Splitting and separation of colloidal streams in sinusoidal microchannels
Mathias Schlenk, Markus Drechsler, Matthias Karg, Walter Zimmermann, Martin Trebbin, Stephan Förster:
Lab on a Chip, 18, 3163-3171 (2018)
The control of the distribution of colloidal particles in microfluidic flows plays an important role in biomedical and industrial applications. A particular challenge is to induce cross-streamline migration in laminar flows, enabling the separation of colloidal particles according to their size, shape or elasticity. Here we show that viscoelastic fluids can mediate cross-streamline migration of deformable spherical and cylindrical colloidal particles in sinusoidal microchannels at low Reynolds numbers. For colloidal streams focused into the center of the channel entrance this leads to a symmetric stream-splitting and separation into four substreams. The degree of stream splitting and separation can be controlled via the flow rates, viscoelasticity of the focusing fluid, and the spatial microchannel modulation with an upper limit when reaching the microchannel walls. We demonstrate that this effect can be used to separate flexible particles of different size and shape. This methodology of cross-stream migration has thus great potential for the passive separation of colloids and cells in microfluidic channels.