Continuous electroosmotic sorting of particles in grooved microchannels†
We propose a novel microfluidic fractionation concept suitable for neutrally buoyant micron-sized particles. This approach takes advantage of the ability of grooved channel walls oriented at an angle to the direction of an external electric field to generate a transverse electroosmotic flow. Using computer simulations, we first demonstrate that the velocity of this secondary transverse flow depends on the distance from the wall, so neutrally buoyant particles, depending on their size and initial location, will experience different lateral displacements. We then optimize the geometry and orientation of the surface texture of the channel walls to maximize the efficiency of particle fractionation. Our method is illustrated in a full scale computer experiment where we mimic the typical microchannel with a bottom grooved wall and a source of polydisperse particles that are carried along the channel by the forward electroosmotic flow. Our simulations show that the particle dispersion can be efficiently separated by size even in a channel that is only a few texture periods long. These results can guide the design of novel microfluidic devices for efficient sorting of microparticles.