Microfluidic Dielectrophoretic Method Enables On-Demand Spatial Arrangement of Bacteria-Encapsulated Agarose Gel Microparticles. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microbial interactions within a natural or engineered consortium of microbes play an important role in the functions of the consortium. Better understanding these interactions is also important for engineering microbial consortia for specific applications. As such, tools that can enable investigating microbial interactions are highly valuable. One aspect of microbial interactions that impacts community formation is how the spatial organization of individual microbes impacts interactions leading to community formation. Here, we report the development of a tool that can manipulate the spatial organization of microorganisms to investigate the role of these interactions in community formation. Our developed microfluidic platform utilizes dielectrophoretic (DEP) force to perform on-demand spatial arrangement of microorganism-encapsulated agarose gel microparticles. To demonstrate this concept, three gel microparticle manipulators composed of three independently controllable DEP electrodes were utilized for the on-demand spatial arrangement of a specific combination of microparticles, each containing Escherichia coli cells expressing red fluorescence protein, green fluorescent protein, or blank content. The spatially arranged microparticles suspended in carrier oil were first trapped in a downstream particle trapping structure to form a defined microparticle array, followed by the application of an electric field to disrupt the carrier oil barrier so that all gel microparticles were within the same aqueous solution while the individual gel microparticles remain intact, thereby maintaining their spatial arrangements. We demonstrated that this method can be utilized to generate various arrays with differing number of "spacer microparticles", which were blank microparticles, between the two different E. coli-containing microparticles, enabling precise control over spatial distances between the two different cell populations. This method paves the way for more easily investigating bacterial interactions, especially those that depend on their spatial arrangement such as where cell-cell communication plays a major role.

published proceedings

  • Anal Chem

author list (cited authors)

  • Dai, J., Huang, C., Zhang, H., Samuel, R., Li, Y., Jayaraman, A., de Figueiredo, P., & Han, A.

complete list of authors

  • Dai, Jing||Huang, Can||Zhang, Han||Samuel, Ryan||Li, Yuwen||Jayaraman, Arul||de Figueiredo, Paul||Han, Arum

publication date

  • September 2022