Microchip for automated manipulation of biological cells through electric fields
Micro/nano technologies capable of extracting rich-information content from individual biological cells are at high demand not only in life science research but also in pharmaceutical industry for the discovery of new cures. We have been working on a microfluidic chip which can electrically monitor behavior of biological cells in response to applied chemical compounds for drug effect.
This method requires an automated procedure for the selection and precise manipulation of individual cells to active recording sites on chip. For this purpose, this project aims at implementing the principle of dielectrophoresis on our chip. Dielectrophoresis induces a net motive force on biological cells by electrically polarizing them in the presence of non-uniform electric field. Subsequently, the cells move towards the field maximum or minimum (active recording sites). Non-uniform electric field is generated by energizing microelectrodes fabricated on the chip.
The results of this project will benefit the overall chip design as a drug-discovery platform in which multitude of biological cells will be automatically micro-positioned at the same time in an array of active recording sites.
The student will carry out electric-field simulations on various microelectrode geometries for the desired non-uniform electric field profile. The student will then design and fabricate chips based on the simulation results using micro/nano fabrication tools. The student will characterize the chips for automated positioning of biological cells and analyze the findings by comparing experimental and simulation results.
Applicant's Learning Objectives:
This is a highly interdisciplinary project at the intersection of engineering, science and biology. The student will learn the theory of dielectrophoresis (how the small particles like cells get manipulated in the presence of non-uniform electric field). The student will learn about microfabrication techniques and making of microfluidic chips. The student will also get the chance to experimentally characterize microfluidic chips with biological cells.