Optimal MEMS device for mobility and zeta potential measurements using DC electrophoresis

We have developed a novel microchannel geometry that allows us to perform simple DC electrophoresis to measure the electrophoretic mobility and zeta potential of analytes and particles. In standard capillary geometries, mobility measurements using DC fields are difficult to perform. Specifically, measurements in open capillaries require knowledge of the hard to measure and often dynamic wall surface potential. Although measurements in closed capillaries eliminate this requirement, the measurements must be performed at infinitesimally small regions of zero flow where the pressure driven-flow completely cancels the electroosmotic flow (Komagata Planes). Furthermore, applied DC fields lead to electrode polarization, further questioning the reliability and accuracy of the measurement. In contrast, our geometry expands and moves the Komagata planes to where velocity gradients are at a minimum, and thus knowledge of the precise location of a Komagata plane is not necessary. Additionally, our microfluidic device prevents electrode polarization because of fluid recirculation around the electrodes. We fabricated our device using standard MEMS fabrication techniques and performed electrophoretic mobility measurements on 500 nm fluorescently tagged polystyrene particles at various buffer concentrations. Results are comparable to two different commercial dynamic light scattering based particle sizing instruments. We conclude with guidelines to further develop this robust electrophoretic tool that allows for facile and efficient particle characterization.

Karam, P.R., Dukhin, A. and Pennathur, S.
Volume: 38
Number: 9-10
Pages: 1245–1250
Date: May, 2017
ICB Affiliated Authors: Sumita Pennathur