Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 26487905
Biomicrofluidics 2015 Sep;9(5):054119
The architecture of microfluidic networks can significantly impact the flow distribution within its different branches and thereby influence tracer transport within the network. In this paper, we study the flow rate distribution within a network of parallel microfluidic channels with a single input and single output, using a combination of theoretical modeling and microfluidic experiments. Within the ladder network, the flow rate distribution follows a U-shaped profile, with the highest flow rate occurring in the initial and final branches. The contrast with the central branches is controlled by a single dimensionless parameter, namely, the ratio of hydrodynamic resistance between the distribution channel and the side branches. This contrast in flow rates decreases when the resistance of the side branches increases relative to the resistance of the distribution channel. When the inlet flow is composed of two parallel streams, one of which transporting a diffusing species, a concentration variation is produced within the side branches of the network. The shape of this concentration gradient is fully determined by two dimensionless parameters: the ratio of resistances, which determines the flow rate distribution, and the Péclet number, which characterizes the relative speed of diffusion and advection. Depending on the values of these two control parameters, different distribution profiles can be obtained ranging from a flat profile to a step distribution of solute, with well-distributed gradients between these two limits. Our experimental results are in agreement with our numerical model predictions, based on a simplified 2D advection-diffusion problem. Finally, two possible applications of this work are presented: the first one combines the present design with self-digitization principle to encapsulate the controlled concentration in nanoliter chambers, while the second one extends the present design to create a continuous concentration gradient within an open flow chamber.