This invention provides methods of using modified magnetic microspheres to extract target ions from a sample in order to detect their presence in a microfluidic environment. In one or more embodiments, the microspheres are modified with molecules on the surface that allow the target ions in the sample to form complexes with specific ligand molecules on the microsphere surface. In one or more embodiments, the microspheres are modified with molecules that sequester the target ions from the sample, but specific ligand molecules in solution subsequently re-extract the target ions from the microspheres into the solution, where the complexes form independent of the microsphere surface. Once the complexes form, they are exposed to an excitation wavelength light source suitable for exciting the target ion to emit a luminescent signal pattern. Detection of the luminescent signal pattern allows for determination of the presence of the target ions in the sample.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357, between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and UChicago Argonne LLC, representing Argonne National Laboratory.