Advanced dielectrophoretic cell separation systems
This thesis describes experimental and theoretical investigations into new particle handling and separation methods and techniques. It makes a major contribution to the rapidly expanding field of cell separation technology. A novel dielectrophoretic cell separation system has been developed, which is capable of processing large sample volumes (~50mL) in a flow through system. Previously reported dielectrophoretic cell separator systems typically process sample volumes in the 100mL range. The electrode configuration developed for this work allows the isolation and concentration of single particle types from large sample volumes; a method which could be further developed into a new rare-cell separation technology. In addition, a new technique of particle fractionation was developed termed ‘Dielectrophoretic Chromatography’. A cell separation chip was designed and built using standard micro-fabrication techniques. Experimental work was undertaken to demonstrate the function and limitations of the device. Numerical modelling of the particle motion in the device is presented and compared with experimental work for a number of different particle types, applied voltages and fluid flow rates. The dielectrophoretic separation system comprises a microfluidic channel, of cross-section 100mm x 10mm and length 50mm, with two sets of interdigitated microelectrode arrays. The first set of arrays, with characteristic electrode size 40mm, called a focussing device, has electrodes patterned onto the top and bottom surfaces of the flow channel. The second electrode array, which is part of the same device, has an electrode array patterned only on the bottom of the channel. Two sizes of secondary electrode array were used 20mm and 40mm. AC voltages (from 1V to 10V peak) are applied to the microelectrode, with a frequency between 10kHz to 180MHz. A dielectrophoretic force is exerted on the particles as they flow along the channel. The first electrode array uses negative dielectrophoresis to focus the stream of particles entering the device into a narrow sheet (one particle diameter thick) midway between the upper and lower channel surfaces. The second electrode array, down stream from the first is separately controllable.