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A novel technique for biomolecular detection in microliter droplets floating on the surface of high density oil is presented. Each droplet was captured and manipulated dielectrophoretically and was used as a site for a microscopic bioassay based on agglutination of antibody-conjugated particles. The results were read out by the pattern of unagglomerated goldnanoparticles collected on the droplet surface. Two formats of bioassays, namely gold only agglutination and gold and latex agglutination, were investigated experimentally by varying analyte concentration, particle size and concentration, number of antigen binding sites per particle, time for incubation, and rate of particle collection on the droplet surface. The microbioassays performance was also evaluated with ricin antibodies and compared to the ricin assays in field use. It is estimated that the droplet based assays require smaller sample volume and are ten times more sensitive, though they require longer times to complete. The experiments were interpreted by modeling the kinetics of particle agglutination and mass transfer processes inside the droplets. The incubation time and antigen concentration values calculated by the model correlate well with the experimental results. The results could allow for development of efficient immunoassays on a chip requiring even smaller sample volumes.


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