processes for the purification or separation of solutes in microscale systems.

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