Separation, Characterization, and Handling of Microalgae by Dielectrophoresis

Microorganisms. 2020 Apr 9;8(4):540. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8040540.


Microalgae biotechnology has a high potential for sustainable bioproduction of diverse high-value biomolecules. Some of the main bottlenecks in cell-based bioproduction, and more specifically in microalgae-based bioproduction, are due to insufficient methods for rapid and efficient cell characterization, which contributes to having only a few industrially established microalgal species in commercial use. Dielectrophoresis-based microfluidic devices have been long established as promising tools for label-free handling, characterization, and separation of broad ranges of cells. The technique is based on differences in dielectric properties and sizes, which results in different degrees of cell movement under an applied inhomogeneous electrical field. The method has also earned interest for separating microalgae based on their intrinsic properties, since their dielectric properties may significantly change during bioproduction, in particular for lipid-producing species. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of dielectrophoresis-based microfluidic devices that are used for handling, characterization, and separation of microalgae. Additionally, we provide a perspective on related areas of research in cell-based bioproduction that can benefit from dielectrophoresis-based microdevices. This work provides key information that will be useful for microalgae researchers to decide whether dielectrophoresis and which method is most suitable for their particular application.

Keywords: cell sorting; dielectrophoresis; microalgae; microfluidics.

Publication types

  • Review