Micromagnet arrays for on-chip focusing, switching, and separation of superparamagnetic beads and single cells†
Nonlinear magnetophoresis (NLM) is a novel approach for on-chip transport and separation of superparamagnetic (SPM) beads, based on a travelling magnetic field wave generated by the combination of a micromagnet array (MMA) and an applied rotating magnetic field. Here, we present two novel MMA designs that allow SPM beads to be focused, sorted, and separated on-chip. Converging MMAs were used to rapidly collect the SPM beads from a large region of the chip and focus them into synchronised lines. We characterise the collection efficiency of the devices and demonstrate that they can facilitate on-chip analysis of populations of SPM beads using a single-point optical detector. The diverging MMAs were used to control the transport of the beads and to separate them based on their size. The separation efficiency of these devices was determined by the orientation of the magnetisation of the micromagnets relative to the external magnetic field and the size of the beads and relative to that of micromagnets. By controlling these parameters and the rotation of the external magnetic field we demonstrated the controlled transport of SPM bead-labelled single MDA-MB-231 cells. The use of these novel MMAs promises to allow magnetically-labelled cells to be efficiently isolated and then manipulated on-chip for analysis with high-resolution chemical and physical techniques.