Electrophoretic exclusion is a counter-flow gradient focusing method that simultaneously separates and concentrates electrokinetic material at a channel entrance utilizing electric and fluid velocity fields. However, its effectiveness is heavily dependent on the non-uniform field gradients about the entrance. This work assesses the capability of electrophoretic exclusion to capture and enrich small molecules and examines the channel entrance region both quantitatively and qualitatively to better understand the separation dynamics for future design.
A flow injection technique is used to experimentally evaluate electrophoretic exclusion of small molecules. Methyl violet, a cationic dye, and visible spectroscopy are used to monitor flow and electrophoretic dynamics at the entrance region resulting in successful capture and simultaneous enrichment of methyl violet at the channel interface. Investigation of the entrance region is performed using both experiment data and finite element analysis modeling to assess regional flow, electric fields, diffusion, convection, and electrophoretic migration. Longitudinal fluid velocity and electric field gradient magnitudes near the channel entrance are quantified using Particle Tracking Velocimetry (PTV) and charged fluorescent microspheres. Lateral studies using rhodamine 123 concentration monitoring agree qualitatively with simulation results indicating decreased gradient uniformity for both electric and fluid velocity fields closer to the channel wall resulting in a localized concentration enhancement at lower applied voltages than previously observed or predicted. Resolution interrogation from both a theoretical assessment and simulation construct demonstrate resolution improvement with decreased channel width and placement of an electrode directly at the interface. Simulation resolution predictions are in general agreement with early experimental assessments, both suggesting species with electrophoretic mobilities as similar as 10-9 m2/(Vs) can be separated with the current design. These studies have helped evolve the understanding of the interface region and set the foundation for further interface developments.