Microfluidics and Nanofluidics

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 451–465 | Cite as

Flow-induced particle migration in microchannels for improved microfiltration processes

  • A. M. C. van Dinther
  • C. G. P. H. Schroën
  • A. Imhof
  • H. M. Vollebregt
  • R. M. Boom
Research Paper


Microchannels can be used to induce migration phenomena of micron sized particles in a fluid. Separation processes, like microfiltration, could benefit from particle migration phenomena. Currently, microfiltration is designed around maximum flux, resulting in accumulation of particles in and on the membrane. In this paper it is shown that starting the design at the particle level will result in a new microfiltration process. The behaviour of suspensions between 9 and 38 volume% was studied by confocal scanning laser microscopy; migration as a result of shear-induced diffusion was observed in a rectangular microchannel with nonporous walls. Particles segregated on size within the first 10 cm of the channel. To illustrate this, at 20 volume% of small (1.53 μm) and large (2.65 μm) particles each, the larger particles migrated to the middle of the channel, while the small particles had high concentrations near the walls. The small particles could then be collected from their position close to the permeable walls, e.g. membranes, where the pore size of the membrane is no longer the determining factor for separation. Guidelines for using this phenomenon in a microfiltration process were derived and the selectivity of the process was experimentally evaluated. The small droplets could be removed from the mixtures with a membrane having pores 3.7 times larger than the droplets, thereby minimizing accumulation of droplets in and on the membrane. As long as the process conditions are chosen appropriately, no droplet deposition takes place and high fluxes (1.7 × 103 L h−1 m² bar−1) can be maintained.


Shear-induced particle migration Microchannel Fractionation Microfiltration Confocal scanning laser microscopy 

List of symbols


Particle radius (m)


Fitting parameter (−)


Fitting parameter (−)


Diameter large emulsion droplets (m)


Diameter small emulsion droplets (m)


Stokes–Einstein diffusivity (m2/s)


Dimensionless diffusion coefficient (−)


Shear-induced diffusion coefficient (m²/s)


Dimensionless evolution length (−)


Evolution parameter (−)


Fitted evolution parameter (−)

Epfit norm

Normalized fitted evolution parameter (−)


Half the channel height (m)


Boltzmann constant (J/K)


Constant related to shear-induced diffusion (−)


Channel length (m)


Dimensionless Péclet number relating diffusive to convective processes (−)


Dimensionless Péclet number relating Brownian to hydrodynamic forces (−)


Dimensionless Péclet number relating shear-induced diffusive to hydrodynamic forces (−)


Dimensionless channel Reynolds number (−)


Dimensionless particle Reynolds number (−)


Time (s)


Temperature (K)

\( \bar{\nu } \)

Average velocity (m/s)


Channel width (m)


Distance in the channel parallel to the flow (m)


Dimensionless distance from the inlet (−)


Average distance travelled by the particles perpendicular to the flow (m)


Position of particle relative to reference wall (m)

Greek symbols


Selectivity of membrane process (−)

\( \dot{\gamma } \)

Shear rate (1/s)


Viscosity of the solution (Pa s)


Viscosity as a function of the solid volume fraction of the suspension (Pa·s)


Constant related to shear-induced diffusion (−)


Density of the suspension (kg/m³)


Density of the oil phase (kg/m³)


Time scale of convection (s)


Time scale for migration (s)


Solid volume fraction of the suspension (−)


Solid volume fraction of large particles (−)


Solid volume fraction of the large particles in the bulk (−)


Solid volume fraction of the large particles in the permeate (−)


Solid volume fraction of small particles (−)


Solid volume fraction of the small particles in the bulk (−)


Solid volume fraction of the small particles in the permeate (−)


Solid volume fraction of the bidisperse suspension (−)

φ (x,z)

Concentration profile of particles at a certain distance in the channel (−)


Concentration profile at the inlet (−)

\( \left\langle {\varphi \left( {x,z} \right)} \right\rangle_{z} \)

Cross-sectional average volume fraction (−)

\( \left\langle {\varphi_{\text{ref}} \left( z \right)} \right\rangle_{z} \)

Cross-sectional average volume fraction at the inlet (−)



The authors would like to thank J.C.P. Stiefelhagen and P. Helfferich of the Soft Condensed Matter Group at the University of Utrecht for particle synthesis and technical support with the CSLM. Support for this work was provided by the Institute of Sustainable Process Technology, Pentair X-flow, FrieslandCampina and Royal Cosun. Special thanks to the people of the ShIFT team and the mechanical workshop of Wageningen University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. C. van Dinther
    • 1
  • C. G. P. H. Schroën
    • 1
  • A. Imhof
    • 2
  • H. M. Vollebregt
    • 1
    • 3
  • R. M. Boom
    • 1
  1. 1.Food Process Engineering Laboratory, Department of Agrotechnology and Food SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Soft Condensed Matter, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials ScienceUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Wageningen UR Food and Biobased ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands

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