Immiscible liquid–liquid flows in microchannels are used extensively in various chemical and biological lab-on-a-chip systems when it is very important to predict the expected flow pattern for a variety of fluids and channel geometries. Commonly, biological and other complex liquids express non-Newtonian properties in a dispersed phase. Features and behavior of such systems are not clear to date. In this paper, immiscible liquid–liquid flow in a T-shaped microchannel was studied by means of high-speed visualization, with an aim to reveal the shear-thinning effect on the flow patterns and slug-flow features. Three shear-thinning and three Newtonian fluids were used as dispersed phases, while Newtonian castor oil was a continuous phase. For the first time, the influence of the non-Newtonian dispersed phase on the transition from segmented to continuous flow is shown and quantitatively described. Flow-pattern maps were constructed using nondimensional complex We0.4·Oh0.6 depicting similarity in the continuous-to-segmented flow transition line. Using available experimental data, the proposed nondimensional complex is shown to be effectively applied for flow-pattern map construction when the continuous phase exhibits non-Newtonian properties as well. The models to evaluate an effective dynamic viscosity of a shear-thinning fluid are discussed. The most appropriate model of average-shear-rate estimation based on bulk velocity was chosen and applied to evaluate an effective dynamic viscosity of a shear-thinning fluid. For a slug flow, it was found that in the case of shear-thinning dispersed phase at low flow rates of both phases, a jetting regime of slug formation was established, leading to a dramatic increase in slug length.
- Flow pattern
- Liquid flow
- Shear-thinning fluid
- Slug flow
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