In the past decade a large amount of analysis techniques have been scaled down to the microfluidic level. However, in many cases the necessary sample preparation, such as separation, mixing and concentration, remains to be performed off-chip. This represents a major hurdle for the introduction of miniaturized sample-in/answer-out systems, preventing the exploitation of microfluidic’s potential for small, rapid and accurate diagnostic products. New flow engineering methods are required to address this hitherto insufficiently studied aspect. One microfluidic tool that can be used to miniaturize and integrate sample preparation procedures are microvortices. They have been successfully applied as microcentrifuges, mixers, particle separators, to name but a few. In this work, we utilize a novel corner structure at a sudden channel expansion of a microfluidic chip to enhance the formation of a microvortex. For a maximum area of the microvortex, both chip geometry and corner structure were optimized with a computational fluid dynamic (CFD) model. Fluorescent particle trace measurements with the optimized design prove that the corner structure increases the size of the vortex. Furthermore, vortices are induced by the corner structure at low flow rates while no recirculation is observed without a corner structure. Finally, successful separation of plasma from human blood was accomplished, demonstrating a potential application for clinical sample preparation. The extracted plasma was characterized by a flow cytometer and compared to plasma obtained from a standard benchtop centrifuge and from chips without a corner structure.
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