Passive and Active Mixing in Microfluidic Devices

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Abstract

In microfluidics the Reynolds number is small, preventing turbulence as a tool for mixing, while diffusion is that slow that time does not yield an alternative. Mixing in microfluidics therefore must rely on chaotic advection, as well-known from polymer technology practice where on macroscale the high viscosity makes the Reynolds numbers low and diffusion slow. The mapping method is used to analyze and optimize mixing also in microfluidic devices. We investigate passive mixers like the staggered herringbone micromixer (SHM), the barrier embedded micromixer (BEM) and a three-dimensional serpentine channel (3D-SC). Active mixing is obtained via incorporating particles that introduce a hyperbolic flow in e.g. two dimensional serpentine channels. Magnetic beads chains-up in a flow after switching on a magnetic field. Rotating the field creates a physical rotor moving the flow field. The Mason number represents the ratio of viscous forces to the magnetic field strength and its value determines the fate of the rotor: a single, an alternating single and double, or a multiple part chain-rotor results. The type of rotor determines the mixing quality with best results in the alternating case where crossing streamlines introduce chaotic advection. Finally, an active mixing device is proposed that mimics the cilia in nature. The transverse flow induced by their motion indeed enhances mixing at the microscale.

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