On capillary self-focusing in a microfluidic system

M. Hein, R. Seemann, S. Afkhami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A computational framework is developed to address capillary self-focusing in step emulsification. The microfluidic system consists of a single shallow and wide microchannel that merges into a deep reservoir. A continuum approach coupled with a volume of fluid method is used to model the capillary self-focusing effect. The original governing equations are reduced using the Hele-Shaw approximation. We show that the interface between the two fluids takes the shape of a neck narrowing in the flow direction just before entering the reservoir, in agreement with our experimental observations. Our computational model relies on the assumption that the pressure at the boundary, where the fluid exits into the reservoir, is the uniform pressure in the reservoir. We investigate this hypothesis by comparing the numerical results with experimental data. We conjecture that the pressure boundary condition becomes important when the width of the neck is comparable to the depth of the microchannel. A correction to the exit pressure boundary condition is then proposed, which is determined by comparison with experimental data. We also present the experimental observations and the numerical results of the transitions of breakup regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number061427
JournalFluid Dynamics Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 7 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


  • Hele-Shaw
  • capillary focusing
  • microfluidics
  • step emulsification
  • volume of fluid simulation


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