Insulator-based dielectrophoretic single particle and single cancer cell trapping

Sanchari Bhattacharya, Tzu Chiao Chao, Alexandra Ros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Trapping of individual cells at specific locations in a microfluidic lab-on-a-chip platform is essential for single cell studies, especially those requiring individual stimulation followed by downstream analysis. To this aim, we have designed microdevices based on direct current (DC) insulator-based dielectrophoresis (iDEP) acting as individual single cell traps. We present both the design of a negative iDEP trap and a positive iDEP trap using insulating posts integrated at microchannel intersections. We obtained electric field distributions via numerical simulations adapted to the intersection and trap geometry with which we predict single particle pathlines. With polystyrene particles of 10μm diameter, we demonstrated an effective design for a single particle trap in the case of negative dielectrophoresis. The onset trapping voltage shows an inverse relation to the buffer conductivity, thus indicating the influence of electrokinetic effects on the trapping behavior. Additionally, we demonstrated the proof-of-principle of single MCF-7 breast cancer cell trapping in a positive iDEP trap. Our single particle trapping experiments were further in very good agreement with numerical simulations. To ensure that no significant damage occurred to the cells during the experiment, we further optimized medium conditions to ensure viability of the cells for at least 1h, more than sufficient for microfluidic trapping experiments. Our results thus indicated the successful design of DC iDEP traps, which can easily be integrated into a variety of microchip operations for single cell analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2550-2558
Number of pages9
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Insulator-based dielectrophoresis
  • MCF-7 cells
  • Microparticles
  • Single cell trap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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