(374d) Continuous Nanoparticle Sizing and Characterization Via Microfluidic Interfacial Fluorescent Complexation
A variety of characterization tools are available to sensitively analyze collected nanoparticles (e.g., condensation particle counters, differential mobility analyzers, scanning mobility particle sizers (SMPS), ion chromatography, mass spectrometry, and electron microscopy). But these methods often require a dedicated laboratory infrastructure to operate optimally, and are therefore not straightforward to adapt for online use. We have developed a new microfluidic-based approach that overcomes many of these limitations by harnessing the inherently steep chemical gradient established at the interface between co-flowing streams containing a nanoparticle-laden suspension and a fluorescent dye. This sharp mismatch acts to localize adsorptive dye-nanoparticle complexation interactions within a narrow interfacial zone, instantaneously producing an intense and easily detectable fluorescence signature. These interactions are inherently dominated by phenomena occurring at the nanoparticle surface, introducing the exciting possibility to extract information about particle size and morphology from the fluorescence profile. We demonstrate this capability experimentally using ZnO and TiO2 nanoparticles, and introduce a reaction model that enables interfacial fluorescence to be predicted so that kinetic parameters associated with the underlying surface complexation can be quantified. Our approach offers potential for continuous operation that is particularly attractive in manufacturing settings where robust on-line characterization tools are needed.