A continuous DC-insulator dielectrophoretic sorter of microparticles

Document Type


Publication Date



A lab-on-a-chip device is described for continuous sorting of fluorescent polystyrene microparticles utilizing direct current insulating dielectrophoresis (DC-iDEP) at lower voltages than previously reported. Particles were sorted by combining electrokinetics and dielectrophoresis in a 250μm wide PDMS microchannel containing a rectangular insulating obstacle and four outlet channels. The DC-iDEP particle flow behaviors were investigated with 3.18, 6.20 and 10μm fluorescent polystyrene particles which experience negative DEP forces depending on particle size, DC electric field magnitude and medium conductivity. Due to negative DEP effects, particles are deflected into different outlet streams as they pass the region of high electric field density around the obstacle. Particles suspended in dextrose added phosphate buffer saline (PBS) at conductivities ranging from 0.50 to 8.50mS/cm at pH 7.0 were compared at 6.85 and 17.1V/cm. Simulations of electrokinetic and dielectrophoretic forces were conducted with COMSOL Multiphysics® to predict particle pathlines. Experimental and simulation results show the effect of medium and voltage operating conditions on particle sorting. Further, smaller particles experience smaller iDEP forces and are more susceptible to competing nonlinear electrostatic effects, whereas larger particles experience greater iDEP forces and prefer channels 1 and 2. This work demonstrates that 6.20 and 10μm particles can be independently sorted into specific outlet streams by tuning medium conductivity even at low operating voltages. This work is an essential step forward in employing DC-iDEP for multiparticle sorting in a continuous flow, multiple outlet lab-on-a-chip device. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Publication Title

Journal of Chromatography A