Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research


An Impedimetric Approach for Accurate Particle Sizing using a Micro Coulter Counter

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In this paper, we present the design, impedimetric characterization and testing of a microfabricated Coulter counter for particle size measurement that uses a pair of thin film coplanar Au/Ti electrodes. An electrical equivalent circuit model of the designed device is analyzed. Accurate measurement of particle size was achieved by operating the device at a frequency for which the overall impedance is dominated by the channel resistance. A combination of design features, including the use of a pair of sensing electrodes with a surface area of 100 µm by 435 µm, a spacing of 1785 µm between the two sensing electrodes and a 350 µm long microchannel, ensures that this resistance dominates over a range of relatively low frequencies. The device was characterized for NaCl electrolyte solutions with different ionic concentrations ranging from 10−5 to 0.1 M. Results proved that the resistive behavior of the sensor occurs over a range of relatively low frequencies for all tested concentrations. The Coulter counter was then used to detect 30 µm polystyrene particles at a selected excitation frequency. Testing results demonstrated that the device can accurately measure particle sizes with small error. The design can be extended to ac Coulter counters with sub-micron sensing channels. Analysis of three designs of ac Coulter counters including sub-micron sensing channels using the electrical equivalent circuit model predicts that they can be operated at even lower frequencies, to accurately size nanoscale particles.

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Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering





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