/Numerical simulation of the dielectrophoretic response of biomolecules

Numerical simulation of the dielectrophoretic response of biomolecules

Research & development - Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Help develop electrical model of biomolecules

The ability to precisely manipulate the movement of biomolecules is fundamentally important for the development of next-generation microfluidic devices. A highly promising technique to do so is dielectrophoresis. Activated by applying non-uniform electric field through micro-fabricated electrodes, dielectrophoresis forces a particle to migrate either towards or away from regions of high electric field strength. By modulating the frequency of the electrical signal, the dielectrophoretic force can be selectively applied on a particle based on its conductive and dielectric characteristics. Due to its precise and selective nature, dielectrophoresis has been exploited for different commercial applications, such as the ApoStream™ targeted cell separation technology and Biological Dynamics’ microarray devices.


However, the design of sophisticated devices for the dielectrophoretic (DEP)-based manipulation of biomolecules is hampered by the lack of fundamental understanding of different biomolecules’ polarizability in aqueous medium. In this thesis, building upon Zhao & Bau’s work, we will perform numerical simulation to study how the different biomolecules’ polarizability vary with frequency, buffer conductivity and molecular size. We will apply the insights to propose strategies for performing DEP-based biomolecular separation in clinically relevant samples.


This thesis will consist of 10% literature study, 70% modelling, and 20% reporting/writing. Prior experience in numerical simulation would be helpful.



Zhao, H. & Bau, H. H. Effect of double-layer polarization on the forces that act on a nanosized cylindrical particle in an ac electrical field. Langmuir 24, 6050–6059 (2008).

Type of project: Thesis, Internship

Duration: 1 year

Required degree: Master of Engineering Technology, Master of Science, Master of Engineering Science

Required background: Biomedical engineering, Chemistry/Chemical Engineering, Electrotechnics/Electrical Engineering, Physics, Nanoscience & Nanotechnology

Supervising scientist(s): For further information or for application, please contact: Kherim Willems (Kherim.Willems@imec.be) and Ying Ting Set (Ying.Ting.Set@imec.be)