Two phase microfluidics with inviscid drops: Effects of total flow rate and delayed surfactant addition


The microfluidic production of droplets is a well controllable process, which allows templating small spherical containers that can subsequently be transferred into uniformly sized polymer microgel particles by a crosslinking reaction. Recently, the per-channel production rate of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm) droplets (w-phase) dispersed in a low-viscosity fluorocarbon oil (o-phase) could be increased by a delayed surfactant addition, while maintaining the advantageous dripping regime. Here it should be evaluated, if delayed surfactant addition can be applied to enhance droplet production also for high viscosity continuous phases, which is associated with a change to an inviscid drop scenario compared to the previously used setting of viscous drops. It could be illustrated that the concept of delayed surfactant addition holds true also for viscous continuous phases and allows ∼8 fold increased flow rates in the dripping regime. Surprisingly, the droplet size increased at higher total flow rate with constant flow rate ratios of w- and o-phases, which is discussed in the light of viscous dissipation, microchannel bulging and viscosity of the continuous phase. More rigid microchannels such as from glass may allow further exploring this phenomenon in the future.
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