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Designing Mini-mixers for Microdevices

NSF Award:

Louisiana's Research Infrastructure Improvement Strategy  (Louisiana Board of Regents)

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Designing tiny mixers for microfluidic or lab-on-a-chip devices is easier now because of a computer program that evaluates micromixer geometries and optimizes their configuration to enhance mixing.

Experimentally testing various micromixer designs is a laborious process best saved for only the most promising designs. Since the software allows researchers to achieve the best designs before fabrication, it could potentially reduce device costs.

Increasingly, small-scale devices incorporate microfluidic components for biological and chemical applications such as medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and biowarfare detection. A Tulane University team developed the software to aid in the design of a micromixer for a miniaturized antibody-based sensor that will detect environmental contaminants on-site.

To evaluate mixing, the program simulates the transport and reaction of two or more substances, given a set of parameters describing the flow and reaction dynamics. The team quantifies mixing by measuring the amount of reaction product formed and visualizing the flow paths of the substances.

Written to run on multiple processors of supercomputers as well as desktop machines, the program accepts geometries from computer-aided or graphic design software. Because the analysis methods do not require a grid, complicated and irregular geometries are easily assessed.

The next step is to manufacture and experimentally test a few of the computationally optimized micromixers for use in the sensor.

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  • mini-mixer
A computer tested three micromixer designs--obstructed, straight, and serpentine mixers.
Katharine Hamlington, Hideki Fujioka, Ricardo Cortez, and Donald Gaver III, Tulane University

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