• Fast, non-contact, light weight method for individual or ensemble particle sorting within a micro-fluidic channel
  • No physical or electromagnetic effects, which eliminates potential damage to the sample and uses three-orders of magnitude lower optical power
  • Applicable to all sample flows regardless of constituent particle type, physical properties, or other properties such as optical, electrical, or magnetic

NRL's Invention

  • Localized heating of sheath flow around a sample to change its physical properties, therefore changing the equilibrium hydrodynamic flow conditions
  • Low-powered, "eye-safe" laser is configured at the desired location in the flow channel to shift the sample flow
  • Flow shifting is controlled by the optical absorption in the sheath flow and can be optimized for specific channel dimensions, flow rates, and shifting in multiple directions
  • Analog and digital modulation of flow is possible – returns to original state in absence of shift-control beam

Testing/Validation at NRL

  • Invention was developed to address the requirements of a hand-held micro-fluidic analyzer/sorter, an Office of Naval Research applied research program. The technology is Technical Readiness Level 4

Opportunities for commercial/government application

  • Concentration/Purification of Samples: Bio/chemical sensing
  • Switching in optofluidics: Fluidic waveguides, filters
  • Point-of-care medical evaluation

Demonstrated demand

  • The Portable Analysis Instrumentation (PAI) market is forecasted to reach in excess of $8.5 billion in 2018. One of the technology drivers for this forecast is the development of optofluidic devices.

Technology Status


US Published Patent is available for License to companies with commercial interest. Collaborative research and development is available under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).

Lead Inventor

Janet Lou, Optical Sciences, 5600


US Patent Number 8,528,582 entitled “Method of changing fluid flow by using an optical beam” filed April 26,2012 on behalf of Janet w. Lou, Carl A. Villarruel, Ross Schermer

Journal Article

  • J. W. Lou, C. A. Villarruel, and R. T. Schermer, “Optically-Activated Core Flow Shifting within a Focused Flow”, Appl. Phys. Lett., vol. 99, 054102, 2011.

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