Crossflow microfiltration of plasma from blood through microsieves in a microchannel is potentially useful in many biomedical applications, including clinically as a wearable water removal device under development by the authors. We report experiments that correlate filtration rates, transmembrane pressures (TMP) and shear rates during filtration through a microscopically high channel bounded by a low intrinsic resistance photolithographically-produced porous semiconductor membrane. These experiments allowed observation of erythrocyte behavior at the filtering surface and showed how their unique deformability properties dominated filtration resistance. At low filtration rates (corresponding to low TMP), they rolled along the filter surface, but at higher filtration rates (corresponding to higher TMP), they anchored themselves to the filter membrane, forming a self-assembled, incomplete monolayer. The incompleteness of the layer was an essential feature of the monolayer’s ability to support sustainable filtration. Maximum steady-state filtration flux was a function of wall shear rate, as predicted by conventional crossflow filtration theory, but, contrary to theories based on convective diffusion, showed weak dependence of filtration on erythrocyte concentration. Post-filtration scanning electron micrographs revealed significant capture and deformation of erythrocytes in all filter pores in the range 0.25 to 2 μm diameter. We report filtration rates through these filters and describe a largely unrecognized mechanism that allows stable filtration in the presence of substantial cell layers.
- Microfiltration model