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Issue 6, 2015
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Micropropulsion by an acoustic bubble for navigating microfluidic spaces

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This paper describes an underwater micropropulsion principle where a gaseous bubble trapped in a suspended microchannel and oscillated by external acoustic excitation generates a propelling force. The propelling swimmer is designed and microfabricated from parylene on the microscale (the equivalent diameter of the cylindrical bubble is around 60 μm) using microphotolithography. The propulsion mechanism is studied and verified by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations as well as experiments. The acoustically excited and thus periodically oscillating bubble generates alternating flows of intake and discharge through an opening of the microchannel. As the Reynolds number of oscillating flow increases, the difference between the intake and discharge flows becomes significant enough to generate a net flow (microstreaming flow) and a propulsion force against the channel. As the size of the device is reduced, however, the Reynolds number is also reduced. To maintain the Reynolds number in a certain range and thus generate a strong propulsion force in the fabricated device, the oscillation amplitude of the bubble is maximized (resonated) and the oscillation frequency is set high (over 10 kHz). Propelling motions by a single bubble as well as an array of bubbles are achieved on the microscale. In addition, the microswimmer demonstrates payload carrying. This propulsion mechanism may be applied to microswimmers that navigate microfluidic environments and possibly narrow passages in human bodies to perform biosensing, drug delivery, imaging, and microsurgery.

Graphical abstract: Micropropulsion by an acoustic bubble for navigating microfluidic spaces

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The article was received on 23 Oct 2014, accepted on 26 Jan 2015 and first published on 26 Jan 2015

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01266F
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Citation: Lab Chip, 2015,15, 1554-1562

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    Micropropulsion by an acoustic bubble for navigating microfluidic spaces

    J. Feng, J. Yuan and S. K. Cho, Lab Chip, 2015, 15, 1554
    DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01266F

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