Microfluidic and mass spectrometry (MS) methods are widely used to sample and probe the chemical composition of biological systems to elucidate chemical correlates of their healthy and disease states. Though matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-mass spectrometry (MALDI)-MS has been hyphenated to droplet microfluidics for offline analyses, the effects of parameters related to droplet generation, such as the type of oil phase used, have been understudied. To characterize these effects, five different oil phases were tested in droplet microfluidics for producing samples for MALDI-MS analysis. Picoliter to nanoliter aqueous droplets containing 0.1 to 100 mM γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and inorganic salts were generated inside a polydimethylsiloxane microfluidic chip and deposited onto a conductive glass slide. Optical microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and MALDI-mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) of the droplet samples and surrounding areas revealed patterns of solvent and oil evaporation and analyte deposition. Optical microscopy detected the presence of salt crystals in 50-100 μm diameter dried droplets, and Raman and MSI were used to correlate GABA signals to the visible droplet footprints. MALDI-MS analyses revealed that droplets prepared in the presence of octanol oil led to the poorest detectability of GABA, whereas the oil phases containing FC-40 provided the best detectability; GABA signal was localized to the footprint of 65 pL droplets with a limit of detection of 23 amol. The effect of the surfactant perfluorooctanol on analyte detection was also investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-156
Number of pages10
JournalACS Measurement Science Au
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2021


  • GABA
  • droplet microfluidics
  • mass spectrometry
  • neurotransmitter
  • perfluorinated oil
  • picoliter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Droplet Microfluidics with MALDI-MS Detection: The Effects of Oil Phases in GABA Analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this