Institute for Nano- and Microfluidics

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!

Picture: Sebastian Keuth


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.

C. Lv and S. Hardt, Wetting of a liquid annulus in a capillary tube, Soft Matter 17 (2021), 1756-1772.

December 17, 2020

Electroosmotic flow (EOF) induced by surface acoustic waves

Surface acoustic waves (SAW) are widely used in microfluidics for transporting and mixing liquids. SAWs are acoustic waves travelling along the interface between a solid and a fluid. Up to now, the electrokinetic effects due to SAWs have remained largely unexplored. We have theoretically studied the EOF induced by SAWs and found that in small-scale channels, the EOF velocity may significantly exceed the velocity due to the acoustic field. Therefore, SAW-induced EOF may be useful as a method for pumping liquids through small scale channels.

M. Dietzel and S. Hardt, Electroosmotic flow in small-scale channels induced by surface-acoustic waves, Physical Review Fluids 5 (2020), 123702.

November 19, 2020

Fluid interfaces can become solid-like

As a stream encounters an obstacle, floating debris sometimes piles up in front of the obstacle, forming a dense layer on the water surface. At a microscopic scale, surfactants, molecules attached to the interface between two fluids, can suffer the same fate, immobilizing the interface upstream of an obstacle. ‘Super-hydrophobic’ surfaces with embedded gas pockets have been suggested for reducing drag on objects moving through water. With this in mind, we investigated the impact that surfactants have on this mechanism and found that parts of the gas-water interface become ‘solidified’ by surfactant pile-up.

T. Baier and S. Hardt, Influence of insoluble surfactants on shear flow over a surface in Cassie state at large Péclet numbers, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 907 (2020), A3.

October 2, 2020

Also fluid interfaces can be viscous

Usually, viscosity is a quantity associated with the bulk of a fluid. If, however, small particles or surfactants are adsorbed to a gas-liquid or liquid-liquid interface, the interface itself becomes viscous. In that case, the viscosity coefficients represent the dissipation due to the presence of particles or surfactants in an average manner. We have recently derived analytical expressions for the viscosity coefficients of a particle-laden fluid interface in the limit of low particle concentrations. These results could significantly simplify simulations of two-phase flows with particle-laden interfaces.

M. Eigenbrod and S. Hardt, The effective shear and dilatational viscosities of a particle-laden interface in the dilute limit, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 903 (2020), A26.

May 29, 2020

Intermediate wetting states on superhydrophobic surfaces

Together with cooperation partners from the Technion/Israel, we have studied the wetting states of hierarchical superhydrophobic surfaces, consisting of an array of micropillars that is decorated with nanoparticles. We find a multitude of intermediate states between the classical Cassie and Wenzel states. The transition from the Cassie state to these intermediate states is partially reversible. A summary of the main results can be found here.

B. Rofman, S. Dehe, V. Frumkin, S. Hardt, and M. Bercovici, Intermediate states of wetting on hierarchical superhydrophobic surfaces, Langmuir 36 (2020), 5517−5523.

May 29, 2020

Enhancement of electroosmotic flow on superhydrophobic surfaces

Together with cooperation partners from the Technion/Israel, we have studied the electroosmotic flow along superhydrophobic surfaces, augmented by gate electrodes. Via the charges created at the gas-liquid interfaces, the flow velocity can be increased by more than a factor of 10 compared to unstructured surfaces. In addition, the flow is entirely pH-independent. A summary of the main results can be found here.

S. Dehe, B. Rofman, M. Bercovici, and S. Hardt, Electro-osmotic flow enhancement over superhydrophobic surfaces, Physical Review Fluids 5 (2020), 053701.

May 6, 2020

Gas separation in a Knudsen pump

Knudsen pumps rely on gas-flows induced by temperature differences. We have studied the transport of gas mixtures along a Knudsen pump and observed differences in flow of the individual components of the mixture. Therefore, such a pump may be used for gas separation. This kind of separation of gas species by mass or size plays an important role for many applications in chemical engineering.

Baier, T., Hardt, S. Gas separation in a Knudsen pump inspired by a Crookes radiometer. Microfluid Nanofluid 24, 41 (2020).

March 2, 2020

“Tears of wine” in capillary tubes

“Tears of wine” is a phenomenon that can be observed in wine glasses: Driven by Marangoni stresses, a liquid film crawls up along the glass wall. Now imaging shrinking the diameter of the wine glass to one millimeter. In that case, ring-like structures are formed from the film. These liquid rings finally collapse and form plugs that are propelled along the capillary tube by evaporation. We have studied this phenomenon based on experiments and theory.

Reference: C. Lv, S. N. Varanakkottu, and S. Hardt, Liquid plug formation from heated binary mixtures in capillary tubes, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 889 (2020), A15. DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2020.80

February 19, 2020

Pattern formation in layers of DNA molecules

DNA molecules can be concentrated by electrophoretic accumulation at an interface between two immiscible polymer solutions. Apart from its relevance in applications, this process goes along with the formation of characteristic DNA concentration patterns, visible in the figure at the left. We have experimentally studied the concentration patterns and formulated a theory describing the pattern formation. The theoretical predictions based on linear stability analysis compare favorably with the experimental results.

Reference: S. Hardt, J. Hartmann, S. Zhao, and A. Bandopadhyay, Electric-field-induced pattern formation in layers of DNA molecules at the interface between two immiscible liquids, Physical Review Letters 124 (2020), 064501. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.124.064501

February 18, 2020

Tutorium „CFD-based simulation and optimization of microfluidic components“

This tutorium will equip students with the basic methodology needed to design and optimize microfluidic components on the computer. The course language will be English. Click here for details

January 10, 2020

Species transfer using small droplets as carriers

Transferring chemical species or nanoparticles in a controlled way becomes challenging when very small species amounts are considered. We have found a solution to this problem, where a droplet with a diameter of the order of 5 µm serves as carrier for the cargo. The method is sketched in the schematic on the left. The droplet reciprocates between two aqueous reservoirs under the influence of a DC electric field. Upon touching the reservoir, the droplet reverses its charge and its direction of motion. We have studied the transfer of chemical species between the two reservoirs mediated by the droplet.

Reference: M. Shojaeian and S. Hardt, Mass transfer via femtoliter droplets in ping-pong mode, Physical Review Applied 13 (2020), 014015. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.13.014015

December 12, 2019

Nanoparticle-wall interactions in gases

A sphere moving in the vicinity of a wall experiences an increased fluid-dynamic drag force compared to motion far from solid boundaries, influencing the adsorption of particles at surfaces. For a small particle inside a gas, the fluid dynamics of such problems becomes very involved, since the Navier-Stokes equation is no longer applicable. We have computed the corresponding drag force on a particle and find that it is much lower than the one predicted by the Navier-Stokes equation.

Reference: P. Goswami, T. Baier, S. Tiwari, C. Lv, S. Hardt, and A. Klar, Drag force on spherical particle moving near a plane wall in highly rarefied gas. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 883, 47 (2020). DOI:10.1017/jfm.2019.921. Link: