By varying laser and electric fields, scientists can use tiny centrifuge-like whirlpools to separate particles and microbes.
The technology could bring innovative sensors and analytical devices for lab-on-a-chip applications, or miniature instruments that perform measurements normally requiring large laboratory equipment.
Rapid electrokinetic patterning (REP) is a potential new tool for applications, including medical diagnostics; testing food, water, and contaminated soil; isolating DNA for gene sequencing; crime-scene forensics; and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
The researchers have used the method for the first time to collect microscopic bacteria and fungi, says Steven T. Wereley, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.
“The new results demonstrate that REP can be used to sort biological particles but also that the technique is a powerful tool for development of a high-performance on-chip bioassay system,” Wereley says.