Dielectrophoretic sample preparation for environmental monitoring of microorganisms: Soil particle removal.

PMID 25379100


Detection of pathogens from environmental samples is often hampered by sensors interacting with environmental particles such as soot, pollen, or environmental dust such as soil or clay. These particles may be of similar size to the target bacterium, preventing removal by filtration, but may non-specifically bind to sensor surfaces, fouling them and causing artefactual results. In this paper, we report the selective manipulation of soil particles using an AC electrokinetic microfluidic system. Four heterogeneous soil samples (smectic clay, kaolinitic clay, peaty loam, and sandy loam) were characterised using dielectrophoresis to identify the electrical difference to a target organism. A flow-cell device was then constructed to evaluate dielectrophoretic separation of bacteria and clay in a continous flow through mode. The average separation efficiency of the system across all soil types was found to be 68.7% with a maximal separation efficiency for kaolinitic clay at 87.6%. This represents the first attempt to separate soil particles from bacteria using dielectrophoresis and indicate that the technique shows significant promise; with appropriate system optimisation, we believe that this preliminary study represents an opportunity to develop a simple yet highly effective sample processing system.