Viscoelastic microfluidics becomes an efficient and label-free hydrodynamic technology to enrich and separate micrometer-scale particles, including blood cells, circulating tumor cells, and bacteria.However, the manipulation of nanoscale particles by viscoelastic microfluidics remains a major challenge, because the viscoelastic force acting on the smaller particle decreases dramatically. In contrast to the commonly used polymer solutions of high molecular weight, herein we utilize the aqueous solutions of poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) of low molecular weight with minimized shear thinning but sufficient elastic force for high-quality focusing and separation of various nanoparticles. The focusing efficiencies of 100 nm polystyrene (PS) nanoparticles and λ-DNA molecules are 84% and 85%, respectively, in a double spiral microchannel, without the aid of sheath flows. Furthermore, we demonstrate the size-based viscoelastic separation of two sets of binary mixtures-100/2000 nm PS particles and λ-DNA molecules/blood platelets-all achieving separation efficiencies of >95% in the same device. Our proposal technique would be a promising approach for enrichment/separation of the nanoparticles encountered in applications of analytical chemistry and nanotechnology.
This work was supported financially by NSFC, the CAS Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, and the CAS Strategic Priority Research Program.
Liu, C.; Ding, B.; Xue, C.; Tian, Y.; Hu, G. & Sun, J. Sheathless focusing and separation of diverse nanoparticles in viscoelastic solutions with minimized shear thinning. Analytical Chemistry (2016, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b04564)