Advances in colloid and interface science

Sample handling in surface sensitive chemical and biological sensing: a practical review of basic fluidics and analyte transport.

PMID 24846752


This paper gives an overview of the advantages and associated caveats of the most common sample handling methods in surface-sensitive chemical and biological sensing. We summarize the basic theoretical and practical considerations one faces when designing and assembling the fluidic part of the sensor devices. The influence of analyte size, the use of closed and flow-through cuvettes, the importance of flow rate, tubing length and diameter, bubble traps, pressure-driven pumping, cuvette dead volumes, and sample injection systems are all discussed. Typical application areas of particular arrangements are also highlighted, such as the monitoring of cellular adhesion, biomolecule adsorption-desorption and ligand-receptor affinity binding. Our work is a practical review in the sense that for every sample handling arrangement considered we present our own experimental data and critically review our experience with the given arrangement. In the experimental part we focus on sample handling in optical waveguide lightmode spectroscopy (OWLS) measurements, but the present study is equally applicable for other biosensing technologies in which an analyte in solution is captured at a surface and its presence is monitored. Explicit attention is given to features that are expected to play an increasingly decisive role in determining the reliability of (bio)chemical sensing measurements, such as analyte transport to the sensor surface; the distorting influence of dead volumes in the fluidic system; and the appropriate sample handling of cell suspensions (e.g. their quasi-simultaneous deposition). At the appropriate places, biological aspects closely related to fluidics (e.g. cellular mechanotransduction, competitive adsorption, blood flow in veins) are also discussed, particularly with regard to their models used in biosensing.