Researchers are actively developing devices for the microanalysis of complex fluids, such as blood. These devices have the potential to revolutionize biological analysis in a manner parallel to the computer chip by providing very high throughput screening of complex samples and massively parallel bioanalytical capabilities. A necessary step performed in clinical chemistry is the isolation of plasma from whole blood, and effective sample preparation techniques are needed for the development of miniaturized clinical diagnostic devices. This study demonstrates the use of passive, operating entirely on capillary action, transverse-flow microfilter devices for the microfluidic isolation of plasma from whole blood. Using these planar microfilters, blood can be controllably fractionated with minimal cell lysis. A characterization of the device performance reveals that plasma filter flux is dependent upon the wall shear rate of blood in the filtration channel, and this result is consistent with macroscale blood filtration using microporous membranes. Also, an innovative microfluidic layout is demonstrated that extends device operation time via capillary action from seconds to minutes. Efficiency of these microfilters is approximately three times higher than the separation efficiencies predicted for microporous membranes under similar conditions. As such, the application of the microscale blood filtration designs used in this study may have broad implications in the design of lab-on-a-chip devices, as well as the field of separation science.
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