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Experimental and computational analysis of bubble generation combining oscillating fields and microfluidics

Kothandaraman, A; (2018) Experimental and computational analysis of bubble generation combining oscillating fields and microfluidics. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Microbubbles generated by microfluidic techniques have gained substantial interest in various fields such as food engineering, biosensors and the biomedical field. Recently, T-Junction geometries have been utilised for this purpose due to the exquisite control they offer over the processing parameters. However, this only relies on pressure driven flows; therefore bubble size reduction is limited, especially for very viscous solutions. The idea of combining microfluidics with electrohydrodynamics has recently been investigated using DC fields, however corona discharge was recorded at very high voltages with detrimental effects on the bubble size and stability. In order to overcome the aforementioned limitation, a novel set-up to superimpose an AC oscillation on a DC field is presented in this work with the aim of introducing additional parameters such as frequency, AC voltage and waveform type to further control bubble size, capitalising on well documented bubble resonance phenomena and properties. Firstly, the effect of applied AC voltage magnitude and the applied frequency were investigated. This was followed by investigating the effect of the mixing region and electric field strength on the microbubble diameter. A capillary embedded T-junction microfluidic device fitted with a stainless steel capillary was utilised for microbubble formation. A numerical model of the T-Junction was developed using a computational fluid dynamics-based multiphysics technique, combining the solution of transport equations for mass and momentum (Navier-Stokes Equations), a Volume of Fluid algorithm for tracking the gas-liquid interfaces, and a Maxwell Equations solver, all in a coupled manner. Simulation results were attained for the formation of the microbubbles with particular focus on the flow fields along the detachment of the emerging bubble. Experimental results indicated that frequencies between 2-10 kHz have a pronounced effect on the bubble size, whereas elevated AC voltages of 3-4 〖kV〗_(P-P) promoted bubble elongation and growth. It was observed that reducing the mixing region gap to 100 μm facilitated the formation of smaller bubbles due to the reduction of surface area, which increases the shear stresses experienced at the junction. Reducing the tip-to-collector distance causes a further reduction in the bubble size due to an increase in the electric field strength. Computational simulations suggest that there is a uniform velocity field distribution along the bubble upon application of a superimposed field. Microbubble detachment is facilitated by the recirculation of the dispersed phase. A decrease in velocity was observed upstream as the gas column occupies the junction suggesting the build-up in pressure, which corresponds to the widely reported ‘squeezing regime’ before the emerging bubble breaks off from the main stream. The novel set-up described in this work provides a viable processing methodology for preparing microbubbles that offers superior control and precision. In conjunction with optimised processing parameters, microbubbles of specific sizes can be generated to suit specific industrial applications.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Experimental and computational analysis of bubble generation combining oscillating fields and microfluidics
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Mechanical Engineering
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10047051
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