The Coulter technique enables rapid analysis of particles or cells suspended in a fluid stream. In this technique, the cells are suspended in an electrically conductive solution, which is hydrodynamically focused by nonconducting sheath flows. The cells produce a characteristic voltage signal when they interrupt an electrical path. The population and size of the cells can be obtained through analyzing the voltage signal. In a microfluidic Coulter counter device, the hydrodynamic focusing technique is used to position the conducting sample stream and the cells and also to separate close cells to generate distinct signals for each cell and avoid signal jam. The performance of hydrodynamic focusing depends on the relative flow ratio between the sample stream and sheath stream. We use a numerical approach to study the hydrodynamic focusing in a microfluidic Coulter counter device. In this approach, the flow field is described by solving the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations. The sample stream concentration is modeled by an advection-diffusion equation. The motion of the cells is governed by the Newton-Euler equations of motion. Particle motion through the flow field is handled using an overlapping grid technique. A numerical model for studying a microfluidic Coulter counter has been validated. Using the model, the impact of relative flow rate on the performance of hydrodynamic focusing was studied. Our numerical results show that the position of the sample stream can be controlled by adjusting the relative flow rate. Our simulations also show that particles can be focused into the stream and initially close particles can be separated by the hydrodynamic focusing. From our study, we conclude that hydrodynamic focusing provides an effective way to control the position of the sample stream and cells and it also can be used to separate cells to avoid signal jam.

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