Direct numerical simulation of particles in spatially varying electric fields

Edison Amah, Muhammad Janjua, Pushpendra Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A numerical scheme is developed to simulate the motion of dielectric particles in the uniform and nonuniform electric fields of microfluidic devices. The motion of particles is simulated using a distributed Lagrange multiplier method (DLM) and the electric force acting on the particles is calculated by integrating the Maxwell stress tensor (MST) over the particle surfaces. One of the key features of the DLM method used is that the fluid-particle system is treated implicitly by using a combined weak formulation, where the forces and moments between the particles and fluid cancel, as they are internal to the combined system. The MST is obtained from the electric potential, which, in turn, is obtained by solving the electrostatic problem. In our numerical scheme, the domain is discretized using a finite element scheme and the Marchuk-Yanenko operator-splitting technique is used to decouple the difficulties associated with the incompressibility constraint, the nonlinear convection term, the rigid-body motion constraint and the electric force term. The numerical code is used to study the motion of particles in a dielectrophoretic cage which can be used to trap and hold particles at its center. If the particles moves away from the center of the cage, a resorting force acts on them towards the center. The MST results show that the ratio of the particle-particle interaction and dielectrophoretic forces decreases with increasing particle size. Therefore, larger particles move primarily under the action of the dielectrophoretic (DEP) force, especially in the high electric field gradient regions. Consequently, when the spacing between the electrodes is comparable to the particle size, instead of collecting on the same electrode by forming chains, they collect at different electrodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


  • Dielectrophoresis
  • Direct numerical simulations
  • Distributed Lagrange multiplier method
  • Maxwell stress tensor method
  • Point-dipole method


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