Dean flow-coupled inertial focusing in curved channels
Journal article, 2014
Passive particle focusing based on inertial microfluidics was recently introduced as a high-throughput alternative to active focusing methods that require an external force field to manipulate particles. In inertial microfluidics, dominant inertial forces cause particles to move across streamlines and occupy equilibrium positions along the faces of walls in flows through straight micro channels. In this study, we systematically analyzed the addition of secondary Dean forces by introducing curvature and show how randomly distributed particles entering a simple u-shaped curved channel are focused to a fixed lateral position exiting the curvature. We found the lateral particle focusing position to be fixed and largely independent of radius of curvature and whether particles entering the curvature are pre-focused (at equilibrium) or randomly distributed. Unlike focusing in straight channels, where focusing typically is limited to channel cross-sections in the range of particle size to create single focusing point, we report here particle focusing in a large cross-section area (channel aspect ratio 1: 10). Furthermore, we describe a simple u-shaped curved channel, with single inlet and four outlets, for filtration applications. We demonstrate continuous focusing and filtration of 10 mu m particles (with > 90% filtration efficiency) from a suspension mixture at throughputs several orders of magnitude higher than flow through straight channels (volume flow rate of 4.25ml/min). Finally, as an example of high throughput cell processing application, white blood cells were continuously processed with a filtration efficiency of 78% with maintained high viability. We expect the study will aid in the fundamental understanding of flow through curved channels and open the door for the development of a whole set of bio-analytical applications.