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Optical chromatography involves the elegant combination of opposing optical and fluid drag forces on colloidal samples within microfluidic environments to both measure analytical differences and fractionate injected samples. Particles that encounter the focused laser beam are trapped axially along the beam and are pushed upstream from the laser focal point to rest at a point where the optical and fluid forces on the particle balance. In our recent devices particles are pushed into a region of lower microfluidic flow, where they can be retained and fractionated. Because optical and fluid forces on a particle are sensitive to differences in the physical and chemical properties of a sample, separations are possible. An optical chromatography beam focused to completely fill a fluid channel is operated as an optically tunable filter for the separation of inorganic, polymeric, and biological particle samples. We demonstrate this technique coupled with an advanced microfluidic platform and show how it can be used as an effective method to fractionate particles from an injected multicomponent sample. Our advanced three-stage microfluidic design accommodates three lasers simultaneously to effectively create a sequential cascade optical chromatographic separation system.


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