A method has been developed for concentrating, or partly separating, particles of a selected species from a liquid or gas containing these particles, and flowing in a channel. An example of this is to promote an accumulation (and thus concentration) of the selected particle (e.g., biological species such as E. coli, salmonella, anthrax, tobacco mosaic virus or herpes simplex, and non-biological materials such as nano- and microparticles, quantum dots, nanowires, nanotubes, and other inorganic particles) adjacent to the first surface.

Additionally, this method can also determine if the particle species is present in the liquid. This is accomplished by providing an insulating material in an interstitial volume between two or more adjacent nanostructure electrodes. It can also be accomplished by providing a functionalizing substance, located on a selected region of the insulating material surface, which promotes attachment of the selected species particles to the functionalized surface, and measuring a selected electrical property such as electrical impedance, conductance, or capacitance.

A time-varying electrical field E, having a root-mean-square intensity of E2 rms, with a non-zero gradient in a direction transverse to the liquid or fluid flow direction, is produced by a nanostructure electrode array with a very highmagnitude gradient near exposed electrode tips. A dielectrophoretic force causes the selected particles to accumulate near the electrode tips, if the medium and selected particles have substantially different dielectric constants. An insulating material surrounds most of the nanostructure electrodes, and a region of the insulating material surface is functionalized to promote attachment of the selected particle species to the surface. An electrical property value Z(meas) is measured at the functionalized surface, and is compared with a reference value Z(ref) to determine if the selected species particles are attached to the functionalized surface.

Some advantages of this innovation are that an array of nanostructure electrodes can provide an electric field intensity gradient that is one or more orders of magnitude greater than the corresponding gradient provided by a conventional microelectrode arrangement, and that, as a result of the highmagnitude field intensity gradients, a nanostructure concentrator can trap particles from high-speed microfluidic flows. This is critical for applications where the entire analysis must be performed in a few minutes.

This work was done by Jun Li, Alan M. Cassell, and Prabhu U. Arumugam of Ames Research Center. Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at 1- 855-NASA-BIZ (1-855-6272-249). ARC-15967-1