An Integrated Microfluidic Platform with Lateral Dielectrophoresis (DEP) Based Cell/Particle Separation
Background: Most of the current techniques used for Dielectrophoresis separation use planar electrodes which sit at the bottom of the channel. With this design the electric field decreases dramatically as the height increases. Correspondingly, the gradient of the electric filed which is denoted as the direction of the DEP force will be along the height of the channel. This phenomena is implemented in field flow fraction (FFF) DEP to balance the gravity of the cells so that different cells will be placed at different heights of the channel and those close to the middle will be flushed out first while those close to the walls will come out of the channel later. This method relies heavily on the velocity control of the flow, and is limited by poor discrimination of the cells and suffers from low throughput. Also, this method is not directly compatible with microfluidic technology because the cells are separated temporally instead of spatially. Technology: Researchers at the University of California have developed a microfluidic sorting device and method which overcomes the above limitation. The invention utilizes dielectrophoresis forces and/or magnetohydrodynamic forces to selective sort cells or particles. The device includes a main channel with a separation region or zone. A plurality of branch channels are located downstream of the separation region/zone to collect the sorted cells or particles.
Application: The advantage of the current invention is that the electrodes are fabricated at the side wall of the channel. This generates an electric field gradient along the width direction so that the cells can be separated spatially inside the microchannel separation zone and at the same the cells are kept in a moving state without being trapped to the electrodes which will decrease the throughput and separation time. The separation process directs different cells into different downstream branches coupled to the separation channel. With this method, we can have high throughput separation and purification of cell samples. The sorting method and device is compatible with other sample preparation steps. Cells may be separated based on different dielectric properties and size.
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