We engineered specific microfluidic devices based on the pervaporation of water through a PDMS membrane, to formulate continuous and steady concentration gradients of a binary aqueous molecular mixture at the nanolitre scale. In the case of a model complex fluid (a triblock copolymer solution), we demonstrate that such a steady gradient crosses the phase diagram from pure water up to a succession of highly viscous mesophases. We then performed in situ spatially resolved measurements (confocal spectroscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering) to quantitatively measure the concentration profile and to determine the microstructure of the different textures. Within a single microfluidic channel, we thus screen quantitatively and continuously the phase diagram of a complex fluid. Beside, as such a gradient corresponds to an out-of-equilibrium regime, we also extract from the concentration measurement a precise estimate of the collective diffusion coefficient of the mixture as a function of the concentration. In the present case of the triblock copolymer, this transport coefficient features discontinuities at some phase boundaries, which have never been observed before.
You have access to this article
Please wait while we load your content...
Something went wrong. Try again?