Contactless conductivity detector for microchip capillary electrophoresis
A microfabricated electrophoresis chip with an integrated contactless conductivity detection system is described. The new contactless conductivity microchip detector is based on placing two planar sensing aluminum film electrodes on the outer side of a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) microchip (without contacting the solution) and measuring the impedance of the solution in the separation channel. The contactless route obviates problems (e.g., fouling, unwanted reactions) associated with the electrode-solution contact, offers isolation of the detection system from high separation fields, does not compromise the separation efficiency, and greatly simplifies the detector fabrication. Relevant experimental variables, such as the frequency and amplitude of the applied ac voltage or the separation voltage, were examined and optimized. The detector performance was illustrated by the separation of potassium, sodium, barium, and lithium cations and the chloride, sulfate, fluoride, acetate, and phosphate. anions. The response was linear (over the 20 muM-7 mM range) and reproducible (RSD = 3.4-4.9%; n = 10), with detection limits of 2.8 and 6.4 muM (for potassium and chloride, respectively). The advantages associated with the contactless conductivity detection, along with the low cost of the integrated PMMA chip/detection system, should enhance the power and scope of microfluidic analytical devices.