Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 125–133 | Cite as

Thermally biased AC electrokinetic pumping effect for Lab-on-a-chip based delivery of biofluids

  • Quan Yuan
  • Jie WuEmail author


One major motivation for microfluidic research is to develop point of care diagnostic tools, which often demands a solution for chip-scale pumping that is of low cost, small size and light weight. Electrokinetics has been extensively studied for disposable pumping since only electrodes are needed to induce microflows. However, it encounters difficulties with conductive biofluids because of the associated high salt content. In electrokinetic pumps, electrodes are in direct contact with fluid, so high salt content will compress the electric double layer that is essential to electroosmostic flows. Alternating current electrothermal (ACET) effect is the only electrokinetic method found viable for biofluid actuation. While high frequency (>10 kHz) operation can suppress electrochemical reactions, electrical potential that could be applied over biofluids is still limited within several volts due to risk of electrolysis or impedance mismatch. Since ACET flow velocity has a quartic dependence on the voltage, ACET flows would be rather slow if electric field alone is used for actuation. This work studies the effect of a thermal bias on enhancing AC electrokinetic pumping. With proper imposition of external thermal gradients, significant improvement in flow velocity has been demonstrated by numerical simulation and preliminary experiments. Both showed that with 4 Vrms at 100 kHz, flow velocity increased from ~10 μm/s when there was no thermal biasing to ~112 μm/s when a heat flux was applied.


Microfluidics Electrokinetics Lab on a chip Micropump 



This study was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No. ECS-0448896. Micro fabrication of this research was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, which is sponsored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory by the Scientific User Facilities Division, U.S. Department of Energy.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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