Deterministic lateral displacement (DLD) is a well-known microfluidic technique for particle separation with high potential for integration into bioreactors for therapeutic applications. Separation is based on the interaction of suspended particles in a liquid flowing through an array of microposts under low Reynolds conditions. This technique has been used previously to separate living cells of different sizes but similar shapes. Here, we present a DLD microchip to separate rod-shaped bacterial cells up to 10 µm from submicron spherical minicells. We designed two microchips with 50 and 25 µm cylindrical posts and spacing of 15 and 2.5 µm, respectively. Soft lithography was used to fabricate polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) chips, which were assessed at different flow rates for their separation potential. The results showed negligible shear effect on the separation efficiency for both designs. However, the higher flow rates resulted in faster separation. We optimized the geometrical parameters including the shape, size, angle and critical radii of the posts and the width and depth of the channel as well as the number of arrays to achieve separation efficiency as high as 75.5% on a single-stage separation. These results pave the way for high-throughput separation and purification modules with the potential of direct integration into bioreactors.
Keywords: Escherichia coli; bacterial cell separation; deterministic lateral displacement; microfluidics; minicells.