Mixing with herringbone-inspired microstructures: overcoming the diffusion limit in co-laminar microfluidic devices
Enhancing mixing is of uttermost importance in many laminar microfluidic devices, aiming at overcoming the severe performance limitation of species transport by diffusion alone. Here we focus on the significant category of microscale co-laminar flows encountered in membraneless redox flow cells for power delivery. The grand challenge is to achieve simultaneously convective mixing within each individual reactant, to thin the reaction depletion boundary layers, while maintaining separation of the co-flowing reactants, despite the absence of a membrane. The concept presented here achieves this goal with the help of optimized herringbone flow promoting microstructures with an integrated separation zone. Our electrochemical experiments using a model redox couple show that symmetric flow promoter designs exhibit laminar to turbulent flow behavior, the latter at elevated flow rates. This change in flow regime is accompanied by a significant change in scaling of the Sherwood number with respect to the Reynolds number from Sh ~ Re0.29 to Sh ~ Re0.58. The stabilized continuous laminar flow zone along the centerline of the channel allows operation in a co-laminar flow regime up to Re ~325 as we demonstrate by micro laser-induced fluorescence (μLIF) measurements. Micro particle image velocimetry (μPIV) proves the maintenance of a stratified flow along the centerline, mitigating reactant cross-over effectively. The present work paves the way toward improved performance in membraneless microfluidic flow cells for electrochemical energy conversion.