While cyclo-olefin polymer microchannels have the potential to improve both the optical detection sensitivity and the chemical resistance of polymer microanalytical systems, their surface properties are to date not thoroughly characterized. These surface properties dictate, among other things, electrokinetic effects when electric fields are present. Here, we report the measurement of the zeta potential of cyclo-olefin polymers (injection-molded and hot-embossed Zeonor 1060R and 1020R) microchannels as a function of pH, counter-ion concentration, storage conditions, and chemical treatment in aqueous solutions both with and without EOF-suppressing additives. In contrast with previous reports, significant surface charge is measured, consistent with titration of charged sites with pK(a) = 4.8. Storage in air, acetonitrile, or aqueous solutions has relatively minor effects. While the source of the surface charge is unclear, chemical functionalization has shown that carboxylic acid groups are not present at the surface, consistent with the chemical structure of Zeonor. EOF-suppressing additives (hydroxypropylmethylcellulose) and conditioning in perchloric acid allow the surface charge to be suppressed. We demonstrate dielectrophoretic particle trapping devices in Zeonor 1060R substrates that show reduced trapping voltage thresholds as compared to previous implementations in glass.
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