Smart microsystems for cell manipulations
This thesis documents the design, manufacture and testing of a passive and non-invasive micro-scale planar particle-from-fluid filter for segregating cell types from a homogeneous suspension. The microfluidics system can be used to separate spermatogenic cells from testis biopsy samples, providing a mechanism for filtrate retrieval for assisted reproduction therapy. The system can also be used for point-of-service diagnostics applications for hospitals, lab-on-a-chip pre-processing and field applications such as clinical testing in the third world. Various design concepts are developed and manufactured, and are assessed based on etched structure morphology, robustness to variations in the manufacturing process, and design impacts on fluid flow and particle separation characteristics. Segregation was measured using image processing algorithms that demonstrate efficiency is more than 55% for 1 µl volumes at populations exceeding 1 x 107. the technique supports a significant reduction in time over conventional processing, in the separation and identification of particle groups, offering a potential reduction in the associated cost of the targeted procedure. The thesis has developed a model of quasi-steady wetting flow within the micro channel and identifies the forces across the system during post-wetting equalisation. The model and its underlying assumptions are validated empirically in microfabricated test structures through a novel Micro-Particle Image Velocimetry technique. The prototype devices do not require ancillary equipment nor additional filtration media, and therefore offer fewer opportunities for sample contamination over conventional processing methods. The devices are disposable with minimal reagent volumes and process waste. Optimal processing parameters and production methods are identified with any improvements that could be made to enhance their performance in a number of identified potential applications.