Formation of Simple and Compound Drops in Microfluidic Devices

Chunfeng Zhou, Pengtao Yue & James J. Feng

Phys. Fluids 18, 092105 (2006)

Abstract - This work is motivated by recent experimental development of microfluidic flow-focusing devices that produce highly monodisperse simple or compound drops. Using finite elements with adaptive meshing in a diffuse-interface framework, we simulate the breakup of simple and compound jets in co-flowing conditions, and explore the flow regimes that prevail in different parameter ranges. Moreover, we investigate the effects of viscoelasticity on interface rupture and drop pinch-off. The formation of simple drops exhibits a dripping regime at relatively low flow rates and a jetting regime at higher flow rates. In both regimes, drops form because of the combined effects of capillary instability and viscous drag. The drop size increases with the flow rate of the inner fluid and decreases with that of the outer fluid. Viscoelasticity in the drop phase increases the drop size in the dripping regime but decreases it in the jetting regime. The formation of compound drops is a delicate process that takes place in a narrow window of flow and rheological parameters. Encapsulation of the inner drop depends critically on coordination of capillary waves on the inner and outer interfaces.