Controlling the fate of particles and cells in microfluidic devices is critical in many biomedical applications, such as particle and cell alignment and separation. Recently, viscoelastic polymer solutions have been successfully used to promote transversal migration of particles and cells toward fixed positions in straight microchannels. When inertia is negligible, numerical simulations have shown that strongly shear-thinning polymer solutions (fluids with a shear viscosity that decreases with increasing flow rates) promote transversal migration of particles and cells toward the corners or toward the centerline in a straight microchannel with a square cross section, as a function of particle size, cell deformability, and channel height. However, no experimental evidence of such shifting in the positions for particles or cells suspended in strongly shear-thinning liquids has been presented so far. In this work, we demonstrate that particle positions over the channel cross section can be shifted "from the edge to the center" in a strongly shear-thinning liquid. We investigate the viscoelasticity-induced migration of both rigid particles and living cells (Jurkat cells and NIH 3T3 fibroblasts) in an aqueous 0.8 wt % hyaluronic acid solution. The combined effect of fluid elasticity, shear-thinning, geometric confinement, and cell deformability on the distribution of the particle/cell positions over the channel cross section is presented and discussed. In the same shear-thinning liquid, separation of 10 and 20 μm particles is also achieved in a straight microchannel with an abrupt expansion. Our results envisage further applications in viscoelasticity-based microfluidics, such as deformability-based cell separation and viscoelastic spacing of particles/cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry