This study presents a method for density-based separation of monodisperse encapsulated cells using a standing surface acoustic wave (SSAW) in a microchannel. Even though monodisperse polymer beads can be generated by the state-of-the-art technology in microfluidics, the quantity of encapsulated cells cannot be controlled precisely. In the present study, mono-disperse alginate beads in a laminar flow can be separated based on their density using acoustophoresis. A mixture of beads of equal sizes but dissimilar densities was hydrodynamically focused at the entrance and then actively driven toward the sidewalls by a SSAW. The lateral displacement of a bead is proportional to the density of the bead, i.e., the number of encapsulated cells in an alginate bead. Under optimized conditions, the recovery rate of a target bead group (large-cell-quantity alginate beads) reached up to 97% at a rate of 2300 beads per minute. A cell viability test also confirmed that the encapsulated cells were hardly damaged by the acoustic force. Moreover, cell-encapsulating beads that were cultured for 1 day were separated in a similar manner. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that a SSAW can successfully separate monodisperse particles by their density. With the present technique for separating cell-encapsulating beads, the current cell engineering technology can be significantly advanced.
This article was published online in Biomicrofluidics and is free to access.