Three-dimensional hydrodynamic focusing in a microfluidic Coulter counter

Electrical impedance-based particle detection or Coulter counting, offers a lab-on-chip compatible method for flow cytometry. Developments in this area will produce devices with greater portability, lower cost, and lower power requirements than fluorescence-based flow cytometry. Because conventional Coulter apertures are prone to clogging, hydrodynamic focusing improves the device by creating fluid-walled channels with variable width to increase sensitivity without the associated risk of blocking the channel. We describe a device that focuses the sample in three dimensions, creating a narrow sample stream on the floor of the channel for close interaction with sensing electrodes. The key to this design is a stepped outlet channel fabricated in a single layer with soft lithography. In contrast to previous impedance-based designs, the new design requires minimal alignment with the substrate. Three-dimensional focusing maximizes the sensitivity of the device to cell-size particles within much larger channels. Impedance-based particle sensing experiments within this device show an increase in percentage conductivity change by a factor of 2.5 over devices that only focus the sample in the horizontal direction.

Scott, R., P. Sethu, C. K. Harnett

Rev. Sci. Instrum.






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