Date of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

First Advisor

Haim H. Bau


Microbeads are frequently used as a solid support to capture target analytes of interest, such as proteins and nucleic acids, from a biological sample. The integration of microbeads into microfluidic systems for biological testing is an area of growing interest. Such "lab-on-chip" systems are designed to integrate several functions of a conventional laboratory onto a single chip. As a platform to capture targets, beads offer several advantages over planar surfaces such as large surface areas to support biological interactions (increasing sensitivity), the availability of libraries of beads of various types from many vendors, and array-based formats capable of detecting multiple targets simultaneously (multiplexing). This dissertation describes the development and characterization of microbead-based biosensing devices. A customized hot embossing technique was used to stamp an array of microwells in a thin plastic substrate where appropriately functionalized agarose microbeads were selectively placed within a conduit. Functionalized quantum dot nanoparticles were pumped through the conduit and used as a fluorescent label to monitor binding to the bead. Three-dimensional finite element simulations were carried out to model the mass transfer and binding kinetics on the beads’ surfaces and within the porous beads. The theoretical predictions were critically compared and favorably agreed with experimental observations. A novel method of bead pulsation was shown to improve binding kinetics in porous beads. In addition, the dissertation discusses other types of bead arrays and demonstrates alternative bead-based target capture and detection strategies. This work enhances our understanding of bead-based microfluidic systems and provides a design and optimization tool for developers of point-of-care, lab-on-chip devices for medical diagnosis, food and water quality inspection, and environmental monitoring.

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