This paper describes a microfabricated free-flow electrophoresis device with integrated ion permeable membranes. In order to obtain continuous lanes of separated components an electrical field is applied perpendicular to the sample flow direction. This sample stream is sandwiched between two sheath flow streams, by hydrodynamic focusing. The separation chamber has two open side beds with inserted electrodes to allow ventilation of gas generated during electrolysis. To hydrodynamically isolate the separation compartment from the side electrodes, a photo-polymerizable monomer solution is exposed to UV light through a slit mask for membrane formation. These so-called salt-bridges resist the pressure driven fluid, but allow ion transport to enable electrical connection. In earlier devices the same was achieved by using open side channel arrays. However, only a small fraction of the applied voltage was effectively utilized across the separation chamber during free-flow electrophoresis and free-flow isoelectric focusing. Furthermore, the spreading of the carrier ampholytes into the side channels resulted in a very restricted pH gradient inside the separation chamber. The chip presented here allows at least 10 times more efficient use of the applied potential and a nearly linear pH gradient from pH 3 to 10 during free-flow isoelectric focusing could be established. Furthermore, the application of hydrodynamic focusing in combination with free-flow electrophoresis can be used for guiding the separated components to specific chip outlets. As a demonstration, several standard fluorescent markers were separated and focused by free-flow zone electrophoresis and by free-flow isoelectric focusing employing a transversal voltage of up to 150 V across the separation chamber.
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