Frequency-domain flow cytometry techniques are combined with modifications to the digital signal-processing capabilities of the open reconfigurable cytometric acquisition system (ORCAS) to analyze fluorescence decay lifetimes and control sorting. Real-time fluorescence lifetime analysis is accomplished by rapidly digitizing correlated, radiofrequency (RF)-modulated detector signals, implementing Fourier analysis programming with ORCAS' digital signal processor (DSP) and converting the processed data into standard cytometric list mode data. To systematically test the capabilities of the ORCAS 50 MS/sec analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and our DSP programming, an error analysis was performed using simulated light scatter and fluorescence waveforms (0.5–25 ns simulated lifetime), pulse widths ranging from 2 to 15 μs, and modulation frequencies from 2.5 to 16.667 MHz. The standard deviations of digitally acquired lifetime values ranged from 0.112 to >2 ns, corresponding to errors in actual phase shifts from 0.0142° to 1.6°. The lowest coefficients of variation (<1%) were found for 10-MHz modulated waveforms having pulse widths of 6 μs and simulated lifetimes of 4 ns. Direct comparison of the digital analysis system to a previous analog phase-sensitive flow cytometer demonstrated similar precision and accuracy on measurements of a range of fluorescent microspheres, unstained cells, and cells stained with three common fluorophores. Sorting based on fluorescence lifetime was accomplished by adding analog outputs to ORCAS and interfacing with a commercial cell sorter with a RF-modulated solid-state laser. Two populations of fluorescent microspheres with overlapping fluorescence intensities but different lifetimes (2 and 7 ns) were separated to ∼98% purity. Overall, the digital signal acquisition and processing methods we introduce present a simple yet robust approach to phase-sensitive measurements in flow cytometry. The ability to simply and inexpensively implement this system on a commercial flow sorter will allow both better dissemination of this technology and better exploitation of the traditionally underutilized parameter of fluorescence lifetime. Published 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.