Vortex chain formation in regions of ion concentration polarization†
The local vortical flow generated inside an ion concentration polarization (ICP) region is evaluated experimentally. The ICP is induced by a patterned nanoporous self-assembling membrane integrated inside a single microchannel. A bottom-view image of the depletion region near the membrane revealed a primary vortex which results from the electric field amplification. A unique perspective of the flow is obtained by imaging the microchannel from its side. This visualization shows for the first time the formation of a chain of three vortices all rotating in the same direction in the depletion region. While observation of multiple vortices has been previously reported, it was in reference to counter rotating vortex pairs and not to the same direction of rotating vortex chain formation. A physical model is proposed which considers a two dimensionally varying concentration profile in the depletion region to account for the formation of multiple vortices rotating in the same direction. The fast rotating primary vortex changes the local concentration in regions adjacent to it, as the advection time scale is much higher than the diffusion time scale. Near the membrane, it moves the low concentration electrolyte from the bottom wall upwards into a higher concentration region. Away from the membrane, it moves the high concentration electrolyte from the middle of the channel downwards into a low concentration region. These local changes in the wall concentration result in a varying slip velocity capable of inducing a secondary vortex. Similarly, this secondary vortex can induce a tertiary one. A numerical simulation is performed using the proposed varying slip velocity model which showed excellent agreement with the experimental observations.