Formation and lateral migration of nanodroplets via solvent shifting in a microfluidic device
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Solvent shifting is a process in which a non-solvent is added to a solvent/solute mixture and extracts the solvent. The solvent and the non-solvent are miscible. Because of solution supersaturation, a portion of the solute transforms to droplets. In this paper, based on this process, we present an investigation on droplet formation and their radial motion in a microfluidic device in which a jet is injected in a co-flowing liquid stream. Thanks to the laminar flow, the microfluidic setup enables studying diffusion mass transfer in radial direction and obtaining well-defined concentration distributions. Such profiles together with the ternary phase diagram give detailed information about the conditions for droplet formation as well as their radial migration in the channel. The ternary system is composed of ethanol (solvent), de-ionized water (non-solvent), and divinylbenzene (solute). We employ analytical/numerical solutions of the diffusion equation to obtain concentration profiles of the components. We show that in the system under study droplets are formed in a region of the phase diagram between the binodal and the spinodal, i.e., via a thermally activated process. The droplets are driven to the channel centerline by the solutal Marangoni effect but are not able to significantly penetrate into the single-phase region, where they get rapidly dissolved. Therefore, the radial motion of the binodal surface carries the droplets to the centerline where they get collected.
KeywordsSolvent shifting Ouzo effect Droplet Diffusion Ternary phase diagram Marangoni convection
R. Hajian acknowledges the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology of the I. R. Iran for funding under Grant Number 89100017. He also appreciates Dorothea Paulssen for her helpful hints on the ouzo effect, and Tobias Baier for his effective discussions.
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