Lab-on-a-Chip compatible techniques for thermal characterization of miniaturized volumes of liquid analytes are necessary in applications such as protein blotting, DNA melting, and drug development, where samples are either rare or volume-limited. We developed a closed-chamber calorimeter based on a bimaterial microchannel cantilever (BMC) for sub-nanoliter level thermal analysis. When the liquid-filled BMC is irradiated with infrared (IR) light at a specific wavelength, the IR absorption by the liquid analyte results in localized heat generation and the subsequent deflection of the BMC, due to a thermal expansion mismatch between the constituent materials. The time constant of the deflection, which is dependent upon the heat capacity of the liquid analyte, can be directly measured by recording the time-dependent bending of the BMC. We have used the BMC to quantitatively measure the heat capacity of five volatile organic compounds. With a deflection noise level of ∼10 nm and a signal-to-noise ratio of 68:1, the BMC offers a sensitivity of 30.5 ms/(J g−1 K−1) and a resolution of 23 mJ/(g K) for ∼150 pl liquid for heat capacity measurements. This technique can be used for small-scale thermal characterization of different chemical and biological samples.

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