Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics

Nano- and Microfluidics

Welcome to the pages of the Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any suggestions, proposals for co-operations or questions of any kind.

We are concerned with transport phenomena in fluids on the nano- and micrometer scale. In that context we are especially interested in studying fundamentals, with the intention to pave the way for novel applications. Our research extends over a broad thematic spectrum and combines experimental, theoretical and numerical approaches. Nanoscale gas kinetics, electrokinetics, interfacial flows, wetting phenomena and biomolecular separation belong to our areas of work.


August 17, 2017

Stretching of confined surface-tethered polymers in pressure-driven flow

Knowledge on the stretching and conformations of linear long-chain polymers in micro-confinement is of prime importance for applications such as functional surfaces with grafted polymer brushes or sequencing of DNA molecules. We experimentally characterized the stretching and conformational changes of surface-anchored long-chain double-stranded DNA molecules between parallel surfaces under pressure-driven flow. One main result is that the fractional extension of the molecules is a unique function of the product of the wall shear stress and the molecular contour length, with a weak influence of confinement. The experimental results are corroborated by a simple scaling analysis and coarse-grained lattice-Boltzmann / molecular dynamics simulations:

Reference: T. Roy, K. Szuttor, J. Smiatek, C. Holm and S. Hardt, Stretching of surface-tethered polymers in pressure-driven flow under confinement, Soft Matter (2017); doi: 10.1039/C7SM00306D;

August 15, 2017

Some surprises in flow focusing

Flow focusing is a widely applied scheme in microfluidics, employed for creating a single-file stream of particles/cells or for creating small droplets in a two-phase flow. When the flow rate of the central stream is reduced to very small values, flow patterns very different from the common flow-focusing scenario emerge. In that case, instead of one single focused stream, two or four streams are created. The corresponding flow patterns are illustrated in the figure on the left. In the future, such flow-focusing patterns may be exploited for inertial particle sorting, among others.

Reference: I. R. Damian, S. Hardt and C. Balan, From flow focusing to vortex formation in crossing microchannels, Microfluidics and Nanofluidics 21, 142 (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s10404-017-1975-7;

April 10, 2017

Fulbright Fellow Professor Prashanta Dutta

Prof. Prashanta Dutta ( has come to the TU Darmstadt with a Fulbright grant from the United States (US) government to collaborate with researchers at the Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics on electric field driven transport in micro- and nanodevices. The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange initiative sponsored by the United State government and the primary goal of his visit is to develop a long-term collaborative relationship between US and German researchers in the micro/nano/biofluidics area.

January 27, 2017

Knudsen pump inducing gas flow normal to temperature gradient

Knudsen pumps transport gas by exploiting temperature variations imposed by the channel boundaries, offering the advantage of not containing any moving parts. We analyzed a Knudsen pump with a temperature field generated by an applied temperature difference between the channel walls, where the ratchet-shaped wall is equipped with varying reflection properties on different sections. The figure shows streamlines and velocity magnitudes within a channel bounded by triangular teeth which are half-specularly and half-diffusely reflecting. The use of specularly reflecting patches massively increases the mass flux compared to diffusely reflecting walls.

Reference: V. Shahabi, T. Baier, E. Roohi and S. Hardt, Thermally induced gas flows in ratchet channels with diffuse and specular boundaries, Scientific Reports 7, 41412 (2017); doi:10.1038/srep41412;

January 02, 2017

Humboldt Fellow Dr. Aditya Bandopadhyay

On Jan 2, 2017, Dr. Aditya Bandopadhyay has joined our group as a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow. His research interests are electrokinetics, electrohydrodynamics and reactive mixing. Prior to his arrival in Germany, he has completed his education from IIT Kharagpur, India and has undertaken postdoctoral research in Geosciences Rennes, France. We look forward to a productive research collaboration.

Sept 15, 2016

Humboldt Fellow Professor Dominik Barz

On Sept 1, 2016, Professor Dominik Barz of Queen’s University/Canada joined our group. He is supported by the Humboldt Foundation and pursues a research program in the field of electrokinetic flows. We are looking forward to a fruitful co-operation.

July 4, 2016

GIF Research Grant

We have won a research grant by the German Israeli Foundation (GIF). Together with Dr. Moran Bercovici from the Israel Institute of Technology we will study methods for tailoring and reconfiguring complex electroosmotic flow patterns in a channel-free microfluidic device.

June 3, 2016

Thermoelectricity in confined liquid electrolytes

The electric field induced in a bulk phase of a liquid electrolyte exposed to a temperature gradient is attributed to different thermophoretic mobilities of the dissolved ion species. We have shown that such Soret-type ion thermodiffusion is not required to induce thermoelectricity even in the simplest electrolyte if it is confined between walls carrying a charge density. The space charge of the electric double layer leads to selective ion diffusion driven by a temperature-dependent electrophoretic ion mobility, which —for narrow channels— may cause thermovoltages larger in magnitude than for the classical Soret effect. On the left, the corresponding (scaled) Seebeck coefficient is plotted for different values of the surface charge density against the (scaled) channel width.

Reference: M. Dietzel and S. Hardt, Thermoelectricity in confined liquid electrolytes, Physical Review Letters 116, 225901 (2016)

February 19, 2016

Stokes drag on a sphere translating along a fluid-fluid interface

Presumably the most well-known achievement of George Gabriel Stokes is his formula for the drag force experienced by a sphere translating in an unbounded fluid at low Reynolds numbers. However, in some scenarios small particles are attached to an interface between two immiscible fluids, constrained to tangential motion relative to the interface. We have analyzed this situation and derived a generalization of Stokes’ law for large viscosity contrast and small capillary number. The image at the left is a sketch of the corresponding streamlines.

Reference: A. Dörr, S. Hardt, H. Masoud and H. A. Stone, Drag and diffusion coefficients of a spherical particle attached to a fluid interface, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 790 (2016), 607–618.

October 26, 2015

Structuring thin liquid films utilizing the Bénard-Marangoni instability

If a system of two superposed liquid films is exposed to a temperature gradient normal to the films, the upper layer exhibits convection cells which deform the lower thin film in an identical pattern. This effect can be seen in the figure above, which displays the hexagonal convection cells and the humps of the thin film below. The principle could find applications in fabricating regular, highly ordered surface structures.

Reference: I.Nejati, M. Dietzel and S. Hardt, Conjugated liquid layers driven by the short-wavelength Bénard-Marangoni instability: experiment and numerical simulation, J. Fluid Mech., 783 (2015), 46-71

July 01, 2015

Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics participates in LOEWE Cluster CompuGene

Yesterday the government of the federal state of Hessen approved approx. 4.4 million Euros funding for the LOEWE Cluster CompuGene. CompuGene will focus on the development of artificial genetic circuits which may be employed for various purposes, for example for the production of certain rare substances. We will contribute by exploring microfluidic methods for studying genetic circuits in a scenario as close as possible to in vivo conditions.

April 07, 2015

Results on motion of a microsphere along a fluid interface published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics

A microsphere driven along an interface between two fluids of highly different viscosities experiences a drag force differing from the well-known Stokes drag. Additionally, the viscous flow around the moving particle deforms the fluid-fluid interface from its equilibrium shape while the particle assumes a tilted orientation. The figure below depicts a spherical particle with a pinned three-phase contact line moving from left to right with the lower fluid having higher viscosity than the upper. The corresponding deformation of the fluid interface results in a pair interaction between particles.

Reference: A. Dörr and S. Hardt, Driven particles at fluid interfaces acting as capillary dipoles, J. Fluid Mech. 770 (2015), 5-26.