Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical and General Engineering


David Clague


This project encompasses the design and development of a pretreatment microfluidic device for samples of physiological conductivity, namely a saline solution. The conductivity was reduced through the combination of dilution and ion removal using electric fields to enable downstream electro kinetic manipulations. The two major parts of this project include (1) designing a pretreatment protocol to reduce the conductivity of the sample solution to an acceptable level and (2) designing /fabricating a microchip that will effectively allow aim (1) to be performed on chip.

This project is one of the first to observe the effects of an electric field, used in the application of ion removal, to reduce the conductivity of a sample. Through the combination of sample and low conductivity buffer, as well as the presence of an electric field, a conductivity pretreatment chip is created. Since biomarkers and analytes of interest are difficult to detect in complex raw samples, such as blood, this chip is a necessary preliminary step that allows for successive separations.

Using previous literature from the field of capillary electrophoresis, a design and pretreatment protocol was developed to pretreat a sample into a target conductivity range. A PMMA device was fabricated using a laser photoablation system located on the Cal Poly campus. Off-chip electrodes were used to induce electrophoretic movement of ions across a membrane and out of the sample. The combination of dilution and electrical fields yielded samples that had their conductivity reduced 80%. Dilution was found to be more effective in a chip designed with a short process time and continuous flow. Ultimately, we wish to incorporate this device with other pre-fabricated pretreatment and electrokinetic devices to optimize certain bioseparations.