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Keywords:

  • complex fluids;
  • computational fluid dynamics;
  • microfluidics;
  • particulate flows;
  • separation techniques

Rigid particles transported through a pinched-flow fractionation (PFF) device are simulated using boundary-integral methods (BIM). The PFF device separates particles by size using a bifurcated microfluidic channel. The critical flow ratio of the two input channels required to achieve complete separation of large and small particles decreases with increasing diameter of the larger particles relative to the pinch height, and is nearly independent of the smaller particle size. A narrow pinch with a square exit was shown to have the lowest critical flow ratio and was selected as the model device to be fabricated. Experiments conducted using this device confirm that the larger particles exit further from the top wall than do the smaller particles, due to steric exclusion, and the final exit positions are within a few percent of the simulation results. It is shown that BIM is a valuable tool in the design of microfluidic devices. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 3444–3457, 2013