Aggregation and clogging phenomena of rigid microparticles in microfluidics
We developed a numerical tool to investigate the phenomena of aggregation and clogging of rigid microparticles suspended in a Newtonian fluid transported through a straight microchannel. In a first step, we implement a time-dependent one-way coupling Discrete Element Method (DEM) technique to simulate the movement and effect of adhesion on rigid microparticles in two- and three-dimensional computational domains. The Johnson–Kendall–Roberts (JKR) theory of adhesion is applied to investigate the contact mechanics of particle–particle and particle–wall interactions. Using the one-way coupled solver, the agglomeration, aggregation and deposition behavior of the microparticles is studied by varying the Reynolds number and the particle adhesion. In a second step, we apply a two-way coupling CFD–DEM approach, which solves the equation of motion for each particle, and transfers the force field corresponding to particle–fluid interactions to the CFD toolbox OpenFOAM. Results for the one-way (DEM) and two-way (CFD–DEM) coupling techniques are compared in terms of aggregate size, aggregate percentages, spatial and temporal evaluation of aggregates in 2D and 3D. We conclude that two-way coupling is the more realistic approach, which can accurately capture the particle–fluid dynamics in microfluidic applications.
Keywords: Microfluidics, Clogging, Aggregation, CFD–DEM simulation