Welcome at the Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics!
We deal with transport phenomena in fluids on the nano- and micrometer scale. We are particularly interested in basic research with the intention of paving the way for novel applications. Our approach is based on a “bottom-up” strategy, i.e. the research is knowledge-driven. Breaking new scientific ground fascinates us, but we keep applications in mind. These can be in different fields such as sustainability, energy conversion, process engineering or (bio)chemical analytics.
Our research covers a broad range of topics and combines experimental, theoretical and numerical approaches. Our fields of work include gas kinetics on the nanoscale, transport processes in electrolyte solutions and at liquid interfaces, wetting phenomena, and separation processes for biomolecules.
In teaching, we offer master's level courses that reflect our research approach. This means that great importance is attached to the understanding of phenomena and processes, but these are also considered in an application context.
If we have aroused your interest, we would be pleased to hear from you!
January 25, 2022
Tutorium „CFD-based simulation and optimization of microfluidic components“
4CP; 4 – 8 April, 2022
This tutorium will equip students with the basic methodology needed to design and optimize microfluidic components on the computer.
Supervisor: Maximilian Schür, M.Sc.
January 12, 2022
Coalescence control using electric fields
Controlling the coalescence of droplets is a key requirement in microfluidics. In that context, “controlling” often means avoiding the undesired coalescence of droplets. For this purpose, usually surfactants are employed, which, however, are detrimental in a number of applications. We have shown how droplet coalescence can be suppressed without surfactants simply by placing the droplets in a homogeneous electric field. The electric field redistributes the charges in such a way that a repulsive force between two nearby droplets is created. We believe that this principle may find widespread applications in droplet microfluidics wherever surfactants need to be avoided.
January 5, 2022
From Taylor cones to surface dimples
It is well known that fluid interfaces disintegrate under sufficiently strong electric fields, leading to electrohydrodynamic tip streaming, often in form of a Taylor cone. However, when we studied the influence of a local electric field on an oil-water interface, an alternative deformation mode emerged: Here, the interface is pushed away from the electrode, and additional cone structures form at the rim of the dimple. Using experimental and numerical methods, we show that small droplets inside the oil phase play a crucial role in the dimple formation. They induce a background flow, which in turn perturbs the interface.
October 19, 2021
Partial droplet coalescence – where does it end?
When an electric field derives a water droplet to an interface between oil and water, under certain circumstances partial coalescence is observed. This means that instead of merging with the water volume, the droplet bounces back, whereupon it looses a part of its volume. The product droplet can again be driven to the oil-water interface, and the whole process can be repeated, resulting in sucessively smaller droplets. We have performed corresponding experiments with a large number of successive partial-coalescence events and could produce droplets with diameters of about 400 nm. The fact that we could not observe any smaller droplets is probably due to the optical resolution limits of our microscope. Would this process still work for droplet diameters of a few nanometers?
New group member: Arman Sadeghi
A few days ago, Professor Arman Sadeghi joined our group. Before that, he worked as Associate Professor at the University of Kurdistan, Iran. He is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in terms of a Humboldt Research Fellowship.
October 10, 2021
New group member: Qingwen Dai
A few days ago, Dr. Qingwen Dai joined our group. Before that, he worked as a lecturer at Nanjing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, China. He is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in terms of a Humboldt Research Fellowship.
Article published in Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics
Recently, an article entitled “Flow and Drop Transport Along Liquid-Infused Surfaces”, authored by Steffen Hardt and Glen McHale, was published in the Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. In this article, recent developments related to liquid-infused surfaces are reviewed from a fluid mechanics perspective. It covers a spectrum ranging from single-phase flow along liquid-infused surfaces to dynamic wetting processes. A preprint of the article can be found here:
September 21, 2021
New group member: Satarupa Dutta
A few days ago, Dr. Satarupa Dutta joined our group. She recently obtained her PhD at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and will study thermoelectric energy conversion in nanochannels in the framework of the EU project TRANSLATE, together with Rajkumar Sarma.
August 24, 2021
Hydrodynamic dispersion in Hele-Shaw flows
In the 1950s, Taylor and Aris published their landmark results on the spreading of a dissolved species in unidirectional flow, i.e., in a tube or a channel, referred to as Taylor-Aris dispersion. We have considered flows between parallel-plates (so-called Hele-Shaw flows), which are no longer unidirectional, but may exhibit complex patterns owing to inhomogeneous wall boundary conditions. For such scenarios, we have asked how a dissolved species may spread. We have been able to reduce the 3D advection-diffusion equation for the concentration field to a 2D dispersion equation that may be viewed as a generalization of Taylor-Aris dispersion. We believe that in the future this equation could find widespread use in simplifying simulations of hydrodynamic dispersion in microfluidics.
August 6, 2021
New group member: Rajkumar Sarma
A few days ago, Dr. Rajkumar Sarma joined our group. He recently obtained his PhD at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and will study thermoelectric energy conversion in nanochannels in the framework of the EU project TRANSLATE.
June 22, 2021
Start of EU project TRANSLATE
Recently, the EU project TRANSLATE, funded under the FET-Open scheme of the EU, was launched. Heavily relying on results we published a few years ago (https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.225901), this project aims at establishing thermoelectric energy converters based on electrolyte-filled nanochannels. This could pave the way to the widespread use of inexpensive energy conversion devices made from highly abundant materials. Apart from our group, partners from the University College Cork (Ireland), the University of Latvia and the Spanish company Cidete form the TRANSLATE team. Further information can be found here: https://www.tu-darmstadt.de/universitaet/aktuelles_meldungen/einzelansicht_320064.de.jsp
May 7, 2021
Cloaking and shielding objects in a fluid flow
Among the best-known technologies deployed by Star Trek’s starships are their invisibility-inducing cloaking devices and their shields. Together with co-operation partners from the Technion, Israel, and IBM Research Europe we have developed a cloaking/shielding device for objects in microfluidic channels/chambers instead of starships. In cloaking mode, an object leaves the fluid flow around it undisturbed, and in shielding mode, the hydrodynamic forces on an object are eliminated. This principle may find a number of applications, for example in the manipulation of soft objects such as cells. See also https://physics.aps.org/articles/v14/s57.
April 22, 2021
Breakup of a liquid bridge on a solid surface
Liquid bridges that become unstable and break up are found in numerous situations, for example when a droplet pinches off from a liquid reservoir. We have studied the breakup dynamics of water bridges wetting a hydrophobic surface using experiments and simulations. The dynamics is governed by a balance of inertial and capillary forces. We find that the liquid bridge decays into droplets in very much the same way as a free liquid bridge.
M. Hartmann, M. Fricke, L. Weimar, D. Gründing, T. Marić, D. Bothe, and S. Hardt, Breakup dynamics of capillary bridges on hydrophobic stripes, International Journal of Multiphase Flow 140 (2021),103582.
April 16, 2021
Protein separation at liquid-liquid interfaces
The separation of proteins according to specific properties such as size plays an eminent role in many processes of the biotech industry. We have recently demonstrated a new separation process for proteins in a microfluidic device. First, a protein mixture is electrophoretically transported towards a liquid-liquid interface. The interface represents a transport resistance to the proteins, such that some species adsorb at the interface more easily than others. Protein separation can be accomplished if one species crosses the interface, while the other gets adsorbed, which was demonstrated in the paper referred to below. We believe that in the future this new method of protein separation could extend the spectrum of industrial separation processes.
February 26, 2021
Stability of liquid rings in capillary tubes
Imagine introducing a small droplet into a capillary tube with circular cross section. “Small” means that the droplet volume is of the order of the tube diameter cubed or smaller. Such a droplet can exist in several shapes. It can form a liquid plug, a liquid ring or a sessile droplet at the tube wall. Interestingly, whether or not a liquid ring can exist depends on its volume and the contact angle of the liquid at the wall. We have explored the stability limits of liquid rings using analytical and numerical methods and represented the results in a stability map.