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Electrophoresis. 2009 Mar;30(5):782-91. doi: 10.1002/elps.200800637.

Dual frequency dielectrophoresis with interdigitated sidewall electrodes for microfluidic flow-through separation of beads and cells.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.

Abstract

This paper presents a novel design and separation strategy for lateral flow-through separation of cells/particles in microfluidics by dual frequency coupled dielectrophoresis (DEP) forces enabled by vertical interdigitated electrodes embedded in the channel sidewalls. Unlike field-flow-fractionation-DEP separations in microfluidics, which utilize planar electrodes on the microchannel floor to generate a DEP force to balance the gravitational force and separate objects at different height locations, lateral separation is enabled by sidewall interdigitated electrodes that are used to generate non-uniform electric fields and balanced DEP forces along the width of the microchannel. In the current design, two separate AC electric fields are applied to two sets of independent interdigitated electrode arrays fabricated in the sidewalls of the microchannel to generate differential DEP forces that act on the cells/particles flowing through. Individual particles (cells or beads) will experience DEP forces differently due to the difference in their dielectric properties. The balance of the differential DEP forces from the electrode arrays will position dissimilar particles at distinct equilibrium planes across the width of the channel. When coupled with fluid flow, this results in lateral separation along the width of the microchannel and the separated particles can thus be automatically directed into branched channel outlets leading to different reservoirs for downstream processing. In this paper, we present the design and analysis of lateral separation enabled by dual frequency coupled DEP, and cell/bead and cell/cell separations are demonstrated with this lateral separation strategy. With vertical interdigitated electrodes on the sidewall, the height of the microchannel can be increased without losing the electric field strength in contrast to other multiple frequency DEP devices with planar electrodes. As a result, populations of cells can be separated simultaneously instead of one by one to enable high-throughput sorting microfluidic devices.

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