A Microdroplet-Based Colorimetric Sensing Platform on a CMOS Imager Chip

Kyle R. Mallires, Di Wang, Peter Wiktor, Nongjian Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Interest in mobile chemical sensors is on the rise, but significant challenges have restricted widespread adoption into commercial devices. To be useful these sensors need to have a predictable response, easy calibration, and be integrable with existing technology, preferably fitting on a single chip. With respect to integration, the CMOS imager makes an attractive template for an optoelectronic sensing platform. Demand for smartphones with cameras has driven down the price and size of CMOS imagers over the past decade. The low cost and accessibility of these powerful tools motivated us to print chemical sensing elements directly on the surface of the photodiode array. These printed colorimetric microdroplets are composed of a nonvolatile solvent so they remain in a uniform and homogeneous solution phase, an ideal medium for chemical interactions and optical measurements. By imaging microdroplets on the CMOS imager surface we eliminated the need for lenses, dramatically scaling down the size of the sensing platform to a single chip. We believe the technique is generalizable to many colorimetric formulations, and as an example we detected gaseous ammonia with Cu(II). Limits of detection as low as 27 ppb and sensor-to-sensor variation of less than 10% across multiple printed arrays demonstrated the high sensitivity and repeatability of this approach. Sensors generated this way could share a single calibration, greatly reducing the complexity of incorporating chemical sensors into mobile devices. Additional testing showed the sensor can be reused and has good selectivity; sensitivity and dynamic range can be tuned by controlling droplet size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9362-9369
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 7 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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