Mixing at Low Reynolds Numbers by Vibrating Cantilevered Ionic Polymers

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Creating mixing at low Reynolds numbers is a non-trivial challenge that has been approached from many different perspectives, using passive or active methods. This challenge been further highlighted with the rise of microfluidics. Based on the diminutive size of these devices, the Reynolds numbers are often less than 10, but have high Peclet numbers. Therefore, creating effective mixing is non-trivial and is a topic of active research, and is of paramount importance in order to improve performance of microfluidic devices in a wide range of applications.

The objective of this research was to develop a novel active device for laminar mixing. The mixing device developed herein capitalized on Nafion ionic polymers, which are a class of active materials that are thin, flexible, inexpensive, and readily deployable in an aqueous medium and offer strains up to 5% under a small (<2V) applied voltage. The effect of these deflections on an incident flow is the mixing mechanism in a laminar channel flow explored in this effort.

To the author's knowledge, the high-risk effort presented herein is the first attempt to exploit ionic polymers as an active mixing device. Several different configurations of ionic polymers were tested and Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV) measurements were obtained. Resulting analysis using a quantitative mixing metric shows that using cantilevered polymers create increases mixing potential in the flow for some actuation cases. Although these differences are present, they do not appear consistently in the results. However, only a partial set of flow information was obtained from DPIV, and an improved understanding of the effect of these polymers could be developed from additional experiments.

Using cantilevered ionic polymers for laminar mixing could foster the development of a new generation of efficient micromixing devices, which will improve the capabilities and effectiveness of numerous microfluidic technologies that range across biomedical, lab-on-a-chip, separation and sorting technologies and many more.



DPIV, Laminar Mixing, Ionic Polymers