Suspension flow in microfluidic devices - a review of experimental techniques focussing on concentration and velocity gradients

A.M.C. van Dinther, C.G.P.H. Schroën, F. Vergeldt, R.G.M. van der Sman, R.M. Boom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Microfluidic devices are an emerging technology for processing suspensions in e.g. medical applications, pharmaceutics and food. Compared to larger scales, particles will be more influenced by migration in microfluidic devices, and this may even be used to facilitate segregation and separation. In order to get most out of these completely new technologies, methods to experimentally measure (or compute) particle migration are needed to gain sufficient insights for rational design. However, the currently available methods only allow limited access to particle behaviour. In this review we compare experimental methods to investigate migration phenomena that can occur in microfluidic systems when operated with natural suspensions, having typical particle diameters of 0.1 to 10 µm. The methods are used to monitor concentration and velocity profiles of bidisperse and polydisperse suspensions, which are notoriously difficult to measure due to the small dimensions of channels and particles. Various methods have been proposed in literature: tomography, ultrasound, and optical analysis, and here we review and evaluate them on general dimensionless numbers related to process conditions and channel dimensions. Besides, eleven practical criteria chosen such that they can also be used for various applications, are used to evaluate the performance of the methods. We found that NMR and CSLM, although expensive, are the most promising techniques to investigate flowing suspensions in microfluidic devices, where one may be preferred over the other depending on the size, concentration and nature of the suspension, the dimensions of the channel, and the information that has to be obtained. The paper concludes with an outlook on future developments of measurement techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
  • particle image velocimetry
  • electrical-impedance tomography
  • pressure-driven flow
  • nuclear-magnetic-resonance
  • laser-doppler anemometry
  • multiphase flows
  • neutron-radiography
  • confocal microscopy
  • brownian suspension


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