Improved concentration and separation of particles in a 3D dielectrophoretic chip integrating focusing, aligning and trapping
This article presents a dielectrophoresis (DEP)- based microfluidic device with the three-dimensional (3D) microelectrode configuration for concentrating and separating particles in a continuous throughflow. The 3D electrode structure, where microelectrode array are patterned on both the top and bottom surfaces of the microchannel, is composed of three units: focusing, aligning and trapping. As particles flowing through the microfluidic channel, they are firstly focused and aligned by the funnel-shaped and parallel electrode array, respectively, before being captured at the trapping unit due to negative DEP force. For a mixture of two particle populations of different sizes or dielectric properties, with a careful selection of suspending medium and applied field, the population exhibits stronger negative DEP manipulated by the microelectrode array and, therefore, separated from the other population which is easily carried away toward the outlet due to hydrodynamic force. The functionality of the proposed microdevice was verified by concentrating different-sized polystyrene (PS) microparticles and yeast cells dynamically flowing in the microchannel. Moreover, separation based on size and dielectric properties was achieved by sorting PS microparticles, and isolating 5 lm PS particles from yeast cells, respectively. The performance of the proposed microconcentrator and separator was also studied, including the threshold voltage at which particles begin to be trapped, variation of cell-trapping efficiency with respect to the applied voltage and flow rate, and the efficiency of separation experiments. The proposed microdevice has various advantages, including multi-functionality, improved manipulation efficiency and throughput, easy fabrication and operation, etc., which shows a great potential for biological, chemical and medical applications.