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Keywords:

  • microfluidics;
  • droplet formation;
  • interfacial rheology;
  • peptide;
  • interfacial elasticity

Abstract

Biomolecules adsorb at fluid–fluid interfaces and can form a cohesive interfacial network imparting distinctive local interfacial mechanics. This modification of interfacial behavior is empirically known to significantly affect the stability and flow behavior of foams and emulsions. Droplet formation in the presence of interfacial networks is investigated in a flow-focusing microfluidic device using designed peptide surfactants, which allow decoupled control of interfacial rheology and interfacial tension. The influence of interfacial elasticity on droplet breakup, satellite droplet formation and droplet size are reported. The presence of high interfacial elasticity strongly affects the mechanism of droplet breakup by delaying neck thinning and altering interfacial shape at the point of droplet detachment, resulting in the suppression of satellite droplet formation and a decrease in droplet size. We report a correlation between dimensionless droplet size and a new dimensionless grouping which combines flow-rate ratio with the ratio of interfacial tension and interfacial elasticity. © 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2011