Analysis of the trajectory of a sphere moving through a geometric constriction

Sumedh R. Risbud, Mingxiang Luo, Joëlle Fréchette, German Drazer

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6 Scopus citations


We present a numerical study of the effect that fluid and particle inertia have on the motion of suspended spherical particles through a geometric constriction to understand analogous microfluidic settings, such as pinched flow fractionation devices. The particles are driven by a constant force in a quiescent fluid, and the constriction (the pinching gap) corresponds to the space between a plane wall and a second, fixed sphere of the same size (the obstacle). The results show that, due to inertia and/or the presence of a geometric constriction, the particles attain smaller separations to the obstacle. We then relate the minimum surface-to-surface separation to the effect that short-range, repulsive non-hydrodynamic interactions (such as solid-solid contact due to surface roughness, electrostatic double layer repulsion, etc.) would have on the particle trajectories. In particular, using a simple hard-core repulsive potential model for such interactions, we infer that the particles would experience larger lateral displacements moving through the pinching gap as inertia increases and/or the aperture of the constriction decreases. Thus, separation of particles based on differences in density is in principle possible, owing to the differences in inertia associated with them. We also discuss the case of significant inertia in which the presence of a small constriction may hinder separation by reducing inertia effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062001
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes

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