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Thermometry in dielectrophoresis chips for contact-free cell handling

: Jaeger, M.S.; Müller, T.; Schnelle, T.


Journal of Physics. D. Applied Physics 40 (2007), No.1, pp.95-105
ISSN: 0022-3727
ISSN: 1361-6463
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IBMT ()

Cell biology applications, protocols in immunology and stem cell research, require that individual cells are handled under strict control of their contacts to other cells or synthetic surfaces. Dielectrophoresis (DEP) in microfluidic chips is an established technique to investigate, group, wash, cultivate and sort cells contact-free under physiological conditions: microelectrode octode cages, versatile dielectrophoretic elements energized with radio frequency electric fields, stably trap single cells or cellular aggregates. For medical applications and cell cultivation, possible side effects of the dielectrophoretic manipulation, such as membrane polarization and Joule heating, have to be quantified. Therefore, we characterized the electric field-induced warming in dielectrophoretic cages using ohmic resistance measurements, fluorometry, liquid crystal beads, infra-red thermography and bubble size thermometry. We compare the results of these techniques with respect to the influences of voltage, electric conductivity of buffer, frequency, cage size and electrode surface. We conclude that in the culture medium thermal effects may be neglected if low voltages and an electric field-reducing phase pattern are used. Our experimental results provide explicit values for estimating the thermal effect on dielectrophoretically caged cells and show that Joule heating is best minimized by optimizing the cage geometry and reducing the buffer conductivity. The results may additionally serve to evaluate and improve theoretical predictions on field-induced effects. Based on present-day chip processing possibilities, DEP is well suited for the manipulation of cells.