Microfluidics in Water analysis
Water security is recognized as one of the great challenges of the 21st century by many international organizations. Continuous monitoring of water resources such as freshwater, seawater, wastewater, and drinking water for human and animal consumption is essential.
Why is water testing important?
As water is consumed by every being every day, it is a critical resource that needs to be monitored closely. Should it be for consumption, livestock, or agriculture, water quality must be assessed and ensured at all times to prevent mass contamination and maintain health in the human&animal populations or soils. This testing can be done by different actors, from governmental organizations to sole individuals which makes it essential to have fast, easy-to-use, and reliable solutions to do so. To answer those needs, microfluidics in water analysis is a cost-effective and efficient solution for water testing.
How does conventional water analysis work?
Multiple different steps are needed for conventional water testing. They typically include sample collection and preservation if the test must be done remotely (some devices are only present in specific places). It is then followed by filtration, to separate the solid particles from the liquid, before being analyzed. During analysis, various methods can be used to determine the concentration of contaminants or parameters of interest like turbidity, pH, heavy metals, or bacteria concentration. The results are then compared to established guidelines or regulations to determine if the water meets the regulation guidelines.
Microfluidics as a solution to current limitations for water quality
Conventional water monitoring is mainly based on laboratory instruments or sophisticated and expensive handheld probes for on-site analysis. This requires trained personnel and can be time-consuming. Microfluidics in water analysis is field-deployable, providing a way to perform scanning at remote or hard-to-reach locations directly at the point of sampling. They allow for increased sensitivity, with the possibility to detect lower contaminant concentrations than traditional methods. The analysis time is drastically reduced, enabling real-time monitoring and increased efficiency while preventing water waste with the use of very small samples.
Reduced measurement times, improvements in sensitivity, enhancement of selectivity, and high repeatability are all advantages of using microfluidic devices when integrated into miniaturized chemical systems for water quality analysis.
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From the life sciences to the food industry, many applications require the use of fluids driven at flow rates from nanoliters to milliliters per minute. At such low flows, the success of these applications strongly depends on the level of control and automation of the fluidic operations.
These applications require flow control systems that are adapted for ensuring their success.
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