Enhanced Quality Factor Label-free Biosensing with Micro-Cantilevers Integrated into Microfluidic Systems.

11 Jun 2018

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have enabled the development of a new generation of sensor platforms. Acoustic sensor operation in liquid, the native environment of biomolecules, causes, however, significant degradation of sensing performance due to viscous drag and relies on the availability of capture molecules to bind analytes of interest to the sensor surface. Here, we describe a strategy to interface MEMS sensors with microfluidic platforms through an aerosol spray. Our sensing platform comprises a microfluidic spray nozzle and a microcantilever array operated in dynamic mode within a closed loop oscillator. A solution containing the analyte is sprayed uniformly through picoliter droplets onto the microcantilever surface; the micrometer-scale drops evaporate rapidly and leave the solutes behind, adding to the mass of the cantilever. This sensing scheme results in a 50-fold increase in the quality factor compared to operation in liquid, yet allows the analytes to be introduced into the sensing system from a solution phase. It achieves a 370 femtogram limit of detection, and we demonstrate quantitative label-free analysis of inorganic salts and model proteins. These results demonstrate that the standard resolution limits of cantilever sensing in dynamic mode can be overcome with the integration of spray microfluidics with MEMS.