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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2014 Jul 11;16:371-96. doi: 10.1146/annurev-bioeng-121813-120704. Epub 2014 May 29.

Inertial focusing in microfluidics.

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BioMEMS Resource Center, Center for Engineering in Medicine and Surgical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Shriners Hospital for Children, Boston, Massachusetts 02114; email:


When Segré and Silberberg in 1961 witnessed particles in a laminar pipe flow congregating at an annulus in the pipe, scientists were perplexed and spent decades learning why such behavior occurred, finally understanding that it was caused by previously unknown forces on particles in an inertial flow. The advent of microfluidics opened a new realm of possibilities for inertial focusing in the processing of biological fluids and cellular suspensions and created a field that is now rapidly expanding. Over the past five years, inertial focusing has enabled high-throughput, simple, and precise manipulation of bodily fluids for a myriad of applications in point-of-care and clinical diagnostics. This review describes the theoretical developments that have made the field of inertial focusing what it is today and presents the key applications that will make inertial focusing a mainstream technology in the future.


applied physics; biofluid processing; high throughput; hydrodynamic lift; label-free cell separation; particle separation

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