Separation of particles by size from a suspension using the motion of a confined bubble

Yingxian Estella Yu, Sepideh Khodaparast, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


When confined in a liquid-filled circular cylinder, a long air bubble moves slightly faster than the bulk liquid as a small fraction of the liquid leaks through a very thin annular gap between the bubble and the internal wall of the cylinder. At low velocities, the thickness of this lubricating film formed around the bubble is set only by the liquid properties and the translational speed of the bubble and thus can be tuned in a simple fashion. Here, we use this setting to filter, based on size, micron-size particles that are originally dispersed in a suspension. Furthermore, we apply this process for separation of particles from a polydisperse solution. The bubble interface is free of particles initially, and particles of different sizes can enter the liquid film region. Particle separation occurs when the thickness of the lubricating liquid film falls between the diameters of the two different particles. While large particles will be collected at the bubble surface, smaller particles can leak through the thin film and reach the fluid region behind the bubble. As a result, the film thickness can be fine-tuned by simply adjusting the speed of a translating confined bubble, so as to achieve separation of particles by size based on the relative particle diameter compared to the film thickness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number181604
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - Apr 30 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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