Performance tuning of microfluidic flow-focusing droplet generators†
The required step in all droplet-based devices is droplet formation. A droplet generator must deliver an application-specific performance that includes a prescribed droplet size and generation frequency while producing monodisperse droplets. The desired performance is usually reached through several cost- and time-inefficient design iterations. To address this, we take advantage of a low-cost rapid prototyping method and provide a framework that enables researchers to make informed decisions on how to change geometric parameters and flow conditions to tune the performance of a microfluidic flow-focusing droplet generator. We present the primary and secondary parameters necessary for fine-tuning droplet formation over a wide range of capillary numbers and flow rate ratios. Once the key parameters are identified, we demonstrate the effect of geometric parameters and flow conditions on droplet size, generation rate, polydispersity, and generation regime. Using this framework, a wide range of droplet diameters (i.e., 30–400 μm) and generation rates (i.e., 0.5–800 Hz) was achieved.