Advantages of optical fibers for facile and enhanced detection in droplet microfluidics.
Droplet microfluidics offers a unique opportunity for ultrahigh-throughput experimentation with minimal sample consumption and thus has obtained increasing attention, particularly for biological applications. Detection and measurements of analytes or biomarkers in tiny droplets are essential for proper analysis of biological and chemical assays like single-cell studies, cytometry, nucleic acid detection, protein quantification, environmental monitoring, drug discovery, and point-of-care diagnostics. Current detection setups widely use microscopes as a central device and other free-space optical components. However, microscopic setups are bulky, complicated, not flexible, and expensive. Furthermore, they require precise optical alignments, specialized optical and technical knowledge, and cumbersome maintenance. The establishment of efficient, simple, and cheap detection methods is one of the bottlenecks for adopting microfluidic strategies for diverse bioanalytical applications and widespread laboratory use. Together with great advances in optofluidic components, the integration of optical fibers as a light guiding medium into microfluidic chips has recently revolutionized analytical possibilities. Optical fibers embedded in a microfluidic platform provide a simpler, more flexible, lower-cost, and sensitive setup for the detection of several parameters from biological and chemical samples and enable widespread, hands-on application much beyond thriving point-of-care developments. In this review, we examine recent developments in droplet microfluidic systems using optical fiber as a light guiding medium, primarily focusing on different optical detection methods such as fluorescence, absorbance, light scattering, and Raman scattering and the potential applications in biochemistry and biotechnology that are and will be arising from this.