Precise steering of particles in electroosmotically actuated microfluidic devices
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In this thesis, we show how to combine microfluidics and feedback control to independently steer multiple particles with micrometer accuracy in two dimensions. The particles are steered by creating a fluid flow that carries all the particles from where they are to where they should be at each time step. Our control loop comprises sensing, computation, and actuation to steer particles along user-input trajectories. Particle positions are identified in real-time by an optical system and transferred to a control algorithm that then determines the electrode voltages necessary to create a flow field to carry all the particles to their next desired locations. The process repeats at the next time instant. Our method achieves inexpensive steering of particles by using conventional electroosmotic actuation in microfluidic channels. This type of particle steering has significant advantages over other particle steering methods, such as laser tweezers. (Laser tweezers cannot steer reflective particles, or particles where the index of refraction is lower than (or for more sophisticated optical vortex holographic tweezers does not differ substantially from) that of the surrounding medium.). In this thesis, we address three specific aspects of this technology. First, we develop the control algorithms for steering multiple particles independently and validate our control techniques using simulations with realistic sources of initial position errors and system uncertainties. Second, we develop optimal path planning methods to efficiently steer particles between given initial and final positions. Third, we design high performance microfluidic devices that are capable of simultaneously steering five particles in experiment.