A distance-based analysis of potassium ion (K + ) is introduced that is performed on a microfluidic paper-based analytical device (μPAD) coupled to an ion-selective capillary sensor. The concept is based on two sequential steps, the selective replacement of analyte ion with an ionic dye, and the detection of this dye in a distance-based readout on paper. To achieve the first step, the capillary sensor holds a poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) membrane film layer plasticized by dioctyl sebacate (DOS) that contains the potassium ionophore valinomycin, a lipophilic cation-exchanger and the ionic indicator Thioflavin T (ThT) on its inner wall. Upon introduction of the sample, K + in the aqueous sample solution is quantitatively extracted into the film membrane and replaced with ThT. To convert the ion exchange signal into a distance-based analysis, this solution was dropped onto the inlet area of a μPAD to flow the ThT along a channel defined by wax printing, resulting in the electrostatic binding of ThT to the cellulose carboxylic groups. The initial amount of K + determines the amount of ThT in the aqueous solution after ion-exchange, and consequently the distance of ThT-colored area reflects the sample K + concentration. The ion exchange reaction was operated in a so-called "exhaustive sensing mode" and gave a distinct response in a narrow range of K + concentration (1-6 mM) that cannot be achieved by the classical optode sensing mode. The absence of hydrogen ions from the equilibrium competition of the capillary sensor contributed to a complete pH-independence, unlike conventional optodes that contain a pH sensitive indicator. A very high selectivity for K + over Na + and Ca 2+ has been confirmed in separate solutions and mixed solutions tests. K + measurements in pooled serum samples at concentrations between 2 and 6 mM are successfully demonstrated on a temperature controlled support.
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