micro Particle Image Velocimetry, backward facing step flow, micromixing;


Micro particle image velocimetry (microPIV) is a non-intrusive tool for visualizing flow in micron-scale conduits. Using this investigative instrument, two experimental studies were performed to understand flow behaviors in microfluidic channels - a sudden expansion step flow and laminar velocity profile variation in diffusion driven mixing. First, flow in a backward facing step feature (1:5 expansion ratio) in a microchannel was taken as the subject of microPIV flow visualization. The onset and development of a recirculation flow was studied as a function of flow rate. This flow pattern was further used to investigate two major parameters affecting microPIV measurements; the depth-of-focus and recording time-intervals between images in a microPIV image pair. The onset of recirculation was initiated at flow rates that correspond to Reynolds numbers, Re>95, which is well beyond the typical working range of microfluidic devices (Re=0.01-10). The recirculation flow has a 3D structure due to the dimensions of the microchannel and the effect of no slip condition on the walls. Ensemble cross-correlation was found not to be sensitive to variations of depth-of-focus and the output flow fields were similar as long as the overall optical focus remained within the upper and lower bounds of the microchannel. However, variations of time intervals between images in a microPIV pair, resulted in quantitatively and qualitatively different flow patterns for a given constant flow rate and depth-of-focus. In the second experiment, the effect of the laminar velocity profile and its variation on mixing phenomena at the reduced scale is studied. It is shown that the diffusive mass flux between two miscible streams, flowing in a laminar regime in a microchannel, is enhanced if the velocity at their diffusion interface is increased. Based on this idea, an in-plane passive micromixing concept is proposed and implemented in a working device (sigma micromixer). This mixer shows considerable mixing performance by periodically varying the flow velocity profile, such that the maximum of the profile coincides with the transversely progressing diffusion fronts repeatedly throughout the mixing channel. microPIV has been used to visualize the behavior of laminar flow inside the micromixer device and to confirm the periodic variation of the velocity profile through the mixing channel.


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Graduation Date



Kumar, Ranganathan


Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering








Release Date

September 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)