Developing an Acoustic Deformation and Laser Scattering Technique for Mechanophenotyping of Cell-Sized Objects

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)


A device which is popularly used in the literature for generating standing ultrasonic waves to apply an acoustic force to µm-range particles was reproduced and used to develop the proof of concept for a novel cellular mechanophenotyping technique. The concept of this technique is to measure mechanical properties of cells at an unprecedented rate with low-cost technologies to characterise how cells’ deformations change under a varying acoustic force. Mechanophenotyping cells can allow them to be uniquely identified, meaning the technique could be employed in a cheap and accessible real-time test for cancer and other diseases in the blood.

The device was used to achieve acoustic trapping of cornflour particles, living HeLa cells, polyacrylamide microbeads and giant unilamellar vesicles. Crucial factors for optimising the operation of the device were investigated throughout the project in order to maximise acoustic forces and improve their consistency, leading to deformation of a giant unilamellar vesicle by application of these acoustic forces to an aspect ratio of 1.30±0.05. As work was carried out to achieve this, the importance of the subtleties and complexities of the acoustic waves’ behaviour became increasingly apparent, revealing how acoustic force experiments are less easily reproducible than initially expected. In response to this, work was carried out to document experimentation with a range of variables which are known to affect the acoustic forces, and to contribute to knowledge of how to reproduce these devices to a sufficient standard to acoustically deform a sample.
Date of Award24 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorHenkjan Gersen (Supervisor)


  • mechanophenotyping
  • cell
  • piezo
  • Acoustics
  • disease
  • laser scattering
  • amplitude modulation

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