A split microchannel design and analytical model to compensate for electroosmotic instabilities in micro-separations

Jennifer Monahan, Kari A. Fosser, Andrew A. Gewirth, Ralph G. Nuzzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organic polymers offer many advantages as materials for the construction of microfluidic devices but suffer frequently from the limitation that the electrodynamic flow they support can exhibit considerable instability. This article describes a split-channel microfluidic device that can be used to compensate for changes in electroosmotic flow. The design of the separation system divides an analyte plug after injection between two separation channels of differing length. The two channels are later recombined for single point detection, eliminating the need for a scanning optical detection system. The utility of this simple design lies in the fact that the migration time of any analyte can be referenced to its twin in the parallel separation channel. This eliminates the need for a separate electroosmotic marker and allows mobilities measured in multiple devices to be compared quantitatively. Using a model adopted from the literature, the data from the split channel system can be used to precisely account for the drift that characterizes electrophoretic separations made in a polymer chip. The relative standard deviations of the analyte mobilities measured for replicate runs on multiple devices were reduced from values as high as 20% to ca. 1% RSD. This internal standardization procedure also appears to address other sources of drift in the electroosmotic flow (EOF) supported by the polymer microchannel, eliminating the need for careful monitoring of either the temperature or reservoir pH between separation runs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalLab on a Chip - Miniaturisation for Chemistry and Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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