Numerical investigation of micro- and nanochannel deformation due to discontinuous electroosmotic flow

Large pressures can induce detrimental deformation in micro- and nanofluidic channels. Although this has been extensively studied for systems driven by pressure and/or capillary forces, deflection in electrokinetic systems due to internal pressure gradients caused by non-uniform electric fields has not been widely explored. For example, applying an axial electric field in a channel with a step change in conductivity and/or surface charge can lead to internally generated pressures large enough to cause cavitation, debonding, and/or channel collapse. Finite electric double layers within nanofluidic channels can further complicate the physics involved in the deformation process. In order to design devices and experimental procedures that avoid issues resulting from such deformation, it is imperative to be able to predict deformation for given system parameters. In this work, we numerically investigate pressures resulting from a step change in conductivity and/or surface charge in micro- and nanofluidic channels with both thin and thick double layers. We show an explicit relation of pressure dependence on concentration ratio and electric double layer thickness. Furthermore, we develop a numerical model to predict deformation in such systems and use the model to unearth trends in deformation for various electric double layer thicknesses and both glass and PDMS on glass channels. Our work is particularly impactful for the development and design of micro- and nanofluidic-based devices with gradients in surface charge and/or conductivity, fundamental study of electrokinetic-based cavitation, and other systems that exploit non-uniform electric fields.

de Rutte, J. M., Janssen, K. G. H., Tas, N. R., Eijkel, J. C. T. and Pennathur, S.
Microfluidics and Nanofluidics
Volume: 20
Number: 150
Date: October, 2016
ICB Affiliated Authors: Sumita Pennathur