Disaggregation of microparticle clusters by induced magnetic dipole–dipole repulsion near a surface†
Ensembles of magnetic particles are known to align and aggregate into multi-particle clusters in an applied magnetic field, and the physical laws governing these processes are well described in literature. However, it has been elusive how to achieve the opposite process, i.e. the disaggregation of particle clusters in a magnetic field. We report a novel method to disaggregate clusters of superparamagnetic microparticles using time-dependent magnetic fields. The disaggregating field is designed to generate repulsive dipole–dipole forces between the particles and to stabilize the disaggregated particles on a physical surface. We demonstrate the disaggregation of large clusters of several tens of particles, within about one minute, using fields generated by a multipole electromagnet. After the disaggregation process the particles are uniformly distributed over the surface and ready for further lab-on-chip processing. Our results represent a novel methodology to disaggregate magnetic particle clusters and thereby improve the effectiveness and reproducibility of biological assays based on magnetic microparticles.