The importance of downstream events in microfluidic viscoelastic entry flows: Consequences of increasing the constriction length

Lucy E Rodd, Daewoong Lee, Kyung Hyun Ahn, Justin J. Cooper-White

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Polymer solutions and melts can exhibit large upstream corner and lip vortices, unstable and diverging flow and an enhanced pressure drop when flowing through a geometry containing a constriction. In the present work, we use a planar microfluidic device to show that the length of the downstream constriction plays an important role in the upstream kinematics and the extra pressure drop. That is, the elastic flow phenomena observed upstream of a constriction during entry flows of polymer solutions are not exclusively a result of the stretching dynamics induced by the converging flow-the downstream relaxation events are, at least, equally important. Flow visualization experiments with semi-dilute solutions of a high molecular weight polymer showed that large stable symmetric vortices could be reduced to highly chaotic asymmetric flow, merely by increasing the length of the constriction-the Reynolds number and elasticity number were both held constant. This was accompanied by a higher extra pressure. These results support the hypothesis that elastic flow instabilities originate downstream of the constriction (at the expansion) and move progressively upstream with time and/or flowrate. These findings may also partly explain the discrepancies commonly observed between the results of entry flow experiments and numerical simulations, in which the downstream geometry is very rarely considered. Lastly, we illustrate how to minimize the occurrence of unstable flow upstream of a constriction, which is a necessary condition for closed microrheometry devices used to characterize low viscosity elastic fluids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1189-1203
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics
Issue number19-20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Contraction-expansion
  • Entry flow
  • Microfluidics
  • Polyethylene oxide
  • Relaxation
  • Unstable flow

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