Two-Phase Microfluidic Systems for High Throughput Quantification of Agglutination Assays

  • David Castro

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Lab-on-Chip, the miniaturization of the chemical and analytical lab, is an endeavor that seems to come out of science fiction yet is slowly becoming a reality. It is a multidisciplinary field that combines different areas of science and engineering. Within these areas, microfluidics is a specialized field that deals with the behavior, control and manipulation of small volumes of fluids. Agglutination assays are rapid, single-step, low-cost immunoassays that use microspheres to detect a wide variety molecules and pathogens by using a specific antigen-antibody interaction. Agglutination assays are particularly suitable for the miniaturization and automation that two-phase microfluidics can offer, a combination that can help tackle the ever pressing need of high-throughput screening for blood banks, epidemiology, food banks diagnosis of infectious diseases. In this thesis, we present a two-phase microfluidic system capable of incubating and quantifying agglutination assays. The microfluidic channel is a simple fabrication solution, using laboratory tubing. These assays are incubated by highly efficient passive mixing with a sample-to-answer time of 2.5 min, a 5-10 fold improvement over traditional agglutination assays. It has a user-friendly interface that that does not require droplet generators, in which a pipette is used to continuously insert assays on-demand, with no down-time in between experiments at 360 assays/h. System parameters are explored, using the streptavidin-biotin interaction as a model assay, with a minimum detection limit of 50 ng/mL using optical image analysis. We compare optical image analysis and light scattering as quantification methods, and demonstrate the first light scattering quantification of agglutination assays in a two-phase ow format. The application can be potentially applied to other biomarkers, which we demonstrate using C-reactive protein (CRP) assays. Using our system, we can take a commercially available CRP qualitative slide agglutination assay, and turn it into a quantitative High Sensitivity-CRP test, with a lower detection limit of 0.5 mg/L using light scattering. Agglutination assays are an incredibly versatile tool, capable of detecting an ever-growing catalog of infectious diseases, proteins and metabolites. A system such as that presented in this thesis is a step towards being able to produce high throughput microfluidic solutions with widespread adoption.
Date of AwardApr 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorIan Foulds (Supervisor)


  • Lab On Chip
  • Agglutination assays
  • High-throughput
  • droplet microfluidics
  • C-reactive protein
  • light scattering

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