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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H035362/1
Title: Colloidal interfaces in microfluidics
Principal Investigator: Aarts, Professor DGA
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Oxford Chemistry
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 22 March 2010 Ends: 21 March 2012 Value (£): 105,975
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Feb 2010 Physical Sciences Panel - Chemistry Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The rapidly evolving field of microfluidics, in which fluids are manipulated at a micro- or even nanoscopic scale, finds many applications in industries, ranging from the pharmaceutical to the oil-industry. It also raises new questions about the behaviour of liquids at increasingly small scales. One particular topic of interest is the behaviour of interfaces in confinement and under flow, which is for example essential when carrying out chemical reactions in liquid mixtures. An exciting way to address these questions is by making use of colloidal suspensions. Here, colloidal particles of size roughly between 1 nm and 1 micron are dispersed in a molecular solvent and the suspensions display rich phase and interface behaviour in many ways analogously to molecular or atomic systems. However, the length- and timescales in colloidal suspensions are such that many interesting phenomena become much more accessible, for example because they happen relatively slowly or at more convenient lengths. Furthermore, modern colloid science offers tailoring the interactions in colloidal suspensions to a level which is simply impossible in molecular systems. We propose to combine colloid science with microfluidics to study flow instabilities of fluid interfaces in microfluidic devices. Such hydrodynamic instabilities are frequently observed in every day life, for example when turning on a tap and watching drops form. We have developed a colloidal system, which shows similar behaviour as molecular fluids, such as oil-water mixtures, but with the large advantage that the interfacial tension, which characterizes the cost to create extra interface, is about a million times smaller than in ordinary molecular systems. As as consequence, certain features of interface behaviour become very pronounced and can be easily studied. We will focus on two types of instabilities; the first one occurs whenever a fluid with a low viscosity displaces a fluid with a high viscosity in a flat, narrow channel. The second one always takes place when a heavy fluid lies on top of a light one. Without possibly realizing it, such instabilities can be observed almost on a daily basis, and they are hugely important in many technological and industrial processes. Our proposed work will lead to a better understanding of the instabilities and it may shed light on new potential applications of microfluidics in the chemical industry.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk