Throughput enhancement of parallel step emulsifier devices by shear-free and efficient nozzle clearance†
Step emulsification is an attractive method for production of monodisperse drops. Its main advantage is the ability to parallelize many step emulsifier nozzles to achieve high production rates. However, step emulsification is sensitive to any obstructions at the nozzle exit. At high production rates, drops can accumulate at nozzle exits, disturb the formation of subsequent drops and impair monodispersity. As a result, parallelized step emulsifier devices typically do not work at maximum productivity. Here a design is introduced that parallelizes hundreds of step emulsifier nozzles, and effectively removes drops from the nozzle exits. The drop clearance is achieved by an open collecting channel, and is aided by buoyancy. Importantly, this clearance method avoids the use of a continuous phase flow for drop clearance and hence no shear is applied on the forming drops. The method works well for a wide range of drops, sizing from 30 to 1000 μm at production rates of 0.03 and 10 L per hour and achieved by 400 and 120 parallelized nozzles respectively.