Real-Time Detection of Slug Velocity in Microchannels

Micromachines (Basel). 2020 Feb 26;11(3):241. doi: 10.3390/mi11030241.


Microfluidics processes play a central role in the design of portable devices for biological and chemical samples analysis. The bottleneck in this technological evolution is the lack of low cost detection systems and control strategies easily adaptable in different operative conditions, able to guarantee the processes reproducibility and reliability, and suitable for on-chip applications. In this work, a methodology for velocity detection of two-phase flow is presented in microchannels. The approach presented is based on a low-cost optical signals monitoring setup. The slug flow generated by the interaction of two immiscible fluids {air and water} in two microchannels was investigated. To verify the reliability of the detection systems, the flow nonlinearity was enhanced by using curved geometries and microchannel diameter greater than 100 μ m . The optical signals were analyzed by using an approach in a time domain, to extract the slug velocity, and one in the frequency domain, to compute the slug frequency. It was possible to distinguish the water and air slugs velocity and frequency. A relation between these two parameters was also numerically established. The results obtained represent an important step in the design of non-invasive, low-cost portable systems for micro-flow analysis, in order to prove that the developed methodology was implemented to realize a platform, easy to be integrated in a System-on-a-Chip, for the real-time slug flow velocity detection. The platform performances were successfully validated in different operative conditions.

Keywords: air–water flows; experimental study; optical signals monitoring; slug frequency; slug velocity.