Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering


Xuan, Xiangchun

Committee Member

Beasley , Donald E

Committee Member

Zumbrunnen , David A


Recent developments in the field of microfluidics have created a multitude of new useful techniques for practical particle and cellular assays. Among them is the use of dielectrophoretic forces in 'lab-on-a-chip' devices. This sub-domain of electrokinetic flow is particularly popular due to its advantages in simplicity and versatility. This thesis makes use of dielectrophoretic particle manipulations in three distinct spiral microchannels. In the first of these experiments, we demonstrate the utility of a novel single-spiral curved microchannel with a single inlet reservoir and a single outlet reservoir for the continuous focusing and filtration of particles. The insulator-based negative-dielectrophoretic (repulsive) force is used in a parametric study of the effects of electric field strength, particle size, and solution concentration on particle focusing abilities. It was summarily determined that all three factors are positively correlated with increased particle focusing ability. From these results, a partial filtration of 10 μm particles from a binary solution of 3 and 10 μm particles was demonstrated. Also observed was a balance between dielectrophoretic and repulsive particle-wall interactions; thus yielding a novel approach for particle manipulation. Following the results of the first, we demonstrate in the second experiment a continuous-flow electrokinetic separation of both a binary mixture and a ternary mixture of colloidal particles based on size in a single-spiral microchannel with a single inlet reservoir and triple outlet reservoirs. This method also utilizes both curvature-induced dielectrophoresis to focus particles to a tight stream and the previously observed wall-induced electric lift to manipulate the aligned particles to size-dependent equilibrium positions. Due to the continuous nature of the flow through concentric spiral loops, both focusing forces influence particles simultaneously. This novel technique is useful for its compact geometry, robust structure, ease of manufacture, and ease of use in the manipulation of independent particle species. A theoretical model is also developed to understand this separation, and the obtained analytical formula predicts the experimentally measured particle center-wall distance in the spiral with a close agreement. We demonstrate in the third experiment a continuous-flow electrical sorting of spherical and peanut-shaped particles of similar volumes in an asymmetric double-spiral microchannel with a single inlet reservoir and triple outlet reservoirs. This experiment, unlike the first two, differentiates particle species based principally on shape. Shape is an intrinsic marker of cell cycle, an important factor for identifying a bio-particle, and also a useful indicator of cell state for disease diagnostics; therefore, shape can be a specific marker in label-free particle and cell separation for various chemical and biological applications. The double-spiral geometry exploits curvature-induced dielectrophoresis to initially focus particles to a tight stream in the first spiral without any sheath flow. Particles are subsequently displaced to shape-dependent flow paths in the second spiral without any external force. We also develop a numerical model to simulate and understand this shape-based particle sorting in spiral microchannels. The predicted particle trajectories agree qualitatively with the experimental observation.