High-throughput measurement of elastic moduli of microfibers by rope coiling

Yuan Liu, Jack H.Y. Lo, Janine K. Nunes, Howard A. Stone, Ho Cheung Shum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are many fields where it is of interest to measure the elastic moduli of tiny fragile fibers, such as filamentous bacteria, actin filaments, DNA, carbon nanotubes, and functional microfibers. The elastic modulus is typically deduced from a sophisticated tensile test under a microscope, but the throughput is low and limited by the time-consuming and skill-intensive sample loading/unloading. Here, we demonstrate a simple microfluidic method enabling the high-throughput measurement of the elastic moduli of microfibers by rope coiling using a localized compression, where sample loading/unloading are not needed between consecutive measurements. The rope coiling phenomenon occurs spontaneously when a microfiber flows from a small channel into a wide channel. The elastic modulus is determined by measuring either the buckling length or the coiling radius. The throughput of this method, currently 3,300 fibers per hour, is a thousand times higher than that of a tensile tester. We demonstrate the feasibility of the method by testing a nonuniform fiber with axially varying elastic modulus. We also demonstrate its capability for in situ inline measurement in a microfluidic production line. We envisage that high-throughput measurements may facilitate potential applications such as screening or sorting by mechanical properties and real-time control during production of microfibers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2303679121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 19 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • elastic rope coiling
  • high-throughput
  • mechanical properties
  • microfibers
  • microfluidics


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