Aspects of the design, fabrication, and characterization of a chemiresistor type of microdetector for use in conjunction with gas chromatograph are described. The detector was manufactured on silicon chips using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology. Detection was based on measuring changes in resistance across a film comprised of monolayer-protected gold nanoclusters (MPCs). When chromatographic separated molecules entered the detector cell, the MPC film absorbed vapor and undergoes swelling, then the resistance changes accordingly. Thiolates were used as ligand shells to encapsulate the nano-gold core and to manipulate the selectivity of the detector array. The dimensions of the μ-detector array were 14(L) × 3.9(W) × 1.2(H) mm. Mixtures of eight volatile organic compounds with different functional groups and volatility were tested to characterize the selectivity of the μ-detector array. The detector responses were rapid, reversible, and linear for all of the tested compounds. The detection limits ranged from 2 to 111 ng, and were related to both the compound volatility and the selectivity of the surface ligands on the gold nanoparticles. Design and operation parameters such as flow rate, detector temperature, and width of the micro-fluidic channel were investigated. Reduction of the detector temperature resulted in improved sensitivity due to increased absorption. When a wider flow channel was used, the signal-to-noise ratio was improved due to the larger sensing area. The extremely low power consumption and small size makes this μ-detector array potentially useful for the development of integrated μ-GC.
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