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Airborne chemistry: acoustic levitation in chemical analysis


This review with 60 references describes a unique path to miniaturisation, that is, the use of acoustic levitation in analytical and bioanalytical chemistry applications. Levitation of small volumes of sample by means of a levitation technique can be used as a way to avoid solid walls around the sample, thus circumventing the main problem of miniaturisation, the unfavourable surface-to-volume ratio. Different techniques for sample levitation have been developed and improved. Of the levitation techniques described, acoustic or ultrasonic levitation fulfils all requirements for analytical chemistry applications. This technique has previously been used to study properties of molten materials and the equilibrium shapeand stability of liquid drops. Temperature and mass transfer in levitated drops have also been described, as have crystallisation and microgravity applications.

The airborne analytical system described here is equipped with different and exchangeable remote detection systems. The levitated drops are normally in the 100 nL–2 μL volume range and additions to the levitated drop can be made in the pL-volume range.

The use of levitated drops in analytical and bioanalytical chemistry offers several benefits. Several remote detection systems are compatible with acoustic levitation, including fluorescence imaging detection, right angle light scattering, Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. Applications include liquid/liquid extractions, solvent exchange, analyte enrichment, single-cell analysis, cell–cell communication studies, precipitation screening of proteins to establish nucleation conditions, and crystallisation of proteins and pharmaceuticals.

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The authors are indebted to the following collaborators: Prof Thomas Laurell and Docent Johan Nilsson, Electrical Measurements, Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden, for the flow-through pL dispensers; Dr Thomas Johansson, Atomic Physics, Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden, for work on detection systems and computer programs; Dr Eila S. Cedergren-Zeppezauer, for vital collaboration on the protein precipitation application; Prof Eva Degerman, Molecular Signalling, Cell and Molecular Biology, Lund University, Sweden, for collaboration on adipocytes and lipolysis; Prof Patrik Rorsman, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Lund University, Sweden, for pancreatic beta-cells and cell–cell communication; Dr Jonas Johansson, Analytical R&D, AstraZeneca R&D Mölndal, Sweden, for collaboration on detection systems, especially Raman spectroscopy, and Dr Lynne S. Taylor, Analytical R&D, AstraZeneca R&D Mölndal, Sweden, for collaboration on Raman detection of crystal polymorphs; Prof Michael Sepaniak, Department of Chemistry, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA, for collaboration on SERS detection; Yngve Cerenius, Molecular Biophysics, Lund University, Lund; Prof Åke Oskarsson, Inorganic Chemistry, Lund University, Sweden, and Lars Kloo, Inorganic Chemistry, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden for collaboration on the X-ray diffraction.

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Correspondence to Staffan Nilsson.

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Santesson, S., Nilsson, S. Airborne chemistry: acoustic levitation in chemical analysis. Anal Bioanal Chem 378, 1704–1709 (2004).

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  • Levitation Force
  • Acoustic Streaming
  • Nucleation Condition
  • Bioanalytical Chemistry
  • Levitation System