Millifluidics as a simple tool to optimize droplet networks: Case study on drop traffic in a bifurcated loop

William S. Wang, Siva A. Vanapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We report that modular millifluidic networks are simpler, more cost-effective alternatives to traditional microfluidic networks, and they can be rapidly generated and altered to optimize designs. Droplet traffic can also be studied more conveniently and inexpensively at the millimeter scale, as droplets are readily visible to the naked eye. Bifurcated loops, ladder networks, and parking networks were made using only Tygon® tubing and plastic T-junction fittings and visualized using an iPod® camera. As a case study, droplet traffic experiments through a millifluidic bifurcated loop were conducted, and the periodicity of drop spacing at the outlet was mapped over a wide range of inlet drop spacing. We observed periodic, intermittent, and aperiodic behaviors depending on the inlet drop spacing. The experimentally observed periodic behaviors were in good agreement with numerical simulations based on the simple network model. Our experiments further identified three main sources of intermittency between different periodic and/or aperiodic behaviors: (1) simultaneous entering and exiting events, (2) channel defects, and (3) equal or nearly equal hydrodynamic resistances in both sides of the bifurcated loop. In cases of simultaneous events and/or channel defects, the range of input spacings where intermittent behaviors are observed depends on the degree of inherent variation in input spacing. Finally, using a time scale analysis of syringe pump fluctuations and experiment observation times, we find that in most cases, more consistent results can be generated in experiments conducted at the millimeter scale than those conducted at the micrometer scale. Thus, millifluidic networks offer a simple means to probe collective interactions due to drop traffic and optimize network geometry to engineer passive devices for biological and material analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064111
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


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