Inertial focusing of spherical particles in rectangular microchannels over a wide range of Reynolds numbers†
Inertial microfluidics has emerged as an important tool for manipulating particles and cells. For a better design of inertial microfluidic devices, we conduct 3D direct numerical simulations (DNS) and experiments to determine the complicated dependence of focusing behaviour on the particle size, channel aspect ratio, and channel Reynolds number. We find that the well-known focusing of the particles at the two centers of the long channel walls occurs at a relatively low Reynolds number, whereas additional stable equilibrium positions emerge close to the short walls with increasing Reynolds number. Based on the numerically calculated trajectories of particles, we propose a two-stage particle migration which is consistent with experimental observations. We further present a general criterion to secure good focusing of particles for high flow rates. This work thus provides physical insight into the multiplex focusing of particles in rectangular microchannels with different geometries and Reynolds numbers, and paves the way for efficiently designing inertial microfluidic devices.