Energy: the microfluidic frontier
Global energy is largely a fluids problem. It is also large-scale, in stark contrast to microchannels. Microfluidic energy technologies must offer either massive scalability or direct relevance to energy processes already operating at scale. We have to pick our fights. Highlighted here are the exceptional opportunities I see, including some recent successes and areas where much more attention is needed. The most promising directions are those that leverage high surface-to-volume ratios, rapid diffusive transport, capacity for high temperature and high pressure experiments, and length scales characteristic of microbes and fluids (hydrocarbons, CO2) underground. The most immediate areas of application are where information is the product; either fluid sample analysis (e.g. oil analysis); or informing operations (e.g. CO2 transport in microporous media). I'll close with aspects that differentiate energy from traditional microfluidics applications, the uniquely important role of engineering in energy, and some thoughts for the research community forming at the nexus of lab-on-a-chip and energy – a microfluidic frontier.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Lab on a Chip: Insights Issue