A versatile electrowetting-based digital microfluidic platform for quantitative homogeneous and heterogeneous bio-assays
Electrowetting-on-dielectric (EWOD) lab-on-a-chip systems have already proven their potential within a broad range of bio-assays. Nevertheless, research on the analytical performance of those systems is limited, yet crucial for a further breakthrough in the diagnostic field. Therefore, this paper presents the intrinsic possibilities of an EWOD lab-on-a-chip as a versatile platform for homogeneous and heterogeneous bio-assays with high analytical performance. Both droplet dispensing and splitting cause variations in droplet size, thereby directly influencing the assay's performance. The extent to which they influence the performance is assessed by a theoretical sensitivity analysis, which allows the definition of a basic framework for the reduction of droplet size variability. Taking advantage of the optimized droplet manipulations, both homogeneous and heterogeneous bio-assays are implemented in the EWOD lab-on-a-chip to demonstrate the analytical capabilities and versatility of the device. A fully on-chip enzymatic assay is realized with high analytical performance. It demonstrates the promising capabilities of an EWOD lab-on-a-chip in food-related and medical applications, such as nutritional and blood analyses. Further, a magnetic bio-assay for IgE detection using superparamagnetic nanoparticles is presented whereby the nanoparticles are used as solid carriers during the bio-assay. Crucial elements are the precise manipulation of the superparamagnetic nanoparticles with respect to dispensing and separation. Although the principle of using nano-carriers is demonstrated for protein detection, it can be easily extended to a broader range of bio-related applications like DNA sensing. In heterogeneous bio-assays the chip surface is actively involved during the execution of the bio-assay. Through immobilization of specific biological compounds like DNA, proteins and cells a reactive chip surface is realized, which enhances the bio-assay performance. To demonstrate this potential, on-chip adhesion islands are fabricated to immobilize MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Viability studies are performed to assess the functionalization efficiency.