Nonlinear Phenomena in Microfluidics


Battat, S. ; Weitz, D. A. ; Whitesides, G. Nonlinear Phenomena in Microfluidics. Chemical Reviews 2022, 122, 6921-6937. Copy at
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This review focuses on experimental work on nonlinear phenomena in microfluidics, which for the most part are phenomena for which the velocity of a fluid flowing through a microfluidic channel does not scale proportionately with the pressure drop. Examples include oscillations, flow-switching behaviors, and bifurcations. These phenomena are qualitatively distinct from laminar, diffusion-limited flows that are often associated with microfluidics. We explore the nonlinear behaviors of bubbles or droplets when they travel alone or in trains through a microfluidic network or when they assemble into either one- or two-dimensional crystals. We consider the nonlinearities that can be induced by the geometry of channels, such as their curvature or the bas-relief patterning of their base. By casting posts, barriers, or membranes─situated inside channels─from stimuli-responsive or flexible materials, the shape, size, or configuration of these elements can be altered by flowing fluids, which may enable autonomous flow control. We also highlight some of the nonlinearities that arise from operating devices at intermediate Reynolds numbers or from using non-Newtonian fluids or liquid metals. We include a brief discussion of relevant practical applications, including flow gating, mixing, and particle separations.

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