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Efficient microfluidic rectifiers for viscoelastic fluid flow

Sousa, P.C. and Pinho, F.T. and Oliveira, Monica and Alves, M.A. (2010) Efficient microfluidic rectifiers for viscoelastic fluid flow. Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics, 165 (11-12). pp. 652-671. ISSN 0377-0257

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In this work we propose a new type of microfluidic rectifier, which is able to operate efficiently under creeping flow conditions. The flow of Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids was investigated experimentally in different microchannels with triangular (nozzle/diffuser) and hyperbolic shapes in order to achieve high anisotropic flow resistance between the two flow directions. The Newtonian fluid used was de-ionized water and the viscoelastic fluids were aqueous solutions of polyacrylamide and polyethylene oxide with different molecular weights. Pressure drop measurements were performed in addition to visualizations of the flow patterns by streak line photography for a wide range of flow rates. For the Newtonian flows, inertia leads to the appearance of recirculations for both flow directions, but no significant rectification effects appear. For the viscoelastic fluids, two distinct behaviors are identified: at low flow rates, the pressure drops are similar in both flow directions; above a critical flow rate (or Deborah number), the flow patterns become quite different, leading to different flow rates in the forward and backward flow directions for the same pressure drop, i.e., rectification effects emerge. In particular, the viscoelastic fluid flow becomes unsteady in the forward direction, due to the presence of elastic instabilities, which leads to a significant increase in the flow resistance. Flow resistance ratios greater than three were achieved for the hyperbolic rectifier, clearly in excess of the value for the triangular-shaped rectifier and for other geometries proposed in the literature for operation in creeping flow conditions. This high diodicity is associated with the distinct nature of the extensional flows in the forward and backward directions of the hyperbolic-type microgeometry.