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Towards a continuous microfluidic rheometer

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In a previous paper we presented a way to measure the rheological properties of complex fluids on a microfluidic chip (Guillot et al., Langmuir 22:6438, 2006). The principle of our method is to use parallel flows between two immiscible fluids as a pressure sensor. In fact, in a such flow, both fluids flow side by side and the size occupied by each fluid stream depends only on both flow rates and on both viscosities. We use this property to measure the viscosity of one fluid knowing the viscosity of the other one, both flow rates and the relative size of both streams in a cross-section. We showed that using a less viscous fluid as a reference fluid allows to define a mean shear rate with a low standard deviation in the other fluid. This method allows us to measure the flow curve of a fluid with less than 250 μL of fluid. In this paper we implement this principle in a fully automated set up which controls the flow rate, analyzes the picture and calculates the mean shear rate and the viscosity of the studied fluid. We present results obtained for Newtonian fluids and complex fluids using this set up and we compare our data with cone and plate rheometer measurements. By adding a mixing stage in the fluidic network we show how this set up can be used to characterize in a continuous way the evolution of the rheological properties as a function of the formulation composition. We illustrate this by measuring the rheological curve of four formulations of polyethylene oxide solution with only 1.3 mL of concentrated polyethylene oxide solution. This method could be very useful in screening processes where the viscosity range and the behavior of the fluid to an applied stress must be evaluated.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Aquitaine Région. They wish to thank A. Ajdari and A.S. Utada for valuable discussions and D. Van Effenterre for his help during confocal microscopy experiments.

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Correspondence to Pierre Guillot.

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Guillot, P., Moulin, T., Kötitz, R. et al. Towards a continuous microfluidic rheometer. Microfluid Nanofluid 5, 619–630 (2008).

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