Engineering droplet navigation through tertiary-junction microchannels
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We present an experimental and in silico investigation of path selection by a single droplet inside a tertiary-junction microchannel using oil-in-water as a model system. The droplet was generated at a T-junction inside a microfluidic chip, and its flow behavior as a function of droplet size, streamline position, viscosity, and Reynolds number (Re) of the continuous phase was studied downstream at a tertiary junction having perpendicular channels of uniform square cross section and internal fluidic resistance proportional to their lengths. Numerical studies were performed using the multicomponent lattice Boltzmann method. Both the experimental and numerical results showed good agreement and suggested that at higher Re equal to 3, the flow was dominated by inertial forces resulting in the droplets choosing a path based on their center position in the flow streamline. At lower Re of 0.3, the streamline-assisted path selection became viscous force-assisted above a critical droplet size. As the Re was further reduced to 0.03, or when the viscosity of the dispersed phase was increased, the critical droplet size for transition also decreased. This multivariate approach can in future be used to engineer sorting of cells, e.g., circulating tumor cells (CTCs) allowing early-stage detection of life-threatening diseases.
KeywordsTertiary-junction Droplet microfluidics Droplet sorting Lattice-Boltzmann Path selection
We thank the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (AOARD, Grant No. FA2386-15-1-4031) for providing the necessary funds to carry out this research. We are grateful to Prof. Rajesh Khanna for helping with the tensiometer experiments. SK acknowledges his DST INSPIRE fellowship.
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