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  2. Focusing particles into a tight stream is critical for many microfluidic particle-handling devices such as flow cytometers and particle sorters. This work presents a fundamental study of the passive focusing of polystyrene particles in ratchet microchannels via direct current dielectrophoresis (DC DEP). We demonstrate using both experiments and simulation that particles achieve better focusing in a symmetric ratchet microchannel than in an asymmetric one, regardless of the particle movement direction in the latter. The particle focusing ratio, which is defined as the microchannel width over the particle stream width, is found to increase with an increase in particle size or electric field in the symmetric ratchet microchannel. Moreover, it exhibits an almost linear correlation with the number of ratchets, which can be explained by a theoretical formula that is obtained from a scaling analysis. In addition, we have demonstrated a DC dielectrophoretic focusing of yeast cells in the symmetric ratchet microchannel with minimal impact on the cell viability. 
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