Fluorescent-activated cell sorting is a type of flow cytometry, a method for sorting a suspension of biologic cells into two or more containers, one cell at a time, based upon specific light scattering and fluorescent characteristics of each cell. FACS was the first flow cytometric technology.
The cell suspension is entrained in the center of a narrow, rapidly flowing stream of liquid. The flow is arranged so that there is a large separation between cells relative to their diameter. A vibrating mechanism causes the stream of cells to break into individual droplets. The system is adjusted so that there is a low probability of more than one cell being in a droplet. Just before the stream breaks into droplets the flow passes through a fluorescence measuring station where the fluorescent character of interest of each cell is measured. An electrical charging ring is placed just at the point where the stream breaks into droplets. A charge is placed on the ring based on the immediately prior fluorescence intensity measurement and the opposite charge is trapped on the droplet as it breaks from the stream. The charged droplets then fall through an electrostatic deflection system that diverts droplets into containers based upon their charge.