Charge-Based Separation of Micro- and Nanoparticles
Deterministic Lateral Displacement (DLD) is a label-free particle sorting method that separates by size continuously and with high resolution. By combining DLD with electric fields (eDLD), we show separation of a variety of nano and micro-sized particles primarily by their zeta potential. Zeta potential is an indicator of electrokinetic charge—the charge corresponding to the electric field at the shear plane—an important property of micro- and nanoparticles in colloidal or separation science. We also demonstrate proof of principle of separation of nanoscale liposomes of different lipid compositions, with strong relevance for biomedicine. We perform careful characterization of relevant experimental conditions necessary to obtain adequate sorting of different particle types. By choosing a combination of frequency and amplitude, sorting can be made sensitive to the particle subgroup of interest. The enhanced displacement effect due to electrokinetics is found to be significant at low frequency and for particles with high zeta potential. The effect appears to scale with the square of the voltage, suggesting that it is associated with either non-linear electrokinetics or dielectrophoresis (DEP). However, since we observe large changes in separation behavior over the frequency range at which DEP forces are expected to remain constant, DEP can be ruled out.