A flowing pair of particles in inertial microfluidics†
A flowing pair of particles in inertial microfluidics gives important insights into understanding and controlling the collective dynamics of particles like cells or droplets in microfluidic devices. They are applied in medical cell analysis and engineering. We study the dynamics of a pair of solid particles flowing through a rectangular microchannel using lattice Boltzmann simulations. We determine the inertial lift force profiles as a function of the two particle positions, their axial distance, and the Reynolds number. Generally, the profiles strongly differ between particles leading and lagging in flow and the lift forces are enhanced due to the presence of a second particle. At small axial distances, they are determined by viscous forces, while inertial forces dominate at large separations. We identify cross-streamline pairs as stable fixed points in the lift force profiles and argue that same-streamline configurations are only one-sided stable. Depending on the initial conditions, the two-particle lift forces in combination with the Poiseuille flow give rise to three types of unbound particle trajectories, called moving-apart, passing, and swapping, and one type of bound trajectory, where the particles perform damped oscillations towards the cross-stream line configuration. The damping rate scales with Reynolds number squared, since inertial forces are responsible for driving the particles to their steady-state positions.