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Self-Locking Optoelectronic Tweezers for Single-Cell and Microparticle Manipulation across a Large Area in High Conductivity Media

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Optoelectronic tweezers (OET) has advanced within the past decade to become a promising tool for cell and microparticle manipulation. Its incompatibility with high conductivity media and limited throughput remain two major technical challenges. Here a novel manipulation concept and corresponding platform called Self-Locking Optoelectronic Tweezers (SLOT) are proposed and demonstrated to tackle these challenges concurrently. The SLOT platform comprises a periodic array of optically tunable phototransistor traps above which randomly dispersed single cells and microparticles are self-aligned to and retained without light illumination. Light beam illumination on a phototransistor turns off the trap and releases the trapped cell, which is then transported downstream via a background flow. The cell trapping and releasing functions in SLOT are decoupled, which is a unique feature that enables SLOT's stepper-mode function to overcome the small field-of-view issue that all prior OET technologies encountered in manipulation with single-cell resolution across a large area. Massively parallel trapping of more than 100,000 microparticles has been demonstrated in high conductivity media. Even larger scale trapping and manipulation can be achieved by linearly scaling up the number of phototransistors and device area. Cells after manipulation on the SLOT platform maintain high cell viability and normal multi-day divisibility.

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