Method and apparatus for aligning microbeads in order to interrogate the same
A method and apparatus are provided for aligning optical elements or microbeads 8, wherein each microbead has an elongated body with a code embedded therein along a longitudinal axis thereof to be read by a code reading device. The microbeads 8 are aligned with a positioning device (or cell) 500 having a plate or platform 200, 1252 with grooves 205, 1258 so the longitudinal axis of the microbeads is positioned in a fixed orientation relative to the code reading device. The microbeads 8 are typically cylindrically shaped glass beads having a diffraction grating-based code embedded in the bead 8 disposed along an axis, which requires a predetermined alignment between the incident code readout laser beam and the code readout detector in two of three rotational axes. The geometry of the grooves 205 are designed to allow for easy loading and unloading of beads from a cell, and the grooves 205 may be straight or curved. Also, the cell may be segmented into regions each associated with a different reaction or used for a different identification process/application, and may have many different geometries depending on the application.
The present application claims the benefit of: U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/609,583, filed Sep. 13, 2004, entitled “Improved Method and Apparatus for Aligning Microbeads in Order to Interrogate Same” (Docket No. CV-0082 PR); Ser. No. 60/610,910, filed Sep. 17, 2004, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Aligning Microbeads in Order to Interrogate Same” (Docket No. CV-0086 PR); and Ser. No. 60/610,833, filed Sep. 17, 2004, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Transporting and Kitting Microbeads” (Docket No. CV-0087 PR); and is a continuation-in-part of: U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,836, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Method And Apparatus For Aligning Microbeads In Order To Interrogate The Same” (Docket No. CV-0042), and Ser. No. 11/063,665, filed Feb. 22, 2005, entitled “Multi-well Plate with Alignment Grooves for Encoded Microparticles” (Docket No. CV-0053 US), all the above of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
The following cases contain subject matter related to that disclosed herein and are all incorporated herein by reference in their entirety: U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,234, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Diffraction Grating-Based Optical Identification Element”, (Docket No. CV-0038A); Ser. No. 10/661,031, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Diffraction Grating-Based Encoded Micro-particles for Multiplexed Experiments”, (Docket No. CV-0039A); Ser. No. 10/661,082, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Labeling Using Diffraction Grating based Encoded Optical Identification Elements” (Docket No. CV-0040); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,115, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Assay Stick” (Docket No. CV-0041); Ser. No. 10/661,254 filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Chemical Synthesis Using Diffraction Grating-Based Encoded Optical Elements” (Docket No. CV-0043); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,116, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Method Of Manufacturing Of A Diffraction Grating-Based Identification Element” (Docket No. CV-0044); and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/763,995, filed Jan. 22, 2004, entitled, “Hybrid Random Bead/Chip Based Microarray” (Docket No. CV-0054); and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/956,791, filed Oct. 1, 2004, entitled “Optical Reader for Diffraction Grating-Based Encoded Optical Identification Elements” (Docket No. CV-0092 US).BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Technical Field
The present invention generally relates to a method and apparatus for processing information contained on microbeads, each microbead having an elongated body with a code embedded therein along a longitudinal axis thereof to be read by a code reading device; and more particularly to a method and apparatus for aligning the microbeads so the longitudinal axis thereof is in a fixed orientation relative to the code reading or other device.
This invention also relates to transporting beads, and more particularly to transporting microbeads from one location to another.
2. Description of Related Art
Many industries have a need for uniquely identifiable objects or for the ability to uniquely identify objects, for sorting, tracking, and/or identification/tagging. Existing technologies, such as bar codes, electronic microchips/transponders, radio-frequency identification (RFID), and fluorescence and other optical techniques, are often inadequate. For example, existing technologies may be too large for certain applications, may not provide enough different codes, or cannot withstand harsh temperature, chemical, nuclear and/or electromagnetic environments.
Therefore, it would be desirable to obtain a coding element or platform that provides the capability of providing many codes (e.g., greater than 1 million codes), that can be made very small and/or that can withstand harsh environments.
Moreover, it would be desirable to provide a method and apparatus to position and align such encoded elements so as to identify the code to determine information about the process or application to which it is related and/or to better sense the chemical content on the elements and correlate it in relation to such process or application.
It is also well known that microbeads or microparticles may be used for various types of multiplexed chemical experiments or assays or for identifying, authenticating or sorting items. One challenge in transporting microbeads is being able to move them reliably from one location to another reliably and/or being able to move a predetermined number of beads.
Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a reliable technique for transporting microbeads from one location to another.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In its broadest sense, the present invention provides a new and unique method and apparatus for aligning new and unique coding elements or microbeads, wherein each microbead has an elongated body with a code embedded therein along a longitudinal axis thereof to be read by a code reading or other detection device. The method features the step of aligning the microbeads with a positioning device so the longitudinal axis of the microbeads is positioned in a fixed orientation relative to the code reading or other detection device.
The new and unique microbeads are not spherical, but instead have an elongated shape and may be cylindrical, cubic, rectangular, or any other elongated shape. The microbeads are typically composed of silica glass with some germanium and/or boron doped region or regions that are photosensitive to ultraviolet light. Coded microbeads are individually identifiable via a single or series of spatially overlapping pitches written into them. The microbeads may be used in many different processes. After such processing, the microbeads have a resulting chemical content on the surface of each bead that is sensed and correlated in relation to the code contained with the microbead to determine information about the process.
When used in an assay process, the microbeads are typically cylindrically (i.e. tubular) shaped glass beads and between 25 and 250 μm in diameter and between 100 and 500 μm long. Other sizes may be used if desired. They have a holographic code embedded in the central region of the bead, which is used to identify it from the rest of the beads in a batch of beads with many different DNA or other chemical probes. A cross reference is used to determine which probe is attached to which bead, thus allowing the researcher to correlate the chemical content on each bead with the measured fluorescence signal. Because the code consists of a diffraction grating 12 typically disposed along an axis of the microbead, there is a particular alignment required between the incident readout laser beam and the readout detector in two of the three rotational axes. In aeronautical terms, the two of the three rotational axes include the pitch of the microbead in the front-to-back direction and the yaw of the microbead in a side-to-side direction. The third axis, rotation about the center axis of the cylinder, is azimuthally symmetric and therefore does not require alignment. The third axis is analogous to the roll axis.
The invention provides a method for aligning the microbeads in the two rotational axes to a fixed orientation relative to an incident laser beam and a readout camera, otherwise known as the code camera. The invention further provides a method for rapidly aligning a large number of microbeads, between 1,000 and 1,000,000 microbeads or more, economically, and with the necessary tolerances. The method is flexible as it relates to the size of the microbeads and can be integrated into a fully automated system, which prepares the microbeads for rapid readout by an automated code-reading machine.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the positioning device includes a plate with a series of parallel grooves (or channels), which could have one of several different shapes, including square, rectangular, v-shaped, semi-circular, etc., as well as a flat bottom groove with tapered walls. The grooves are formed into an optically transparent medium such as boro-silicate glass, fused silica, or other glasses, or plastic or other transparent support materials. The depth of the grooves will depend on the diameter of the microbead but generally they will be between 10 and 125 μm, but may be larger as discussed hereinafter, depending on the application. The spacing of the grooves is most optimal when it is between 1 and 2 times the diameter of the microbead, providing for both maximum packing density as well as maximum probability that a microbead will fall into a groove. The width of grooves is most optimal when the gap between the microbead and the walls of the grooves is sufficiently small to prevent the microbeads from rotating within the grooves by more than a few degrees. The bottom of the groove must also be maintained flat enough to prevent the microbeads from rotating, by more than a few tenths of a degree, relative to the incident laser beam. Another critical aspect of the grooved plate is the optical quality of the grooves. To prevent excess scatter of the readout laser beam, which could lead to low contrast between the code signal and the background scatter, it is important that the grooves exhibit high optical quality. The beads can be read in the groove plate from below, on top of, or the side of the plate, depending on the application and type of microbead used.
Some advantages of the groove plate approach include:
Rapid simultaneous alignment of microbeads. Alignment rates ˜1000's per second.
Once the microbeads are aligned, they can be read as many times as necessary to get a good reading or improve statistics.
Microbeads naturally fall into groove (presumably by capillary forces) at very high packing densities.
Microbeads can be mixed after reading then re-read to enhance the statistics of readout process.
In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the positioning device may includes a tube having a bore for receiving, aligning and reading the microbeads.
Moreover, the present invention also provides an apparatus for aligning an optical identification element. The optical identification element having an optical substrate having at least a portion thereof with at least one diffraction grating disposed therein, the grating having at least one refractive index pitch superimposed at a common location, the grating providing an output optical signal when illuminated by an incident light signal, the optical output signal being indicative of a code, and the optical identification element being an elongated object with a longitudinal axis. The apparatus also having an alignment device which aligns the optical identification element such that said output optical signal is indicative of the code.
The present invention also provides an optical element capable of having many optically readable codes. The element has a substrate containing an optically readable composite diffraction grating having one or more collocated index spacing or pitches Λ. The invention allows for a high number of uniquely identifiable codes (e.g., millions, billions, or more). The codes may be digital binary codes and thus are digitally readable or may be other numerical bases if desired.
Also, the elements may be very small “microbeads” (or microelements or microparticles or encoded particles) for small applications (about 1-1000 microns), or larger “macroelements” for larger applications (e.g., 1-1000 mm or much larger). The elements may also be referred to as encoded particles or encoded threads. Also, the element may be embedded within or part of a larger substrate or object.
The code in the element is interrogated using free-space optics and can be made alignment insensitive.
The gratings (or codes) are embedded inside (including on or near the surface) of the substrate and may be permanent non-removable codes that can operate in harsh environments (chemical, temperature, nuclear, electromagnetic, etc.).
The code is not affected by spot imperfections, scratches, cracks or breaks in the substrate. In addition, the codes are spatially invariant. Thus, splitting or slicing an element axially produces more elements with the same code. Accordingly, when a bead is axially split-up, the code is not lost, but instead replicated in each piece.
The invention is a significant improvement over prior art bead movement techniques in being able to repeatably move a predetermined number of beads from one location (or container or well) to another location (or container or well). Also, the invention provides for the reliable and repeatable transportation of all beads from one container or well to another or from one well to multiple wells using a “telegraph” technique. The invention is useful for creating multiplexed bead kits having a required number of beads of each code in a kit. The present invention may also be used to move the beads from a container to a reader to allow for the bead codes and/or chemistry on the beads to be read. The invention may be used in any assay or multiplexed experiment, combinatorial chemistry or biochemistry assay process, or in a taggant application, or any other application where beads are in a liquid solution and need to be transported, kitted and/or read.
Advantages of the “telegraph” technique of the present invention are that it is low cost, fast, effective/reliable for moving beads, and low precision is required. Advantages of the pipetting techniques of the present invention is that the pippeter is a standard off the shelf product, it is flexible to be used with any type of well or container (e.g., sizes, shapes and other characteristics), or other fluid configurations, and does not require any sealing or physical connections to the wells.
The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent in light of the following detailed description of exemplary embodiments thereof.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
The drawing is not drawn to scale and includes the following Figures:
FIGS. 19(a), (b) and (c) show embodiments of a disk cytometer in accordance with the invention.
Other processes/applications where the present invention may be used include use of the beads in taggant applications, where the encoded beads are used to identify, track, and/or authenticate, items such as is discussed in aforementioned copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,082, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Labeling Using Diffraction Grating-Based Encoded Optical Identification Elements”, (CyVera Docket No. CV-0040).FIG. 2: The Microbead Element 8
The optical identification element 8 described herein is same as that described in Copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,234, filed Sep. 12, 2003, entitled “Diffraction Grating-Based Optical Identification Element”, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
In particular, the substrate 10 has an inner region 20 where the grating 12 is located. The inner region 20 may be photosensitive to allow the writing or impressing of the grating 12. The substrate 10 has an outer region 18, which does not have the grating 12 therein.
The grating 12 is a combination of one or more individual spatial periodic sinusoidal variations (or components) in the refractive index that are collocated at substantially the same location on the substrate 10 along the length of the grating region 20, each having a spatial period (or pitch) Λ. The resultant combination of these individual pitches is the grating 12, comprising spatial periods (Λ1-Λn) each representing a bit in the code. Thus, the grating 12 represents a unique optically readable code, made up of bits, where a bit corresponds to a unique pitch Λ within the grating 12. Accordingly, for a digital binary (0-1) code, the code is determined by which spatial periods (Λ1-Λn) exist (or do not exist) in a given composite grating 12. The code or bits may also be determined by additional parameters (or additional degrees of multiplexing), and other numerical bases for the code may be used, as discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application.
The grating 12 may also be referred to herein as a composite or collocated grating. Also, the grating 12 may be referred to as a “hologram”, as the grating 12 transforms, translates, or filters an input optical signal to a predetermined desired optical output pattern or signal.
The substrate 10 has an outer diameter D1 and comprises silica glass (SiO2) having the appropriate chemical composition to allow the grating 12 to be disposed therein or thereon. Other materials for the optical substrate 10 may be used if desired. For example, the substrate 10 may be made of any glass, e.g., silica, phosphate glass, borosilicate glass, or other glasses, or made of glass and plastic, or solely plastic. For high temperature or harsh chemical applications, the optical substrate 10 made of a glass material is desirable. If a flexible substrate is needed, plastic, rubber or polymer-based substrate may be used. The optical substrate 10 may be any material capable of having the grating 12 disposed in the grating region 20 and that allows light to pass through it to allow the code to be optically read.
The optical substrate 10 with the grating 12 has a length L and an outer diameter D1, and the inner region 20 diameter D. The length L can range from very small “microbeads” (or microelements, micro-particles, or encoded particles), about 1-1000 microns or smaller, to larger “macro beads” or “macroelements” for larger applications (about 1.0-1000 mm or greater). In addition, the outer dimension D1 can range from small (less than 1000 microns) to large (1.0-1000 mm and greater). Other dimensions and lengths for the substrate 10 and the grating 12 may be used.
The grating 12 may have a length Lg of about the length L of the substrate 10. Alternatively, the length Lg of the grating 12 may be shorter than the total length L of the substrate 10.
The outer region 18 is made of pure silica (SiO2) and has a refractive index n2 of about 1.458 (at a wavelength of about 1553 nm), and the inner grating region 20 of the substrate 10 has dopants, such as germanium and/or boron, to provide a refractive index n1 of about 1.453, which is less than that of outer region 18 by about 0.005. Other indices of refraction n1,n2 for the grating region 20 and the outer region 18, respectively, may be used, if desired, provided the grating 12 can be impressed in the desired grating region 20. For example, the grating region 20 may have an index of refraction that is larger than that of the outer region 18 or grating region 20 may have the same index of refraction as the outer region 18 if desired.FIG. 3: The Code Reader or Detector 29
The code reader or detector 29 has the necessary optics, electronics, software and/or firmware to perform the functions described herein. In particular, the detector reads the optical signal 27 diffracted or reflected from the grating 12 and determines the code based on the pitches present or the optical pattern, as discussed more herein or in the aforementioned patent application. An output signal indicative of the code is provided on a line 31.
The dimensions, geometries, materials, and material properties of the substrate 10 are selected such that the desired optical and material properties are met for a given application. The resolution and range for the optical codes are scalable by controlling these parameters as discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application. Also, the beads 8 may be made of any of the materials, geometries, and coatings described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. (Docket No. CV-0038A).
We have used the present invention with cylindrical beads having size of about 65 micron diameter and 400 microns long and about 28 microns diameter and about 250 microns long. However, other bead sizes may be used.FIG. 4: The Grooved Tray or Plate
As shown, the microbead elements 8 are placed in the tray 200 with v-grooves 205 to allow the elements 8 to be aligned in a predetermined direction for illumination and reading/detection as discussed herein. Alternatively, the grooves 205 may have holes 210 that provide suction to keep the elements 8 in position.Forming the Grooves in the Groove Plate
The grooves in the groove plate may be made in many different ways, including being formed by SU8 photoresistant material, mechanically machining; deep reactive ion etching; or injection molding. One advantage of the injection molding approach is that the plate can be manufactured in volume at relatively low cost, and disposed of after the information about the beads is gathered in the assay process. The groove plate may be made of glass, including fused silica, low fluorescence glass, boro silicate glass, or other transparent glasses or plastic. Silicon is used because it is reflective so a reflective coating is typically not needed. Alternative, a mirror coating can be applied to the plate material to achieve the desired reflectivity.FIG. 5: Flat Grooves
The scope of the invention is not intended to be limited to any particular groove shape. For example,
The groove width (w) should be at least as wide as the diameter of the bead (D) but not larger than D+15 μm.
The thickness of the depth of the groove (T) should be at least 0.5 times the diameter of the bead so that it sufficiently traps a bead once it falls into the groove even when it is subjected to mechanical agitation. The depth should not exceed 1.5 times the diameter of the bead so as to prevent more than one bead from falling into the same groove location.
Groove plates have been made using a thick photoresist called SU8 and is available from Microchem. The resist is both chemically inert and mechanically robust once fully cured. The groove walls are formed by the resist material, which is deposited onto a glass or substrate. Advantages of this process include the ability to tailor the depth of groove by controlling the thickness of the resist material, and virtually every other geometric attribute through the design of the photo mask. Because it is photolithographic process, essentially any shape profile can be made. For example grooves can be made in simple rows, concentric circles, or spirals. Other features such as discrete wells, spots and cross hatches can be made as fiducial marks for tracking and positional registration purposes.
The scope of the invention is also intended to include the grooves having a flat bottom as shown in
For assays that use fluorescent molecule markers to label or tag chemicals, an optical excitation signal 800 is incident on the microbeads 8 on the grooved plate 200 and a fluorescent optical output signal 802 emanates from the beads 8 that have the fluorescent molecule attached. The fluorescent optical output signal 802 passes through a lens 804, which provides focused light 802 to a known optical fluorescence detector 808. Instead of or in addition to the lens 802, other imaging optics may be used to provide the desired characteristics of the optical image/signal onto the fluorescence detector 808. The detector 808 provides an output signal on a line 810 indicative of the amount of fluorescence on a given bead 8, which can then be interpreted to determine what type of chemical is attached to the bead 10.
Consistent with that discussed herein, the grooved plate 200 may be made of glass or plastic or any material that is transparent to the code reading incident beam 24 and code reading output light beams 27 as well as the fluorescent excitation beam 800 and the output fluorescent optical signal 802, and is properly suited for the desired application or experiment, e.g., temperature range, harsh chemicals, or other application specific requirements.
The code signal 822 from the bead code reader 820 and the fluorescent signal 810 from the fluorescence detector are provided to a known computer 812. The computer 812 reads the code associated with each bead and determines the chemical probe that was attached thereto from a predetermined table that correlates a predetermined relationship between the bead code and the attached probed. In addition, the computer 812 and reads the fluorescence associated with each bead and determines the sample or analyte that is attached to the bead from a predetermined table that correlates a predetermined relationship between the fluorescence tag and the analyte attached thereto. The computer 812 then determines information about the analyte and/or the probe as well as about the bonding of the analyte to the probe, and provides such information on a display, printout, storage medium or other interface to an operator, scientist or database for review and/or analysis, consistent with shown in step 4 of
Alternatively, instead of having the code excitation source 801 and the fluorescence excitation source 803, the reader 24 may have only one source beam which provides both the reflected optical signal 27 for determining the code and the fluorescence signal 802 for reading the tagged analyte attached to the beads 8. In that case the input optical signal is a common wavelength that performs both functions simultaneously, or sequentially, if desired.
The microbeads 8 may be coated with the desired probe compound, chemical, or molecule prior to being placed in the grooved plate 200. Alternatively, the beads 8 may be coated with the probe after being placed in the grooved plate 200. As discussed hereinbefore, the probe material may be an Oligo, cDNA, polymer, or any other desired probe compound, chemical, cell, or molecule for performing an assay.
The scope of the invention is not intended to be limited to using or detecting fluorescent molecule markers during the assay process. For example, embodiments of the invention are envisioned using and detection other types of molecular markers in other types of processes.Modes of Microbead Alignment
There are at least two possible modes or approaches of use for the groove plate.FIG. 9: Open Format Approach
In summary, the closed format approach provides a method for effectively distributing and aligning microbeads during the readout process, as described below:
The basic process for handling microbeads with a curvette for readout consists of the following steps:
(3) After the cuvette is inverted and the microbeads flow out onto the groove plate side of the cuvette, the microbeads naturally align in the grooves via a small amount of rocking or agitation, which forms part of step 2 of the process shown in
One of the key advantages of using the cuvette device is that the potential to nearly index match the glass microbeads with a buffer solution thereby reducing the divergence of the laser beam caused by the lensing effect of the microbeads, and minimizing scatter form the groove plate itself.
Another advantage involves the potential to prevent microbeads from ever stacking up on top of each other, by limiting the space between the bottom and the top plate to be less than twice the diameter of the microbeads.
Another advantage is that the cover keeps the fluid from evaporating.FIGS. 15-16
In the methods shown in FIGS. 18(a) and (b), a rotating disk (see FIGS. 19(a), (b) and (c) and 20) is used for aligning the microbeads consistent with step 2 of the process shown in
For any of the circular groove plates shown herein, the disk may rotate as discussed above and/or the reader excitation laser(s)/detector(s) may rotate to read the code and/or the fluorescence on the beads 8.Continuous Mode—Process Steps
The following are the processing steps for a continuous mode of operation:
1. Dispense batch of microbeads onto plate.
2. Spin slowly while agitating the plate theta x and y to get microbeads into grooves. The agitation can be performed using rocking, ultrasound, airflow, etc.
3. Once sufficient number of microbeads are in grooves, spin up plate to remove excess microbeads (microbeads that did not go into a groove).
4. Spin disk to read code and fluorescence.
5. To remove microbeads, purge with high velocity aqueous solution (enough to knock microbeads out of groove) and vacuum up, or spin microbeads off plate while they are not in a groove.
6. Inspect disk (probably with code camera) to verify that all microbeads have been removed.
7. Inject next batch of microbeads.FIGS. 22-23: The Alignment Tube 502
Each of the individual spatial periods (Λ1-Λn) in the grating 12 is slightly different, thus producing an array of N unique diffraction conditions (or diffraction angles) discussed more hereinafter. When the element 8 is illuminated from the side, in the region of the grating 12, at an appropriate input angle, e.g., about 30 degrees, with a single input wavelength λ (monochromatic) source, the diffracted (or reflected) beams 26-36 are generated. Other input angles θi may be used if desired, depending on various design parameters as discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application, and provided that a known diffraction equation (Eq. 1 below) is satisfied:
sin(θi)+sin(θo)=mλ/nΛ Eq. 1
where Eq. 1 is diffraction (or reflection or scatter) relationship between input wavelength λ, input incident angle θi, output incident angle θo, and the spatial period Λ of the grating 12. Further, m is the “order” of the reflection being observed, and n is the refractive index of the substrate 10. The value of m=1 or first order reflection is acceptable for illustrative purposes. Eq. 1 applies to light incident on outer surfaces of the substrate 10 which are parallel to the longitudinal axis of the grating (or the kB vector). Because the angles θi,θo are defined outside the substrate 10 and because the effective refractive index of the substrate 10 is substantially a common value, the value of n in Eq. 1 cancels out of this equation.
Thus, for a given input wavelength λ, grating spacing Λ, and incident angle of the input light θi, the angle θo of the reflected output light may be determined. Solving Eq. 1 for θo and plugging in m=1, gives:
θo=sin−1(λ/Λ−sin(θi)) Eq. 2
For example, for an input wavelength λ=532 nm, a grating spacing Λ=0.532 microns (or 532 nm), and an input angle of incidence θi=30 degrees, the output angle of reflection will be θo=30 degrees. Alternatively, for an input wavelength λ=632 nm, a grating spacing Λ=0.532 microns (or 532 nm), and an input angle θi of 30 degrees, the output angle of reflection θo will be at 43.47 degrees, or for an input angle θi=37 degrees, the output angle of reflection will be θo=37 degrees. Any input angle that satisfies the design requirements discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application may be used.
In addition, to have sufficient optical output power and signal to noise ratio, the output light 27 should fall within an acceptable portion of the Bragg envelope (or normalized reflection efficiency envelope) curve 200, as indicated by points 204,206, also defined as a Bragg envelope angle θB, as also discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application. The curve 200 may be defined as:
where K=2πδn/λ, where, δn is the local refractive index modulation amplitude of the grating and λ is the input wavelength, sinc(x)=sin(x)/x, and the vectors ki=2πcos(θi)/λ and ko=2πcos (θo)/λ are the projections of the incident light and the output (or reflected) light, respectively, onto the line 203 normal to the axial direction of the grating 12 (or the grating vector kB), D is the thickness or depth of the grating 12 as measured along the line 203 (normal to the axial direction of the grating 12). Other substrate shapes than a cylinder may be used and will exhibit a similar peaked characteristic of the Bragg envelope. We have found that a value for δn of about 10−4 in the grating region of the substrate is acceptable; however, other values may be used if desired.
Rewriting Eq. 3 gives the reflection efficiency profile of the Bragg envelope as:
Thus, when the input angle θi is equal to the output (or reflected) angle θo (i.e., θi=θo), the reflection efficiency I (Eqs. 3 & 4) is maximized, which is at the center or peak of the Bragg envelope. When θi=θo, the input light angle is referred to as the Bragg angle as is known. The efficiency decreases for other input and output angles (i.e., θi # θ), as defined by Eqs. 3 & 4. Thus, for maximum reflection efficiency and thus output light power, for a given grating pitch Λ and input wavelength, the angle θi of the input light 24 should be set so that the angle θo of the reflected output light equals the input angle θi.
Also, as the thickness or diameter D of the grating decreases, the width of the sin(x)/x function (and thus the width of the Bragg envelope) increases and, the coefficient to or amplitude of the sinc2 (or (sin(x)/x)2 function (and thus the efficiency level across the Bragg envelope) also increases, and vice versa. Further, as the wavelength λ increases, the half-width of the Bragg envelope as well as the efficiency level across the Bragg envelope both decrease. Thus, there is a trade-off between the brightness of an individual bit and the number of bits available under the Bragg envelope. Ideally, δn should be made as large as possible to maximize the brightness, which allows D to be made smaller.
From Eq. 3 and 4, the half-angle of the Bragg envelope θB is defined as:
where η is a reflection efficiency factor which is the value for x in the sinc2(x) function where the value of sinc2(x) has decreased to a predetermined value from the maximum amplitude as indicated by points 204,206 on the curve 200.
We have found that the reflection efficiency is acceptable when η≦1.39. This value for η corresponds to when the amplitude of the reflected beam (i.e., from the sinc2(x) function of Eqs. 3 & 4) has decayed to about 50% of its peak value. In particular, when x=1.39=η, sinc2(x)=0.5. However, other values for efficiency thresholds or factor in the Bragg envelope may be used if desired.
The beams 26-36 are imaged onto the CCD camera 60 to produce the pattern of light and dark regions 120-132 representing a digital (or binary) code, where light=1 and dark=0 (or vice versa). The digital code may be generated by selectively creating individual index variations (or individual gratings) with the desired spatial periods Λ1-Λn. Other illumination, readout techniques, types of gratings, geometries, materials, etc. may be used as discussed in the aforementioned patent application.
For the images in
The maximum number of resolvable bits N, which is equal to the number of different grating pitches Λ (and hence the number of codes), that can be accurately read (or resolved) using side-illumination and side-reading of the grating 12 in the substrate 10, is determined by numerous factors, including: the beam width w incident on the substrate (and the corresponding substrate length L and grating length Lg), the thickness or diameter D of the grating 12, the wavelength λ of incident light, the beam divergence angle θR, and the width of the Bragg envelope θB (discussed more in the aforementioned patent application), and may be determined by the equation:
In this case, each bit (or Λ) is defined by whether its corresponding wavelength falls within the Bragg envelope, not by its angular position within the Bragg envelope 200. As a result, it is not limited by the number of angles that can fit in the Bragg envelope 200 for a given composite grating 12, as in the embodiment discussed hereinbefore. Thus, using multiple wavelengths, the only limitation in the number of bits N is the maximum number of grating pitches Λ that can be superimposed and optically distinguished in wavelength space for the output beam.
One way to measure the bits in wavelength space is to have the input light angle θi equal to the output light angle θo, which is kept at a constant value, and to provide an input wavelength λ that satisfies the diffraction condition (Eq. 1) for each grating pitch Λ. This will maximize the optical power of the output signal for each pitch Λ detected in the grating 12.
Referring to 29, illustration (b), the transmission wavelength spectrum of the transmitted output beam 330 (which is transmitted straight through the grating 12) will exhibit a series of notches (or dark spots) 696. Alternatively, instead of detecting the reflected output light 310, the transmitted light 330 may be detected at the detector/reader 308. It should be understood that the optical signal levels for the reflection peaks 695 and transmission notches 696 will depend on the “strength” of the grating 12, i.e., the magnitude of the index variation n in the grating 12.
Alternatively, the source 300 may provide a continuous broadband wavelength input signal such as that shown as a graph 316. In that case, the reflected output beam 310 signal is provided to a narrow band scanning filter 318 which scans across the desired range of wavelengths and provides a filtered output optical signal 320 to the reader 308. The filter 318 provides a sync signal on a line 322 to the reader, which is indicative of which wavelengths are being provided on the output signal 320 to the reader and may be similar to the sync signal discussed hereinbefore on the line 306 from the source 300. In this case, the source 300 does not need to provide a sync signal because the input optical signal 24 is continuous. Alternatively, instead of having the scanning filter being located in the path of the output beam 310, the scanning filter may be located in the path of the input beam 24 as indicated by the dashed box 324, which provides the sync signal on a line 323.
Alternatively, instead of the scanning filters 318,324, the reader 308 may be a known optical spectrometer (such as a known spectrum analyzer), capable of measuring the wavelength of the output light.
The desired values for the input wavelengths λ (or wavelength range) for the input signal 24 from the source 300 may be determined from the Bragg condition of Eq. 1, for a given grating spacing Λ and equal angles for the input light θi and the angle light θo. Solving Eq. 1 for λ and plugging in m=1, gives:
λ=Λ[sin(θo)+sin(θi)] Eq. 7
It is also possible to combine the angular-based code detection with the wavelength-based code detection, both discussed hereinbefore. In this case, each readout wavelength is associated with a predetermined number of bits within the Bragg envelope. Bits (or grating pitches Λ) written for different wavelengths do not show up unless the correct wavelength is used.
Accordingly, the bits (or grating pitches Λ) can be read using one wavelength and many angles, many wavelengths and one angle, or many wavelengths and many angles.
It should be understood that there is still a trade-off discussed hereinbefore with beam divergence angle θR and the incident beam width (or length L of the substrate), but the accessible angular space is theoretically now 90 degrees. Also, for maximum efficiency, the phase shift between adjacent minimum and maximum refractive index values of the grating 12 should approach a π phase shift; however, other phase shifts may be used.
In this case, rather than having the input light 24 coming in at the conventional Bragg input angle θi, as discussed hereinbefore and indicated by a dashed line 701, the grating 12 is illuminated with the input light 24 oriented on a line 705 orthogonal to the longitudinal grating vector 705. The input beam 24 will split into two (or more) beams of equal amplitude, where the exit angle θo can be determined from Eq. 1 with the input angle θi=0 (normal to the longitudinal axis of the grating 12).
In particular, from Eq. 1, for a given grating pitch Λ1, the +/−1st order beams (m=++1 and m=−1), corresponds to output beams 700,702, respectively. For the +/−2nd order beams (m=+2 and m=−2), corresponds to output beams 704,706, respectively. The 0th order (undefracted) beam (m=0), corresponds to beam 708 and passes straight through the substrate. The output beams 700-708 project spectral spots or peaks 710-718, respectively, along a common plane, shown from the side by a line 709, which is parallel to the upper surface of the substrate 10.
For example, for a grating pitch Λ=1.0 um, and an input wavelength λ=400 nm, the exit angles θo are ˜+/−23.6 degrees (for m=+/−1), and +/−53.1 degrees (from m=+/−2), from Eq. 1. It should be understood that for certain wavelengths, certain orders (e.g., m=+/−2) may be reflected back toward the input side or otherwise not detectable at the output side of the grating 12.
Alternatively, one can use only the +/−1st order (m=+/−1) output beams for the code, in which case there would be only 2 peaks to detect, 712, 714. Alternatively, one can also use any one or more pairs from any order output beam that is capable of being detected. Alternatively, instead of using a pair of output peaks for a given order, an individual peak may be used.
Thus, for a given pitch Λ (or bit) in a grating, a set of spectral peaks will appear at a specific location in space. Thus, each different pitch corresponds to a different elevation or output angle which corresponds to a predetermined set of spectral peaks. Accordingly, the presence or absence of a particular peak or set of spectral peaks defines the code.
In general, if the angle of the grating 12 is not properly aligned with respect to the mechanical longitudinal axis of the substrate 10, the readout angles may no longer be symmetric, leading to possible difficulties in readout. With a thin grating, the angular sensitivity to the alignment of the longitudinal axis of the substrate 10 to the input angle θi of incident radiation is reduced or eliminated. In particular, the input light can be oriented along substantially any angle θi with respect to the grating 12 without causing output signal degradation, due the large Bragg angle envelope. Also, if the incident beam 24 is normal to the substrate 10, the grating 12 can be oriented at any rotational (or azimuthal) angle without causing output signal degradation. However, in each of these cases, changing the incident angle θi will affect the output angle θo of the reflected light in a predetermined predictable way, thereby allowing for accurate output code signal detection or compensation.
In addition, the azimuthal multiplexing can be combined with the elevation or output angle multiplexing discussed hereinbefore to provide two levels of multiplexing. Accordingly, for a thin grating, the number of bits can be multiplexed based on the number of grating pitches Λ and/or geometrically by the orientation of the grating pitches.
Furthermore, if the input light angle θi is normal to the substrate 10, the edges of the substrate 10 no longer scatter light from the incident angle into the “code angular space”, as discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application.
Also, in the thin grating geometry, a continuous broadband wavelength source may be used as the optical source if desired.
In the case where incident light 610 is incident along the same direction as the grating vector (Kb) 207, i.e., θi=0 degrees, the incident light sees the whole length Lg of the grating 12 and the grating provides a reflected output light angle θo=0 degrees, and the Bragg envelope 612 becomes extremely narrow, as the narrowing effect discussed above reaches a limit. In that case, the relationship between a given pitch Λ in the grating 12 and the wavelength of reflection λ is governed by a known “Bragg grating” relation:
λ=2 neff Λ Eq. 8
where neff is the effective index of refraction of the substrate, λ is the input (and output wavelength) and Λ is the pitch. This relation, as is known, may be derived from Eq. 1 where θi=θo=90 degrees.
In that case, the code information is readable only in the spectral wavelength of the reflected beam, similar to that discussed hereinbefore for wavelength based code reading. Accordingly, the input signal in this case may be a scanned wavelength source or a broadband wavelength source. In addition, as discussed hereinbefore for wavelength based code reading, the code information may be obtained in reflection from the reflected beam 614 or in transmission by the transmitted beam 616 that passes through the grating 12.
It should be understood that for shapes of the substrate 10 or element 8 other than a cylinder, the effect of various different shapes on the propagation of input light through the element 8, substrate 10, and/or grating 12, and the associated reflection angles, can be determined using known optical physics including Snell's Law, shown below:
nin sin θin=nout sin θout Eq. 9
where nin is the refractive index of the first (input) medium, and nout is the refractive index of the second (output) medium, and θin and θout are measured from a line 620 normal to an incident surface 622.
If an optical waveguide is used any standard waveguide may be used, e.g., a standard telecommunication single mode optical fiber (125 micron diameter or 80 micron diameter fiber with about a 8-10 micron diameter), or a larger diameter waveguide (greater than 0.5 mm diameter), such as is describe in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/455,868, filed Dec. 6, 1999, entitled “Large Diameter Waveguide, Grating”. Further, any type of optical waveguide may be used for the optical substrate 10, such as, a multi-mode, birefringent, polarization maintaining, polarizing, multi-core, multi-cladding, or microsturctured optical waveguide, or a flat or planar waveguide (where the waveguide is rectangular shaped), or other waveguides. Any other dimensions may be used for the waveguide if desired, provided they meet the functional and performance requirements of the application taking into account the teachings herein.
The grating 12 may be impressed in the substrate 10 by any technique for writing, impressed, embedded, imprinted, or otherwise forming a diffraction grating in the volume of or on a surface of a substrate 10. Examples of some known techniques are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,725,110 and 4,807,950, entitled “Method for Impressing Gratings Within Fiber Optics”, to Glenn et al; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,388,173, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Forming Aperiodic Gratings in Optical Fibers”, to Glenn, respectively, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,367,588, entitled “Method of Fabricating Bragg Gratings Using a Silica Glass Phase Grating Mask and Mask Used by Same”, to Hill, and U.S. Pat. No. 3,916,182, entitled “Periodic Dielectric Waveguide Filter”, Dabby et al, and U.S. Pat. No. 3,891,302, entitled “Method of Filtering Modes in Optical Waveguides”, to Dabby et al, which are all incorporated herein by reference to the extent necessary to understand the present invention.
Alternatively, instead of the grating 12 being impressed within the substrate material, the grating 12 may be partially or totally created by etching or otherwise altering the outer surface geometry of the substrate to create a corrugated or varying surface geometry of the substrate, such as is described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,891,302, entitled “Method of Filtering Modes in Optical Waveguides”, to Dabby et al, which is incorporated herein by reference to the extent necessary to understand the present invention, provided the resultant optical refractive profile for the desired code is created.
Further, alternatively, the grating 12 may be made by depositing dielectric layers onto the substrate, similar to the way a known thin film filter is created, so as to create the desired resultant optical refractive profile for the desired code.FIGS. 39-50: Alternative Microbead Geometries
The substrate 10 (and/or the element 8) may have end-view cross-sectional shapes other than circular, such as square, rectangular, elliptical, clam-shell, D-shaped, or other shapes, and may have side-view sectional shapes other than rectangular, such as circular, square, elliptical, clam-shell, D-shaped, or other shapes. Also, 3D geometries other than a cylinder may be used, such as a sphere, a cube, a pyramid or any other 3D shape. Alternatively, the substrate 10 may have a geometry that is a combination of one or more of the foregoing shapes.
The shape of the element 8 and the size of the incident beam may be made to minimize any end scatter off the end face(s) of the element 8, as is discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application. Accordingly, to minimize such scatter, the incident beam 24 may be oval shaped where the narrow portion of the oval is smaller than the diameter D1, and the long portion of the oval is smaller than the length L of the element 8. Alternatively, the shape of the end faces may be rounded or other shapes or may be coated with an antireflective coating.
It should be understood that the size of any given dimension for the region 20 of the grating 12 may be less than any corresponding dimension of the substrate 10. For example, if the grating 12 has dimensions of length Lg, depth Dg, and width Wg, and the substrate 12 has different dimensions of length L, depth D, and width W, the dimensions of the grating 12 may be less than that of the substrate 12. Thus, the grating 12, may be embedded within or part of a much larger substrate 12. Also, the element 8 may be embedded or formed in or on a larger object for identification of the object.
The dimensions, geometries, materials, and material properties of the substrate 10 are selected such that the desired optical and material properties are met for a given application. The resolution and range for the optical codes are scalable by controlling these parameters as discussed herein and/or in the aforementioned patent application.
Also, the substrate 10 may be made of a material that is less dense than certain fluid (liquids and/or gas) solutions, thereby allowing the elements 8 to float or be buoyant or partially buoyant. Also, the substrate may be made of a porous material, such as controlled pore glass (CPG) or other porous material, which may also reduce the density of the element 8 and may make the element 8 buoyant or partially-buoyant in certain fluids.
Further, referring to
The base plate 930 has a substantially circular shape having a diameter of about 100 mm, with a mechanical alignment key or notch 952 about 32.5 mm long, which may be used for mechanical alignment during wafer fabrication of the groove plate 930. The thickness 948 is about 1 mm. The base plate 930 has the grooves 205 therein, which may be formed by direct reactive ion etching (REI) of the glass base plate 930, photo-patterning with photoresist, photoresist and plating process, or any other process that provides the grooves 205 that meet the requirements for the application. The sectors 944 have a length 950 of about 50 mm. Also, one or more reference lines 948 (or fiducials) may be provided for reader head alignment with the grooves 205. The length 940 of each grooved section or sector 944 is about 7 mm and the space 946 between each section 944 is about 2 mm. The grooves 205 are about 34 microns by 24 microns deep and have about a 55 micron pitch spacing. For a 7 mm long groove, each groove 205 would hold about 28 cylindrically shaped beads 8 each bead 8 having a dimension of about 30 microns in diameter and 250 microns in length. The sectors 944 having a length of about 50 mm, may have about 900 grooves and hold a total capacity about 25,200 beads 8. While the number of physically separated sectors 944 in the cell 938 shown is eight, any number of sectors may be used if desired.
For example, referring to
Other dimensions and geometries for the groove plate 930, grooves 205, spacer 932, and cover 934 and/or for any features or characteristics thereof may be used if desired.Loading/Moving Beads Using Pressure Wave/Vibrations
The present invention, which is predicated on two observations, eliminates the need for mechanically distributing beads. The first observation is that small particles are easily moved by a fluid stream, and the orientation of cylindrical particles is generally with the long axis of the particle perpendicular to the direction of the flow. And the second is that particles in a liquid can be moved in a particular direction by a temporally asymmetric oscillatory flow. Regarding the later, it was observed that when an oscillatory flow was used in a closed fluidic cell containing cylindrical glass particles, whereby the rate of the outgoing wave was higher than the return wave, the particles would acquire a net displacement in the direction of the outgoing wave. When the flow rates were reversed, i.e. when the outgoing wave was slower than the return wave, the particles moved inward. Again it was observed that the particles would tend to orient perpendicular to the direction of the pressure wave.
This behavior was first observed using a closed fluidic cell in the shape of a round disk with a floor and ceiling spaced by approximately 500 micron. The cell was entirely closed except for a hole in the center of the top, which allowed the particles (400×40 um cylindrical glass “beads”) to be inserted into the center of the cell. An asymmetric flow was established by tapping the bottom of the cell with a blunt object. A time sequence is shown
Other experiments relating to the general behavior of fluidic-induced particle movement include placing cylindrical beads on the bottom of a an open vessel such as a beaker, then moving the beads by introducing the tip of a syringe into the pile of beads and blowing the liquid out through the tip. In this experiment, the beads all moved radially away from the tip, leaving behind a region void of all beads. Again, it was observed that the beads tended to generally align parallel to the wave front.
An of the invention involves combining the ability to transport beads across the floor of a substrate using either continuous fluid flow or a type of asymmetric oscillatory flow, with the technology for trapping beads, such as the previously described groove plate. This would enable a highly efficient assembly of beads with precise orientations in the smallest possible area. With respect to reduced operating cost and high throughput, all three of these attributes are important elements of a commercial encoded particle reader.
Alternatively, referring to
Instead of the pump 416 being connected to the tube 406, a vacuum pump 432 may draw a vacuum on the tube 428. In that case the tube 406 would be open ended. We have found that this technique transports all the beads 8 from the container 400 to the second container 402.
The tip 409 of the tube 408 may be placed further into the container (i.e., not flush with inner surface of the lid 410), if desired. In that case, some air may be pumped along the tube 408 with the liquid and the beads 8. If air exists at the top of the container 400, the beads 8 may stick to the wall or inner surface of the lid 410 and not be transported to the other container 402.
The seal between the lids 410,411 and the containers 400, 402, may be any type of seal that retains the liquid inside the container, e.g., a radial seal/inner surface seal on the inside wall of the container, a top surface/axial seal to the top surface of the container, or any other seal that will perform the function required.
We have found that a flow rate of 1.0 to 2.0 ml/sec., with a tube inner diameter of 0.031 to 0.063 inches, and a total transport time of about 0.73 seconds will transport all the beads from a well of a 96 well plate to a bead reader cell, such as that described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. (CyVera Docket No. CV-0082 PR). In that case, the first container 400 would be an individual well in the well plate, and the second container 402 would be the reader cell.
Also, this can be automated such that the lid 410 is a probe head which comes down on top of the well to create a seal on the well. The probe would contain the two tubes 406, 406, the tube 406 would be an aspirate tube and the tube 408 would be a dispense tube for dispensing or transporting the beads 8 from the first container 400 to the second container 402. As discussed herein, the system can operate under pressure or a vacuum. For a system operating under pressure, the liquid 412 is driven into the dispense line, pressurizing the well and sending the fluid out of the aspirate tube 408. This permits use of drive pressure greater than 1 atm. However, there is a risk that fluid (and possibly beads) will leak out of the well if the lid seal fails. In a vacuum configuration, the aspirate tube 408 is connected to negative pressure, and drive pressure is limited to 1 atmosphere. However, in that case, if a seal fails, air leaks into the system instead of liquid (and possibly beads) leaking out.
In particular, two tips penetrate the upper seal on the container as discussed hereinbefore, with one tip connected to a syringe pump and the other connected to a reservoir. When the syringe pump is aspirated, fluid will be pulled from the reservoir through the second tip. The fluid is thus dispensed from the second tip, agitating the slurry, and aspirated by the first tip. In this way, an arbitrary volume of fluid can be dispensed and aspirated using only a single pump, without overflowing the well or prematurely emptying the well of fluid. The dispensing head is then moved to the new location desired. To dispense the beads, flow is reversed. The flow rate is set lower to avoid re-aspirating the beads into the reservoir. Also, in general, the volume can be set much lower to simply dispense the beads into a new well. The volume can be set the same, however, to refill the reservoir to the original volume. Alternatively, the actuation direction can be reversed. The second tip can be connected to a pump, while the first tip is connected to the reservoir. When fluid is dispensed under pressure through the second tip, fluid will flow up through the first tip, providing an effective aspiration. Re-dispense then involves aspiration through the second tip.
In particular, source fluid is contained in reagent bottles. A bottle is selected by opening the valve which leads by a tubing connection through the bottle cap to the desired bottle. Three bottles are shown, actuated by valves V1, V2 and V3. Additional bottles could be added, each with a companion valve. All valves are electrically operated solenoid valves, such as clean valves sold by Takasago Corp. Valve V6 is ideally a tubing pinch type valve for reliability as beads may damage a conventional solenoid valve.
The prime mover in this embodiment is an air pump, such as that made by Boxer Corp., which creates a vacuum condition in a pressure vessel that acts as a vacuum trap. Fluid is then pulled into this container when valve V6 is open.
Alternatively, a liquid pump can serve as the prime mover. In this case, a filter should be placed in front of the pump to block beads from entering the pump. If a liquid pump is used, the pressure vessel is unnecessary as an unsealed waste container can be used. Alternatively, a syringe pump, such as that sold by Kloehn Inc., can serve as the prime mover (as shown in
Referring to the valve state table shown as Table 1 below, to describe the process of filling the cell, begin with a null state of all valves closed and the pump off. The pump is turned on to stabilize a vacuum condition in the pressure vessel. One of valves V1, V2 or V3 is opened. Valve V4 is opened to direct fluid into the cell. Valve V6 is opened, thereby pulling fluid from the reagent bottles, through the cell and into the pressure vessel. Valve V6 controls the fill cycle time and is held open for a specified length of time, e.g., 1 second, calibrated to pull the desired volume of fluid through the cell.
A bubble sensor, such as that made by Introtek, may be used to aid in filling the cell with fluid, by ensuring that the fluid line is free of air before ending the fill cycle. The bubble sensor may also be used to detect if air is being pulled into the cell or system by an improperly seated lid 410 or other air leak. An optional bubble sensor may also be used near the reagent bottles to detect when one of the reagent bottles are empty. Alternatively, a level sensor, such as that made by The Madison Company, in each reagent bottle may be used instead of the bubble sensor to detect empty bottles. Also, another level sensor may be used to in the waste container to detect a full containter.
Continuing the cycle, with the pump on, valve V6 closed and V4 open, to move beads from the well plate into the cell, valve V4 is closed and either valve V5 or valve V7 is opened. Valve V7 is only used if the single well to 8 output divider is intended to be used. Valve V6 is opened, thereby pulling fluid from the reagent bottles, into the sealed well plate, out the well plate into the cell, pushing fluid out of the cell into the pressure vessel. Beads are pulled along with the fluid from the well plate into the cell. While excess fluid exits the cell, the beads remain due to the manifold design within the cell.
To flush beads from the cell, the process of filling the cell is repeated. Cycle time is set longer, e.g., 2 to 5 seconds, for flush than for filling the cell, as several volume changes are desired to clean fluid and beads from the cell. As the flush volume is several times greater than the volume held within the cell, and the fluid velocity is high, the beads are propelled out of the cell, pass through valve V6 and enter the pressure vessel. A filter in the pressure vessel can be used to capture the beads. Standard household or industrial water filter housing makes an excellent pressure vessel, as does bag filter housing, such as the Giant Bag Housings by MetPro Corporation, Keystone Filter Division.
In Table 1, Off = fluid flow is blocked; Open = valve passes fluid flow.
1. Start with a highly accurate estimate of the total number of beads 8 in a large population in a separate container (not shown). This can be done by aspirating a certain volume of beads 8 and knowing the packing density is around 40%. N=volume of beads (ul)×40%/volume per bead (ul/bead).
2. Dispense the beads 8 into a known volume of buffer solution, e.g., SSC, SDS, or any other buffer solution or desired fluid in a vial or well 462.
3. Calculate the concentration of the beads 8.
4. Agitate the mixture of the beads 8 in the vial 462 by repeatably and rapidly cycling the pipette 464 in the buffer solution 462, thereby causing the beads 8 to mix and suspend substantially “homogeneously” in the solution 462. The agitation volume should be about 2-10% of the total volume and the rate of agitation should be fast enough to suspend the beads in solution. Also, it was found that in order to generate good fluid currents and, thus, good bead mixing/suspension, the pipette tip should be placed away from the center of the well 460, and near to the side wall if possible. Note that the pipette tip should be inserted into the liquid 462 such that the pipette tip is near the top of the liquid when the fluid is fully aspirated. Therefore, as the liquid level decreases from successive aspirations, the tip will need to be placed deeper into the vial each time a new group of beads is removed. Also, the size of the opening in the pipette tip opening/orifice determines the velocity of the mixing currents for a given agitation volume and rate. For example, a larger orifice will result in lower velocities for the same rate and volume. We have found that a tip with a small orifice (<about 600 um) works well for the 28×250 micron beads, solution and volume used. However, the tip orifice should not be so small (<about 300 um) that the flow through the tip for the pressure generated and decreased to the point where the velocities are too low to generate good mixing and suspension of the beads.
5. When the beads 8 are substantially “homogeneously” mixed and suspended in the liquid, then the next (final) aspiration of beads 8 should determine how many of the beads 8 are drawn from the vial 460. The number of beads 8 drawn=concentration (beads/ul)×aspiration volume (ul).
6. Dispensing the beads 8 into the target well 468 should include a brief time delay of about 1-3 sec to allow the beads 8 to fall to the bottom of the pipette tip before they are completely dispensed into the target well 468.
In particular, referring to
Consistent with that discussed above, the microbead platform will perform biological assays on beads by attaching a type of biomolecule to the beads then placing the beads in a vessel containing sample material, which will react in varying degrees to the biomolecules. The extent to which the sample reacts is determined by measuring the intensity of a fluorescent tag molecule, and the indentity of the fluorescent beads is determined by reading its holographic code. Both fluorescence and code detection methods place requirements on how beads are oriented relative to the interrogation lasers and collection optics. The purpose of the fluidic sub-system is to manage all fluid and bead manipulation activities entailed in the interrogation process. These include movement of beads from the microtiter plate to the cell, alignment of beads in the cell and finally removal of beads from the cell so that the next batch can be interrogated. The fluidic system must also provide a means by which it can be cleaned of all biological and chemical contamination.
The following 6 steps describe the basic functions of the reader from a fluidic point of view:
- 1) Prime Cell
- 2) Transfer Beads
- 3) Load beads into grooves
- 4) Scan beads
- 5) Flush
- 6) Clean cell (after N cycles)
Steps 2-5 are performed every cycle on 8 wells at a time on an 8×12 well plate. Therefore a full 96 well plate requires 12 cycles to complete. Step 1 is performed on start up and whenever the fluidic system either accumulates too much air or to remove persistent beads from grooves. Likewise, step 6 is performed when an unacceptable level of fluorescent contamination has accumulated.
The Syringe pump 1001 aspirates or dispenses from selected valve position.
The Rotary valve 1002 rotates to select from 5 positions—Output to cell, Reagent 1, Reagent 2, Reagent 3, Dispense Excess/Aspirate Air.
The Tube Assembly, Output to Cell 1003 is fluoropolymer tubing to allow fluid to flow from syringe 1001 to the manifold leading to cell chimney 1007.
The Manifold (1×8) 1004 divides flow from 1 input line to 8 output lines leading to cell.
Check valves 1005: Check valves are connected to each of the 8 lines in the manifold. The check valves prevent fluid from siphoning between lanes of the cell. Without the check valves, a small height imbalance of the fluid in one probe versus another, could cause the siphoning of fluid out of the line carrying the shorter fluid path. This could then lead to a chain reaction where all the fluid siphons out of the cell.
Puffer tube assemblies 1006: The puffer tubes are constructed of silicone tubing with inner diameter 3/16 inch and outer diameter 5/16 inch. Compression of the tubing with the puffer block displaces fluid. The check valves prevent fluid from flowing back to the pump. Also, even without the check valves, the syringe is a stiff system which would prevent flow in this direction. Therefore all flow from compression moves out through the cell and out the probes. Release of the tubing then aspirates fluid through the probes back into the cell. The silicone tubes were selected for their elasticity and low compression set.
The Chimney 1007—The chimney 1007 is a molded part that is critical to the transfer of beads into the cell and loading of beads into grooves. The chimney 1007 terminates in the cell in a narrow line shaped nozzle which we call the line port. This shape provides a relatively flat flow velocity profile across the width of the alley. The narrowness of the port (generally less than 2 bead lengths at the narrowest portion), prevents large slow moving eddy regions when beads turn the corner from chimney to cell. Also, the spacer is aligned with the back of the nozzle to prevent significant dead zones of flow. Bead loading into grooves takes place at flow velocities that are in the laminar regime away from the immediate vicinity of the grooves. The chimney 1007 expands into a wider region. The height of the chimney and width of the expanded region were designed to limit the height to which beads rise in the chimney during transfer. By limiting this height, beads are not aspirated out of the chimney, which would lead to cross-contamination in later cycles.
Cell Assembly is labelled 1008.
Top Plate 1008a: The top plate is the top optical window of the cell sandwich. It contains a row of 8 holes for attachment of the chimney to the 8 lanes of the cell. At the opposite end of the alleys, it contains a row of 8 holes for attachment of the bead ports.
Spacer 1008b—The spacer maintains a gap between the groove plate and top window. It also seals and separates the 8 alleys from each other and from the outside world. The spacer is made of a silicone gasket. The gasket is attached to the two glass plates under compression and heat to create a seal. The spacer thickness is 0.015 inch or 380 microns. This thickness appears to be near an optimum value for balancing competing needs. On one hand, the thinner the gap the higher the velocity near the grooves, this aids in bead loading with the puffer and in bead removal. On the other hand, if the gap is too small, bubbles are not effectively cleared from the cell. Note that other materials could serve as a gasket.
Groove Plate 1008c—the groove plate arranges the beads in an orderly fashion to be read by the reader optics. The groove plate is made of fused silica and is produced by an RIE (reactive ion etch) process. Fused silica is used for its low fluorescence, permitting better sensitivity to low fluorescence signals. Several other processes have been explored for constructing a groove plate.
Bead Entrance/Exit Ports 1009—The bead tubes from the probes terminate in this port. The gasket taper to a rounded cone, with the port at the apex. The goal is to minimize dead volume, so that beads maintain momentum as they enter and exit the cell through the port. Each alley has a fluidically isolated port.
Bead Tubes, fluoropolymer 1010—The bead tubes carry beads into the cell through the transfer process, and carry them out of the cell during the flush process. Fluoropolymer tubing is used for inertness, to minimize friction and reduce bubble adhesion.
Probe Assemblies 1011—The probes are connected and integral with the bead tubes. The probes enter the well plate for transferring beads into the cell. The probes are designed to withstand “bottoming out” in the well plate and are spring loaded.
Well Plate 1012
Water Tube Assembly 1013
- Tube Assembly, External, Water 1013a
Buffer Tube Assembly 1014
- Tube Assembly, External, Buffer 1014a
Alcohol Tube Assembly 1015
- Tube Assembly, External, Alcohol 1015a
Air & Fluid Excess Tube Assembly 1016
Air Inlet to Valve Check Valve 1016b-On syringe aspirate from this valve position, allows air to enter the syringe. The check valve blocks flow in the dispense direction
Air Inlet to Valve Check Valve 1016c—This check valve allows flow in the dispense direction to waste, but blocks return flow, to prevent aspiration from waste.
Waste Drain Tube Assembly 1017
- Tube Assembly, External, Waste Drain 1017a
Panel Connections 1018—Field connections for the customer. Luer locks are preferred.
Reagent Bottles 1019
Bottle Caps 1019a
Tube Connections 1019b
Level Switches 1020—Sense reagent bottles empty below a set point or waste bottle full over a maximum level.
Waste Bottle 1021
Waste/Wash Tray 1022—Divided into two sections—one for dumping waste fluid and beads, and a section for washing the probe tips. Spillage from the wash overflows into waste. Fluid may be pumped using the auxiliary pump into the wash section to augment cleaning and to add bleach.
Wash subsystem 1023
Auxiliary pump 1023a
Check Valve 1023b-Prevents back pressure on the auxiliary pump.
A rotary valve selects among reagent and waste bottles, or output to the cell. The syringe pump aspirates or dispenses to the selected valve.
Either by hand or using laboratory automation, the user places a 96 well micro-titre plate on the platform.
An actuator moves the platform with the plate into position.
Transfer beads into cell
- a) Probe assemblies descend to near top of well
- b) Slow compression of the puffer tubing to displace fluid into the wells
- c) Probe assemblies move to bottom of well
- d) Rapid release of puffer tubing to draw fluid and beads into the bead tubes
The 6 steps are described in detail, as follows:1) The Prime Cell Step
The purpose of the Prime Cell step is to configure the cell and its associated fluidic components in a state that allows effective transfer of beads from the well plate 1012 to the cell. Such a state is characterized by having the entire fluidic system, from the syringe pump to the probe tips filled with a buffer solution and having substantially all the air removed from the fluidic system, including both small air bubbles and larger cavities. Once in this state, the fluidic system is considered “stiff” from a fluidic point of view, and is capable of supporting bead transfer, bead loading and bead flushing operations.
The following sequence, which relies on a syringe pump as the motive for fluids through the system, is designed to prime the cell:
Displace fluid in system with air,
Displace Air with Ethanol,
Displace Ethanol with Water, and
Displace Water with Buffer.
Each of the four basic elements of the prime cycle has a specific purpose, as does the order of operations. The importance of the first step, pushing air through the system to displace any fluid that may already be in the system, was found to help with the second step, ethanol purge; though it is still unclear why it helps. Ethanol is the first fluid pushed through the system after purging with air. Ethanol has a very low surface tension and is a good wetting agent; properties that make it ideal for removing bubbles throughout the system, especially in the cell where bubbles trapped in the small cross-section device are most difficult to remove. Once the interior surfaces of the fluidic system are wetted with ethanol and the air bubbles are removed, water is pushed through. Although the ethanol is highly effective at removing air bubbles, the one source of trapped air ethanol cannot remove resides in the chimney. The pocket of air trapped in the chimney is a consequence of pushing fluid down the chimney rather than up the chimney. The natural tendency of the air in the chimney is to rise since it is less dense than all the fluids. When ethanol is pushed through, it simply spills around the air pocket as it travels from the top of the chimney to the bottom on its way to the cell. The spilling effect, a result of very low surface tension, prevents the air from being displaced by the liquid. To overcome this, water is pushed through the system next. Because the ethanol wets all surfaces the water can come through next and wet the surfaces by simply displacing the ethanol rather than trying the wet dry surfaces directly. Once the water displaces the ethanol, its high surface tension allows it to form a meniscus at the top of the chimney, which follows the shape of the chimney as it travel from the inlet at the top of the chimney to the cell at the bottom. Provided the inside diameter of the chimney never exceeds a critical diameter (approximately 9 mm for a round geometry and less for shapes that deviate from round), it is possible to support a column of water above the air without spilling around the air pocket. As the water is introduced into the chimney by the syringe pump the pocket of air is continuously pushed down toward the bottom of the chimney and eventually out through the cell and finally through the probe tips. In addition to the critical diameter, it is also important that surfaces and transitions inside the chimney be smooth and continuous; asperities will tend to break the meniscus as it travels slowly down the chimney. Once the water is pushed entirely through the system and the cell is free of all air both in the form of bubbles and cavities the sequence proceeds to the final step, which is to simply displace the water with a buffer solution. The system is now considered primed.2) The Transfer Beads to Cell Step
The transfer process refers to the movement of beads from the well-plate 1012 to the cell 1008 through a path, which includes the transfer tube, the cell and finally the chimney. In most cases, beads begin their journey at the bottom of a round bottom well; since they are denser than the buffer fluid they sink to the bottom of the well. The method of transferring beads from the well plate involves vacuuming them off the bottom of the well with an open-ended tube attached to the cell, called a transfer tube. At the distal end of the transfer tube is the probe tip which has attached to it a cone-shaped vestige designed to enhance the flow rate around beads that are more than a few tube diameters away from the center of the tube, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the transfer process. However, unlike a typical vacuum whereby the flow rate is always in the same direction (i.e. into the vacuum) the method employed here involves alternating the direction of the flow and varying the rate of flow.
Responsibility for this action is a device called a “puffer,” which consists of a flexible silicone tube approximately 2″ long by ¼″ diameter. The tube is connected in-line between the syringe pump and the cell and is placed between two metal surfaces, on of which moves in order to squeezed the tube. Fluid rushes out of the tube when it's squeezed and back in when it's released. Since one end of the tube is dead-ended at the syringe and the other end (the part that goes into the well with the beads) is open, the net flow is always through the open end, both inward and outward.
Beads are transported from the well-plate to the cell by repeating a cycle of slow contractions and fast expansions of the puffer tube. Slow contractions re-set the puffer tube to a state whereby a vacuum can be applied to the transfer tube (expansion), thereby pulling beads toward the cell. While the flow rate is slow liquid moves past the beads without carrying them very far in the direction of the flow. While the flow is rapid, beads are effectively moved in the direction of the flow. Therefore, repeating the cycle causes the beads to acquire a net motion in the direction of the fast flow. This method is employed to lift beads out of the well plate and transport them to the cell during the transfer process and move beads out on the groove plate during the load process and remove beads from the grooves and flush them out of the cell during the flush process.
Another key element of the fluidic architecture with regard to the transfer process is the chimney. The chimney is made to have a rapidly increasing inner diameter starting from the point at which it is attached to the cell. The purpose of the large inner diameter is to decrease the flow rate to the extent that beads cannot travel past the chimney and become lost in tubing. The inner volume of the chimney is designed to be 2 to 5 times larger than the volume of fluid displaced by the puffer during the transfer process. It was found that beads entering the chimney at high rates of speed travel about ¾ the height of the chimney before the flow is reversed (slow contraction) which then pushes the beads to the bottom of the chimney and even out onto the groove plate. After a certain number of puffer cycles (10-15), the puffer stops and beads fall under their own weight to the bottom of the chimney and pile up in small rectangular opening called the line port. The distribution of beads in the port is uniform across the opening, which is important for the next step; bead load.
Beads are considered transferred after a set number of (empirically determined) puffer cycles. Once the beads are transferred excess cycles cause them to harmlessly rise and fall in the chimney. Therefore, without a means of feedback, the transfer process is always run with an excess number of cycles to ensure that a high percentage of beads are transferred. Efficiencies that range between 95 and 99.9% are obtained after about 15 cycles, approximately 40 seconds. The proc0ess concludes with beads settling to the bottom of the chimney on the groove plate in a pile substantially uniform in distribution within the port, a consequence of randomization caused by turbulent flow in the chimney.
The port, which is defined as the opening of the chimney to the cell, is rectangular in shape, approximately 6 mm long and 250 μm wide. It is surrounded on three edges by the gasket, which forms the perimeter of each of the 8 independent lanes. The fourth edge is open to the lane leading to the grooved region. The back edge of the port is aligned as closely as possible to the edge of the gasket so as to minimize dead zones in the flow field caused by eddy currents. Gaps that range from 0 to 50 μm were found to eliminate such dead regions behind the opening of the port where beads could potentially become stuck. Similarly, the width of the port opening is large enough to ensure beads don't form a log jam but small enough ensure the velocity of the flow through any portion of the opening is sufficiently large to carry beads out of the port region during the bead load process. The range of openings found to be effective were 200 to 400 μm. The length of the port opening, which spans nearly the entire 7 mm width of the lane, was found to produce the most uniform distribution of beads in the grooved region of any combination of port and gasket shapes. Other geometries tried involved ports of various sizes of circles with gaskets cut into linear tapers, horn shaped tapers and parabolic shaped taper, which depending on the flow rate, produced either narrow beam-like distributions or lobed distributions characterized by a low density region of beads in the middle of the lane and high density regions near the edges of the lane. Both types of profiles produced unacceptably low total packing densities, a feature that plays heavily into the overall throughput of the instrument. Unlike the circular port shapes that rely on the flow field to produce distribution functions, the rectangular port shape allows the beads to form a uniform distribution across the width of the lane by the simple process of mixing in the chimney then settling to the bottom.
Another feature of the cell that plays in important roll in the dynamics of bead transport is the thickness of the gasket. The gasket not only defines the perimeter of the lane around the grooved region and the ports, it also defines the height of the column of fluid in the cell. With a density of 2.2 glass beads sink in aqueous solutions, which means when they are in the cell they will lay on the surface of the groove plate (the bottom of the cell), where the velocity of the laminar flow is close to zero. When the height of the laminar flow field (thickness of the gasket) becomes very large compared with the diameter of the bead the velocity of the flow intercepting the bead approaches zero. Therefore, to maximize the interaction of the bead with the flow field the gasket thickness should be kept as thin as possible.
Countering this requirement are two issues that occur when the gasket is too thin. The first pertains to the persistence of small air bubbles. The smaller the gap between the groove plate and the top plate the harder it becomes to flush small air bubbles away. It was found that a gasket thickness of less than 300 μm resulted in such problems. The second relates to the pressure drop across the cell during the transfer cycle. Because the entire pressure generated by the puffer during transfer drops across both the cell and the transfer tube, since they're in series with each other, the impedance of the cell cannot be much larger than the transfer line. Otherwise the flow rate at the distal end of the transfer tube will be insufficient to cause bead transport out of the well. Therefore it is important to balance the impedance of the transfer tube with the cell. Again, the minimum gasket thickness was found to be around 300 μm.3) Load the Beads into the Grooves
The step for scanning the beads in the well-plate 1008 is consistent with that described above.5) Flushing the Beads from the Grooves
Unless otherwise specifically stated herein, the term “microbead” is used herein as a label and does not restrict any embodiment or application of the present invention to certain dimensions, materials and/or geometries.
The dimensions and/or geometries for any of the embodiments described herein are merely for illustrative purposes and, as such, any other dimensions and/or geometries may be used if desired, depending on the application, size, performance, manufacturing requirements, or other factors, in view of the teachings herein.
It should be understood that, unless stated otherwise herein, any of the features, characteristics, alternatives or modifications described regarding a particular embodiment herein may also be applied, used, or incorporated with any other embodiment described herein. Also, the drawings herein are not drawn to scale.
Although the invention has been described and illustrated with respect to exemplary embodiments thereof, the foregoing and various other additions and omissions may be made therein and thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
1. A method for aligning microbeads to be read by a code reading or other detection device, comprising the step of:
- providing microbeads to a positioning device, each having an elongated body with a code embedded therein along a longitudinal axis thereof;
- aligning the microbeads with the positioning device so the longitudinal axis of the microbeads is in a fixed orientation relative to the code reading or other detection device.
2. A method according to claim 1, wherein the positioning device is a plate having a multiplicity of grooves therein.
3. A method according to claim 1, wherein the method includes agitating the plate to encourage the alignment of the microbeads in the grooves.
4. A method according to claim 1, wherein the microbeads are cylindrically shaped glass beads between 25 and 250 microns in diameter and between 100 and 500 microns long.
5. A method according to claim 1, wherein the microbeads have a holographic code embedded in a central region thereof.
6. A method according to claim 1, wherein the code is used to correlate a chemical content on each bead with a measured fluorescence signal.
7. A method according to claim 1, wherein each microbead is substantially aligned in relation to its pitch and yaw rotational axes.
8. A method according to claim 1, wherein the plate has a series of parallel grooves having one of several different shapes, including square, v-shaped or semi-circular.
9. A method according to claim 1, wherein the plate is an optically transparent medium including boro-silicate glass, fused silica or plastic, and the grooves are formed therein.
10. A method according to claim 1, wherein the grooves have a depth that is dimensioned to be at least the diameter of the microbeads, including at least 110% of the diameter of the microbead.
11. Apparatus for aligning microbeads to be read by a code reading device, comprising:
- a positioning device for aligning microbeads, each microbead having an elongated body with a code embedded therein along a longitudinal axis thereof, so the longitudinal axis of the microbeads is positioned in a fixed orientation relative to the code reading device.
12. Apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the positioning device is a plate having a multiplicity of grooves therein.
13. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the apparatus includes means for agitating the plate to encourage the alignment of the microbeads in the grooves.
14. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the microbeads are cylindrically shaped glass beads between 25 and 250 microns in diameter and between 100 and 500 microns long.
15. Apparatus for aligning an optical identification element, comprising:
- the optical identification element having an optical substrate having at least a portion thereof with at least one diffraction grating disposed therein, the grating having at least one refractive index pitch superimposed at a common location, the grating providing an output optical signal when illuminated by an incident light signal, the optical output signal being indicative of a code, and the optical identification element being an elongated object with a longitudinal axis; and
- an alignment device which aligns the optical identification element such that said output optical signal is indicative of the code.
16. Apparatus according to claim 15, wherein the alignment device is a plate having a multiplicity of grooves therein.
17. Apparatus according to claim 15, wherein the plate is a disk and the multiplicity of grooves are concentric circles or a spiral.
18. Apparatus according to claim 15, wherein the alignment device is a tube having a bore for receiving the optical identification element.
International Classification: G01N 1/00 (20060101);