Emulsification in a microfluidic flow-focusing device: Effect of the viscosities of the liquids

Zhihong Nie, Mins Seok Seo, Shengqing Xu, Patrick C. Lewis, Michelle Mok, Eugenia Kumacheva, George M. Whitesides, Piotr Garstecki, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

303 Scopus citations


We report the results of a comparative study of microfluidic emulsification of liquids with different viscosities. Depending on the properties of the fluids and their rates of flow, emulsification occurred in the dripping and jetting regimes. We studied the characteristic features and typical dependence of the size and of the size distribution of droplets in each regime. For each liquid, we identified a range of hydrodynamic conditions promoting generation of highly monodisperse droplets. Viscosity played an important role in emulsification: highly viscous liquids were emulsified into larger droplets with lower polydispersity. Although it was not possible to provide a unified scaling for the volumes of the droplets, our results suggest that the break-up dynamics of the lower viscosity fluids resembles the rate-of-flow-controlled break-up, as reported earlier for the formation of bubbles in flow-focusing geometries [Garstecki P, Stone HA, Whitesides GM (2005) Phys Rev Lett 94:164501]. The results of this study can be helpful for a rationalized selection of liquids for the controlled formation of droplets with a predetermined size and with a narrow distribution of sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-594
Number of pages10
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry


  • Droplets
  • Emulsification
  • Flow-focusing
  • Hydrodynamic
  • Microfluidic


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