Microfluidic Columns with Nanotechnology-Enabled Stationary Phases for Gas Chromatography

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Virginia Tech

Advances in micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) along with nanotechnology based methods have enabled the miniaturization of analytical chemistry instrumentation. The broader aim is to provide a portable, low-cost, and low-power platform for the real-time detection and identification of organic compounds in a wide variety of applications. A benchtop gas chromatography (GC) system is considered a gold standard for chemical analysis by analytical chemists. Similarly, miniaturization of key GC components (preconcentrator, separation column, detector, and pumps) using micro- and nanotechnology based techniques is an on-going research field. This dissertation specifically deals with the design, fabrication, coating, and chromatographic testing of microfabricated separation columns for GC. This work can be broadly categorized into three research areas: design and development of new column designs, introduction of new stationary phases and the development of novel fabrication methodologies for integrating functionalized thin-film into microchannels for chromatographic separations. As a part of this research, two high performance new micro column designs namely width-modulated and high-density semi-packed columns are introduced for the first time. Similarly, two new types of functionalized stationary phases are also demonstrated i.e. a highly stable and homogenous silica nanoparticles coating deposited using a layer-by-layer self-assembly scheme and a highly conformal functionalized thin aluminum oxide film deposited using atomic layer deposition. Moreover, novel thin-film patterning methods using different microfabrication technologies are also demonstrated for high-aspect ratio multicapillary and semi-packed columns.

micro gas chromatography, separation columns, stationary phases, nanoparticles, MEMS columns