Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Oktay Baysal

Committee Member

Shizhi Qian

Committee Member

Julie Zhili Hao

Committee Member

Yan Peng


The ability to accurately control micro- and nano-particles in a liquid is fundamentally useful for many applications in biology, medicine, pharmacology, tissue engineering, and microelectronics. Therefore, first particle manipulations are experimentally studied using electrodes attached to the bottom of a straight microchannel under an imposed DC or AC electric field. In contrast to a dielectric microchannel possessing a nearly-uniform surface charge, a floating electrode is polarized under the imposed electric field.

The purpose is to create a non-uniform distribution of the induced surface charge, with a zero-net-surface charge along the floating electrode's surface. Such a field, in turn, generates an induced-charge electro-osmotic (ICED) flow near the metal strip. The demonstrations by using single and multiple floating electrodes at the bottom of a straight microchannel, with induced DC electric field, include particle enrichment, movement, trapping, reversal of motion, separation, and particle focusing. A flexible strategy for the on-demand control of the particle enrichment and positioning is also proposed and demonstrated by using a locally-controlled floating metal electrode. Then, under an externally imposed AC electric field, the particle deposition onto a floating electrode, which is placed in a closed circular cavity, has been experimentally investigated.

In the second part of the study, another particle manipulation method was computationally investigated. The diffusiophoretic and electrodiffusiophoretic motion of a charged spherical particle in a nanopore is subjected to an axial electrolyte concentration gradient. The charged particle experiences electrophoresis because of the imposed electric field and the diffusiophoresis is caused solely by the imposed concentration gradient. Depending on the magnitude and direction of the imposed concentration gradient, the particle's electrophoretic motion can be accelerated, decelerated, and even reversed in a nanopore by the superimposed diffusiophoresis.

Based on the results demonstrated in the present study, it is entirely conceivable to extend the development to design devices for the following objectives: (1) to enrich the concentration of, say, DNA or RNA, and to increase their concentrations at a desired location. (2) to act as a filtration device, wherin the filtration can be achieved without blocking the microfluidic channel and without any porous material. (3) to act as a microfluidic valve, where the particles can be locally trapped in any desired location and the direction can be switched as desired. (4) to create nanocomposite material formation or even a thin nanocomposite film formation on the floating electrode. (5) to create a continuous concentration-gradient-generator nanofluidic device that may be obtained for nanoparticle translocation process. This may achieve nanometer-scale spatial accuracy sample sequencing by simultaneously controlling the electric field and concentration gradient.