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Joule heating-induced particle manipulation on a microfluidic chip

ABSTRACTWe develop an electrokinetic technique that continuously manipulates colloidal particles to concentrate into patterned particulate groups in an energy efficient way, by exclusive harnessing of the intrinsic Joule heating effects. Our technique exploits the alternating current electrothermal flow phenomenon which is generated due to the interaction between non-uniform electric and thermal fields. Highly non-uniform electric field generates sharp temperature gradients by generating spatially-varying Joule heat that varies along the radial direction from a concentrated point hotspot. Sharp temperature gradients induce a local variation in electric properties which, in turn, generate a strong electrothermal vortex. The imposed fluid flow brings the colloidal particles at the centre of the hotspot and enables particle aggregation. Furthermore, maneuvering structures of the Joule heating spots, different patterns of particle clustering may be formed in a low power budget, thus opening up a new realm of on-chip particle manipulation process without necessitating a highly focused laser beam which is much complicated and demands higher power budget. This technique can find its use in Lab-on-a-chip devices to manipulate particle groups, including biological cells.

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