Surface Acoustic Wave Technologies for Rare Cell Sorting

Friday, September 1, 2017 - 2:00pm
3110 Etcheverry Hall
Richard O’Rorke, Ph.D.

Research Fellow

Applied Bio-Microfluids Laboratory

Singapore University of Technology and Design


Fast and efficient separation of rare cells from clinical samples is a key step in medical diagnostics and autologous cell therapies. This can mean finding just a handful of cells in a sample of billions. Whilst FACS (fluorescence activated cell sorting) is the current gold-standard technique, this relies on labelling cells, which adds time and complicates subsequent analysis/use of sorted cells.


Acoustofluidics provides an alternative, label-free method of cell sorting, in which cells are manipulated in a microfluidic device using acoustic fields. One way of generating acoustic fields is by exciting a surface acoustic wave (SAW) along a substrate on which the microfluidic device is placed. These nanometre-amplitude substrate vibrations produce sufficiently large pressure gradients in the liquid to move suspended cells by an acoustic radiation force. Recently, efforts have focused on localising acoustic fields to selectively ‘tweeze’ single cells, via focused SAWs or waveguiding structures. The latter presents a significant design challenge, for which computational modelling may provide a solution.


This talk will explore the variety of ways in which SAWs can be generated and coupled into microfluidic devices to allow cell separation by size, density and dielectric properties. Interesting near-field effects around channel features and waveguides will also be presented and discussed in the context of a spherical wave model of the acoustic field. This rapid computational model opens the door to optimising waveguide design for single cell manipulation.


Richard O’Rorke is a research fellow in the Applied Bio-Microfluidics Laboratory at Singapore University of Technology and Design. His research combines computational modelling and experimental techniques to design acoustofluidic platforms for clinical applications such as rare cell sorting and non-contact mechanobiology. He obtained his PhD in acoustofluidics at the University of Leeds in 2011 and has been engaged in medical engineering research in Singapore since 2013.


Hosted by: Assistant Professor Hayden Taylor, 6159 Etcheverry Hall, 510- 642-4901,