Nov 29, 2017 | By David

We’ve reported before on microfluidics technology, and how it can be used in combination with 3D printing for all kinds of useful and often life-saving applications. The latest breakthrough was carried out by researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), in collaboration with a team from the University of Liverpool. Their 3D printed microfluidic device enabled them to study the behaviour of liquids as they flow quickly or around a curved path, and how the whirlpools that form can be reduced in order to improve efficiency of fluid pumping processes.

When simple, "Newtonian" fluids, like water, flow very quickly or move along a path with a curve in it, swirling whirlpools tend to develop. The formation of these vortices increases the "drag force" on the liquid as it moves, which means that more energy is required to move a fluid in the desired direction. This extra energy cost, when factored in on a large scale, can have a significant effect. In large infrastructure such as oil pipelines or sewer pipes, the extra power input that is required to create enough pressure to pump the fluid means that the process is more expensive than it otherwise would be.

One way to tackle this problem, which has been applied in industrial oil pumping systems as far back as the 1940s, is to add small quantities of polymers to the oil. This means that the intensity of the vortices is reduced, so the oil will flow at the same speed but with a reduced pumping pressure, saving energy and money. Despite its long and effective history, many questions still remain about exactly how the polymers work on a physical level.

To explore this issue further, the researchers used a 3-D printed "microfluidic" device - a small block of glass containing a pair of microscopic crossing channels, which are not much wider than a human hair. Under a microscope, they could see the vortex that formed in extreme detail, track its motion, and see how the addition of a small amount of polymer changed the way the fluid moved. Only one part per million of polymer was needed in the fluid to help it flow more smoothly.

The OIST team’s collaborators in Liverpool created computer simulations of the microfluidics experiment in order to understand exactly how the flow is affected by the introduction of polymer molecules. "With the aid of the simulations, we were able to clearly show where the polymers stretch in very specific regions of the flow, and how this acts to suppress the formation and growth of the vortex," said Dr. Simon Haward, group leader in the Micro/Bio/Nanofluidics Unit at OIST and corresponding author on the paper ‘’Inertioelastic Flow Instability at a Stagnation Point,’’ which was published in the journal Physical Review X.

The findings of this 3D printed microfluidics research could have a huge range of potential applications in many different fields. As well as helping to optimize pumping infrastructure for the oil industry or sewage works, it could also be used by medical practitioners to improve blood circulation in patients with heart conditions. In a more everyday consumer situation, inkjet printers that suffer from jet fragmentation, a phenomenon where many small droplets of fluid form and affect the resolution of a print, could be improved with the addition of a polymer substance in the right way in order to fix this problem.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Dave Barbi wrote at 12/6/2017 2:54:39 PM:

It does not look like a 3D printed glass part. It looks like drilling. If this is 3D printed part, then on which printer it was printed? It is a 3D printing article without any information about the printing process.

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