The role of channel height and actuation method on particle manipulation in surface acoustic wave (SAW)-driven microfluidic devices

Citsabehsan Devendran, David J. Collins, Adrian Neild

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Surface acoustic wave (SAW) micromanipulation offers modularity, easy integration into microfluidic devices and a high degree of flexibility. A major challenge for acoustic manipulation, however, is the existence of a lower limit on the minimum particle size that can be manipulated. As particle size reduces, the drag force resulting from acoustic streaming dominates over acoustic radiation forces; reducing this threshold is key to manipulating smaller specimens. To address this, we investigate a novel excitation configuration based on diffractive-acoustic SAW (DASAW) actuation and demonstrate a reduction in the critical minimum particle size which can be manipulated. DASAW exploits the inherent diffractive effects arising from a limited transducer area in a microchannel, requiring only a travelling SAW (TSAW) to generate time-averaged pressure gradients. We show that these acoustic fields focus particles at the channel walls, and further compare this excitation mode with more typical standing SAW (SSAW) actuation. Compared to SSAW, DASAW reduces acoustic streaming effects whilst generating a comparable pressure field. The result of these factors is a critical particle size with DASAW (1 μ m) that is significantly smaller than that for SSAW actuation (1.85 μ m), for polystyrene particles and a given λSAW = 200 μ m. We further find that streaming magnitude can be tuned in a DASAW system by changing the channel height, noting optimum channel heights for particle collection as a function of the fluid wavelength at which streaming velocities are minimised in both DASAW and SSAW devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages14
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022


  • Acoustofluidics
  • Microfluidics
  • Particle manipulation
  • Surface acoustic waves

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