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Understanding and controlling fluid flow

Although most people think of electronic systems when hearing the term microdevices, many microstructures work with fluids for use in mixers, filters and reaction chambers, to name only a few. EU-funded researchers developed new technologies and processes for characterising and controlling flow in microchannels that could significantly advance the state-of-the-art of these microdevices.

Industrial Technologies

Much as changes in the walls of arteries and other blood vessels can lead to hypertension, interactions between microchannel wall components and between fluids and substrates (interface forces) play a dominant role in the behaviour of confined fluids in microchannels, dramatically increasing friction. Controlling fluid flow in microchannels by external means is often ineffective, in particular for the case of so-called unconventional fluids. The Influs project was developed to provide new novel functionalised interfaces for microchannels based on multifunctional (active or smart) materials. Researchers investigated both conventional inexpensive plastic microchannel devices as well as those based on hybrid materials with coatings and nano-engineered substrates that allow interface functionalisation. They developed microfluidic bench technologies to characterise complex interfacial phenomena with the goal of facilitating guidance of fluid flow in microchannels and manipulating the position of streams in flows. Dissemination of activities and promotion of cooperation was accomplished via an established web portal. The Influs project thus contributed technology and materials vital to analysing flow of unconventional fluids and characterising the functional interface relevant to the frontiers of process and manoeuvring optimisation in microchannel devices. Application of the results could significantly advance the field of microchannel devices leading to more complex and versatile systems with faster analysis times, reduced cost and improved performance.

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