High throughput imaging cytometer with acoustic focussing†
We demonstrate an imaging flow cytometer that uses acoustic levitation to assemble cells and other particles into a sheet structure. This technique enables a high resolution, low noise CMOS camera to capture images of thousands of cells with each frame. While ultrasonic focussing has previously been demonstrated for 1D cytometry systems, extending the technology to a planar, much higher throughput format and integrating imaging is non-trivial, and represents a significant jump forward in capability, leading to diagnostic possibilities not achievable with current systems. A galvo mirror is used to track the images of the moving cells permitting exposure times of 10 ms at frame rates of 50 fps with motion blur of only a few pixels. At 80 fps, we demonstrate a throughput of 208 000 beads per second. We investigate the factors affecting motion blur and throughput, and demonstrate the system with fluorescent beads, leukaemia cells and a chondrocyte cell line. Cells require more time to reach the acoustic focus than beads, resulting in lower throughputs; however a longer device would remove this constraint.