Dielectrophoresis (DEP) is an electrokinetic (EK) transport mechanism that exploits polarization effects when particles are exposed to a non-uniform electric field. This dissertation focused on the development of high-performance insulator-based DEP (iDEP) devices. A detailed analysis of the spatial forces that contribute to particle movement in an iDEP device is provided. In particular, this analysis shows how particle size and shape affects the regions where particles are likely to be retained due to dielectrophoretic trapping. The performance of these trapping regions was optimized using a systematic approach that integrates the geometrical parameters of the array of insulating structures. Devices that decrease the required electrical potential by ~80% where found. The optimization strategy enabled the detection of structures that promote and discourage particle trapping. By combining the "best" and "worst" structures in a single asymmetric structure, a novel iDEP device was designed. This device selectively enriches the larger particles in a sample and drives the smaller particles away from the enrichment region. A quick enrichment and elution of large cells was achieved. This is important when dealing with samples containing eukaryotic cells, which can be harmed by the electrical treatment. Yeast cells were successfully separated from polystyrene particles in under 40 seconds using this device and a high cell viability of 85% was achieved. Finally, an enhancement of traditional iDEP devices is proposed, where some insulating posts are replaced by conducting structures. That is, insulating and conductive posts are intimately combined within the same array. The performance of this hybrid device is presented to show the advantage of using insulating structures with microelectrodes in the same array to dominate particle movement.
Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)
Department, Program, or Center
Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)
Blanca H. Lapizco-Encinas
Thomas R. Gaborski
Saucedo-Espinosa, Mario A., "Improving the Design and Application of Insulator-Based Dielectrophoretic Devices for the Assessment of Complex Mixtures" (2017). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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