Date of this Version



Biomedical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, fluid dynamics, mechanical engineering, microfluidics


Non-contact micro-manipulation tools have enabled invasion-free studies of fragile synthetic particles and biological cells. Rapid electrokinetic patterning (REP) traps target particles/cells, suspended in an electrolyte, on an electrode surface. This entrapment is electrokinetic in nature and thus depends strongly on the suspension medium’s properties. REP has been well characterized for manipulating synthetic particles suspended in low concentration salt solutions (~ 2 mS/m). However, it is not studied as extensively for manipulating biological cells, which introduces an additional level of complexity due to their limited viability in hypotonic media. In this work, we discuss challenges posed by isotonic electrolytes and suggest solutions to enable REP manipulation in bio-relevant media. Various formulations of isotonic media (salt and sugar-based) are tested for their compatibility with REP. REP manipulation is observed in low concentration salt-based media such as 0.1× phosphate buffered saline (PBS) when the device electrodes are passivated with a dielectric layer. We also show manipulation of murine pancreatic cancer cells suspended in a sugar-based (8.5% w/v sucrose and 0.3% w/v dextrose) isotonic medium. The ability to trap mammalian cells and deposit them in custom patterns enables high-impact applications such as determining their biomechanical properties and 3D bioprinting for tissue scaffolding.


This is the published version of the Gupta, K., Moon, HR., Chen, Z. et al. Optically induced electrothermal microfluidic tweezers in bio-relevant media. Sci Rep 13, 9819 (2023).