Thermomechanical actuation

PhD thesis of Bertrand SELVA
in collaboration with Isabelle Cantat - IPR
Fundamental issues :

We perform studies of pancake-like shaped bubbles submitted to a temperature gradient in a micrometric height Hele-Shaw cell. We show that under the experimental conditions, usually found in microfluidic devices, the temperature-induced dilation of the cavity overcomes the thermocapillary convection due to surface tension variation, effectively driving the bubble toward
the cold side of the cavity. The bubble velocity is experimentally characterized as a function of the bubble radius, the temperature gradient, and the initial Hele-Shaw cell thickness. We propose a theoretical prediction of the bubble velocity, based on the analytical resolution of the hydrodynamical problem. The equations set closure is ensured by the pressure value near the bubble and by the dissipation in the moving meniscus.

Applicative issues :

Base on the previous observation, we report a novel method for bubble or droplet displacement, capture and switching within a bifurcation channel for applications in digital microfluidics.  Taking advantage of these properties three applications are presented: (1) element displacement, (2) element switching, detailed in a given range of working, in which elements are redirected towards a specific evacuation, (3) a system able to trap, and consequently stop on demand, the elements on an alveolus structure while the continuous phase is still flowing. The strength of this method lies in its simplicity: single layer system, in situ heating leading to a high level of integration, low power consumption (P < 0.4 W), low applied voltage (about 10 V), and finally this system is able to manipulate elements within a flow velocity up to 1 cm s.1.
Droplet switching using thermomechanical actuation :

YouTube Video


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