Dielectric polarization-based separations in an ionic solution
A novel non-electrophoretic, electric field-based separation mechanism capable of transporting ions based on their dielectric properties is presented here for the first time. Though this polarization-based mechanism behaves similarly to dielectrophoresis, the separation mechanism is remarkably very efficient at small length scales compared to any dielectrophoretic separation mechanism for particles. For an applied electric field of strength as low as ∼0.75 MV m−1 across a 100 μm channel, the working solute – sodium fluorescein – is shown to decrease in its concentration by ≈20% in electric field region relative to the non electric field region. The existing macroscopic theoretical models like electrohydrodynamics and equilibrium thermodynamics are shown to underestimate the concentration change by two orders of magnitude for the same electric field strength. This surprisingly large difference between theory and experimental results suggests that the electric field-based equilibrium thermodynamic model lacks a key physics.