Controlling the transport of particles in flowing suspensions at microscale is of interest in numerous contexts such as the development of miniaturized and point-of-care analytical devices (in bioengineering, for foodborne illnesses detection, etc.) and polymer engineering. In square microchannels, neutrally buoyant spherical particles are known to migrate across the flow streamlines and concentrate at specific equilibrium positions located at the channel centerline at low flow inertia and near the four walls along their symmetry planes at moderate Reynolds numbers. Under specific flow and geometrical conditions, the spherical particles are also found to line up in the flow direction and form evenly spaced trains. In order to statistically explore the dynamics of train formation and their dependence on the physical parameters of the suspension flow (particle-to-channel size ratio, Reynolds number and solid volume fraction), experiments have been conducted based on in situ visualizations of the flowing particles by optical microscopy. The trains form only once particles have reached their equilibrium positions (following lateral migration). The percentage of particles in trains and the interparticle distance in a train have been extracted and analyzed. The percentage of particles organized in trains increases with the particle Reynolds number up to a threshold value which depends on the concentration and then decreases for higher values. The average distance between the surfaces of consecutive particles in a train decreases as the particle Reynolds number increases and is independent of the particles size and concentration, if the concentration remains below a threshold value related to the degree of confinement of the suspension flow.
Microfluidics Inertial focusing Train of particles Hydrodynamic self-assembly
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This work was partly supported by the Fédération de Recherche FERMAT, FR 3089 and the China Scholarship Council.
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