A fast and switchable microfluidic mixer based on ultrasound-induced vaporization of perfluorocarbon†
Mixing two fluids together within a microfluidic device still remains a challenging operation today. In order to achieve this goal, a number of effective micromixers have been developed over the years based on the use of either passive or active systems. Typically, passive mixers require no external energy, are more robust, and are easy to manufacture albeit they are poorly flexible. Active mixers, on the other hand, rely on external disturbance and are thus more difficult to use but are proven to have greater efficacy. Here, we report a particularly effective, remotely induced and switchable microfluidic mixer, which relies on the concomitant use of ultrasound and a perfluorocarbon (PFC) phase, with the latter benefiting from its immiscibility with most fluids and its low boiling point. More specifically, our approach is based on localized vaporization of a PFC phase at the focal zone of a transducer leading to efficient mixing of two adjacent fluids. The results show that mixing occurs ~100 ms following the delivery of the acoustic pulse, while a laminar flow is re-established on roughly the same time scale. Overall, this method is simple and effective, does not require tailored channel geometries, is compatible with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic microfluidic systems, and is applicable to a wide range of Reynolds numbers (10−4 < Re < 2.100), and the PFC phase can be easily separated from the mixed phase at the end of the run.