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Concentration Determination at a Countable Molecular Level in Nanofluidics by Solvent-Enhanced Photothermal Optical Diffraction

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journal contribution
posted on 20.10.2020, 20:34 by Yoshiyuki Tsuyama, Kazuma Mawatari
Nanofluidic devices have become a powerful tool for extremely precise analyses at a single-molecule/nanoparticle level. However, a simple and sensitive molecular detection method is essential for nanofluidic devices because of ultrasmall volume (fL–aL). One such technology is photothermal spectroscopy (PTS), which utilizes light absorption and thermal relaxation by target molecules. Recently, we developed a photothermal optical diffraction (POD) detection method as PTS for nanofluidic devices. However, the detectable concentration range was in the order of μM (102 to 104 molecules), and further improvement in detection performance is strongly required. Here, we demonstrate solvent-enhanced POD with optimized experimental conditions and show its capability of concentration determination of nonfluorescent molecules in nanochannels at a countable molecular level. A relationship between the POD signal and thermal/optical properties of solvents is elucidated. We estimate the diffraction factor and photothermal factor of the solvent enhancement effect by thermal simulations and theoretical calculations. Experimental results show good agreement with the prediction, and the detection performance of the POD is successfully improved. At the optimized condition, we demonstrate the concentration determination with the limit of detection of 75 nM, which corresponds to an average of 10 molecules in a detection volume of 0.23 fL. Our sensitive nonfluorescent molecule detection method will be applied to a wide range of chemical/biological analyses utilizing nanofluidics.