G.R. Pesch, M. Lorenz, S. Sachde, S. Salameh, F. Du, M. Baune, P. E. Boukany & J. Thöming
Scientific Reports (2018) 8:10480
Dielectrophoresis (DEP) is a versatile technique for the solution of difficult (bio-)particle separation tasks based on size and material. Particle motion by DEP requires a highly inhomogeneous electric field. Thus, the throughput of classical DEP devices is limited by restrictions on the channel size to achieve large enough gradients. Here, we investigate dielectrophoretic filtration, in which channel size and separation performance are decoupled because particles are trapped at induced field maxima in a porous separation matrix. By simulating microfluidic model porous media, we derive design rules for DEP filters and verify them using model particles (polystyrene) and biological cells (S. cerevisiae, yeast). Further, we bridge the throughput gap by separating yeast in an alumina sponge and show that the design rules are equally applicable in real porous media at high throughput. While maintaining almost 100% efficiency, we process up to 9 mL min−1, several orders of magnitude more than most state-of-the-art DEP applications. Our microfluidic approach provides new insight into trapping dynamics in porous media, which even can be applied in real sponges. These results pave the way toward high-throughput retention, which is capable of solving existing problems such as cell separation in liquid biopsy or precious metal recovery.