Insulating Dielectrophoresis (iDEP)

Technology Summary

Dielectrophoresis (DEP) is the motion of particles toward or away from regions of high electric-field intensity. This motion is produced by the action of an electric field on dipole moments induced in the particle and the suspending fluid by the electric field. To date, microfabricated DEP-based devices have typically used embedded metal electrodes to apply spatially nonuniform, time-varying (AC) electric fields. At Sandia, we have developed an alternative method, themed Insulating Dielectrophoresis (iDEP) in which arrays of insulating posts in a channel of a microchip produce the spatially nonuniform fields needed for DEP. iDEP is a novel method for the dielectrophoretic manipulation of particles and cells for sample preparation and analysis.


Sandia has developed various patents related to insulating dielectrophoresis. Some of the technologies include the elimination of the use of conventional embedded electrodes or a continuous-flow filter/concentrator for separating and/or concentrating particles in a fluid. Sandia's patents include numerous methods and devices for analyte concentration and detection using insulator-based dielectrophoresis and impedance-based particle detection. 


  • Allows for fluidic manipulation (e.g., sorting, enrichment) of particles
  • Eliminates the use of conventional embedded electrodes and substitutes in their place insulating flow structures that create spatially inhomogeneous electric fields that effect dielectric transport
  • Allows for trapping of single particles allowing an analyte to be studied
  • Lower costs because it does not require multiple electrode fabrication
  • Simpler to design, mainly because there is no need to worry about nonspecific adsorption on electrodes

Applications and Industries

  • Effective way to trap, manipulate, and separate particles ranging from DNA strands to blood cells and large proteins to bacteria and viruses to mammalian cells
  • Biomedical research, clinical diagnostics, and environmental analysis
  • Assessing cell electrophysiology as a marker for cancer studies and drug interaction assessments
  • Sample preparation for extracting cells from blood
  • May lead to advances in diagnostics and pathogen detection
  • A method for separating metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes

Additional Information


Eric Cummings and Anup K. Singh. (2003, September). "Dielectrophoresis in Microchips Containing Arrays of Insulating Posts: Theoretical and Experimental Results." Analytical Chemistry. 75(18), pp 4724-4731. Available:

Eric B. Cummings. (2003, November/December). "Streaming Dielectrophoresis for Continuous-Flow Microfluidic Devices." IEEE Engeneering in Medicine and Biology Magazine. 22(6), pp 75-84. Available:

Andrew J. Skulan, Louise M. Barrett, Anup K. Singh, Eric B. Cummings, and Gregory J. Fiechtner. (2005, September). "Fabrication and Analysis of Spatially Uniform Field Electrokinetic Flow Devices: Theory and Experiment". Analytical Chemistry. [online]. 77(21), pp 6790-6797. Available:

Blanca Lapizco-Encinas, Blake Simmons, Eric Cummings, Yolanda Fintschenko. (2004). "Insulator-based Dielectrophoresis for the Selective Concentration and Separation of Live Bacteria in Water." Dielectrophoresis. 25, pp 1695-1704. Available:

Blake Simmons, Gregory McGraw, Rafael Davalos, Gregory Fiechtner, Yolanda Fintschenko, and Eric Cummings. (2006). "The Development of Polymeric Devices as Dielectrophoretic Separators and Concentrators, Material Research Society." MRS Bulletin. 32(02), pp 120-124. Available:

Louise Barrett, Andrew Skulan, Anup Singh, Eric Cummings, and Gregory Fiechtner. (2005). "Dielectrophoretic Manipulation of Particles and Cells Using Insulating Ridges in Faceted Prism Microchannels." Analytical Chemistry. 77 (21), pp 6798-6804. Available:

Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Dielectrophoresis device and method having non-uniform arrays for manipulating particles 8481.0 7,419,574 09/02/2008
Insulator-based DEP with impedance measurements for analyte detection 10477.0 7,678,256 03/16/2010
System for concentrating and analyzing particles suspended in a fluid 8483.2 7,931,792 04/26/2011
Apparatus and method for concentrating and filtering particles suspended in a fluid 8483.1 7,534,334 05/19/2009
Continuous flow dielectrophoretic particle concentrator 8347.0 7,204,923 04/17/2007
Methods and devices for high-throughput dielectrophoretic concentration 8554.1 7,666,289 02/23/2010
Dielectrophoresis device and method having insulating ridges for manipulating particles 8480.0 7,347,923 03/25/2008
Dielectrophoretic systems without embedded electrodes 8318.0 7,014,747 03/21/2006
Concentration and separation of biological organisms by ultrafiltration and dielectrophoresis 8597.1 7,811,439 10/12/2010
Dielectrophoresis device and method having nonuniform arrays for manipulating particles 8,257,571 09/04/2012
Method for concentration and separation of biological organisms by ultrafiltration and dielectrophoresis 8,257,568 09/04/2012
Technology IDSD#6728Development StagePrototypeAvailabilityAvailablePublished09/29/2011Last Updated01/30/2013