, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 683-694
Date: 23 Jun 2012

Ferrofluid actuation with varying magnetic fields for micropumping applications

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Magnetic nanoparticle suspensions and their manipulation are becoming an alternative research line. They have vital applications in the field of microfluidics such as microscale flow control in microfluidic circuits, actuation of fluids in microscale, and drug delivery mechanisms. In microscale, it is possible and beneficial to use magnetic fields as actuators of such ferrofluids, where these fluids could move along a dynamic gradient of magnetic field so that a micropump could be generated with this technique. Thus, magnetically actuated ferrofluids could have the potential to be used as an alternative micro pumping system. Magnetic actuation of nanofluids is becoming an emergent field that will open up new possibilities in various fields of engineering. Different families of devices actuating ferrofluids were designed and developed in this study to reveal this potential. A family of these devices actuates discrete plugs, whereas a second family of devices generates continuous flows in tubes of inner diameters ranging from 254 μm to 1.56 mm. The devices were first tested with minitubes to prove the effectiveness of the proposed actuation method. The setups were then adjusted to conduct experiments on microtubes. Promising results were obtained from the experiments. Flow rates up to 120 and 0.135 μl/s were achieved in minitubes and microtubes with modest maximum magnetic field magnitudes of 300 mT for discontinuous and continuous actuation, respectively. The proposed magnetic actuation method was proven to work as intended and is expected to be a strong alternative to the existing micropumping methods such as electromechanical, electrokinetic, and piezoelectric actuation. The results suggest that ferrofluids with magnetic nanoparticles merit more research efforts in micro pumping.