National Research Council of Canada. Medical Devices
Microfluidic filtration; Sample preparation; Hot embossing; Food safety inspection
Detecting pathogenic bacteria in food or other biological samples with lab-on-a-chip (LOC) devices requires several sample preparation steps prior to analysis which commonly involves cleaning complex sample matrices of large debris. This often underestimated step is important to prevent these larger particles from clogging devices and to preserve initial concentrations when LOC techniques are used to concentrate or isolate smaller target microorganisms for downstream analysis. In this context, we developed a novel microfluidic system for membrane-free cleaning of biological samples from debris particles by combining hydrodynamic focusing and inertial lateral migration effects. The microfluidic device is fabricated using thermoplastic elastomers being compatible with thermoforming fabrication techniques leading to low-cost single-use devices. Microfluidic chip design and pumping protocols are optimized by investigating diffusive losses numerically with coupled Navier–Stokes and convective-diffusion theoretical models. Stability of inertial lateral migration and separation of debris is assessed through fluorescence microscopy measurements with labelled particles serving as a model system. Efficiency of debris cleaning is experimentally investigated by monitoring microchip outlets with in situ optical turbidity sensors, while retention of targeted pathogens (i.e., Listeria monocytogenes) within the sample stream is assessed through bacterial culture techniques. Optimized pumping protocols can remove up to 50 % of debris from ground beef samples while percentage for preserved microorganisms can account for 95 % in relatively clean samples. However, comparison between inoculated turbid and clean samples (i.e., with and without ground beef debris) indicate some degree of interference between debris inertial lateral migration and hydrodynamic focusing of small microorganisms. Although this interference can lead to significant decrease in chip performance through loss of target bacteria, it remains possible to reach 70 % for sample recovery and more than 50 % for debris removal even in the most turbid samples tested. Due to the relatively simple design, the robustness of the inertial migration effect itself, the high operational flow rates and fabrication methods that leverage low-cost materials, the proposed device can have an impact on a wide range of applications where high-throughput separation of particles and biological species is of interest.
Biomedical Microdevices17, no. 1 (1 February 2015): 1–14.