Author(s): jason G Kralj, Michael T W Lis, Martin A Schmidt, Klavs F Jensen
Continuous-flow dielectrophoretic (DEP) particle separation based on size is demonstrated in a microfluidic device. Polystyrene microspheres suspended in a neutrally buoyant aqueous solution are used as model particles to study DEP induced by an array of slanted, planar, interdigitated electrodes inside of a soft-lithography microchannel. The E-field gradients from the slanted electrodes impart a net transverse force component on the particles that causes them to “ratchet” across the channel. Over the length of the device, larger particles are deflected more than smaller particles according to the balance of hydrodynamic drag and DEP forces. Consequently, a flow-focused particle suspension containing different-sized particles is fractionated as the beads flow and separate down the length of the device. The flow behavior of spherical particles is modeled, and the total transverse particle displacement in the microfluidic device predicts fourth-order size and voltage and second-order inverse flow rate dependences. The model is verified experimentally for a range of flow rates, particle sizes, and E-field strengths.