The device uses two beams of acoustic -- or sound -- waves to act as acoustic tweezers and sort a continuous flow of cells on a dime-sized chip, said Tony Jun Huang, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. By changing the frequency of the acoustic waves, researchers can easily alter the paths of the cells.
Huang said that since the device can sort cells into five or more channels, it will allow more cell types to be analyzed simultaneously, which paves the way for smaller, more efficient and less expensive analytic devices.
"Eventually, you could do analysis on a device about the size of a cell phone," said Huang. "It's very doable and we're making in-roads to that right now."
Biological, genetic and medical labs could use the device for various types of analysis, including blood and genetic testing, Huang said.