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IGERT Video and Poster Competition
An Overview of Tom's work for the NSF-IGERT Video/Poster Competition

Measuring the RTD of a spiral micromixerMeasuring the RTD of a spiral micromixer

Transient mixing in a snake micromixer Transient mixing in a snake micromixer


A rapidly growing field, microfluidics refers to devices used to manipulate fluids on a length scale smaller than a millimeter. With the promise of decreasing sample volumes and analysis time by several orders of magnitude, microdevices offer unique opportunities. The advantages of micro-total analysis systems have generated plenty of excitement, but these are met with particular challenges that must be answered.

Cryopreserved Cell Activation

Tom Scherr says:

The very nature of microfluidics lends itself to biomedical applications; the dimensions, flow conditions, and variety of options for sample control all make high throughput microbiology analysis a reality.

Numerical simulations provide the benefit of testing new designs and optimizing flow conditions, all while saving time and money that could be wasted on unsuccessful laboratory experiments. With regards to the biomedical field, numerical simulations are a key component in the development of total analysis microdevices.

Working in collaboration with Dr. Todd Monroe and his team in the Biological Engineering Department, I am exploring lab on a chip devices for the activation of cryopreserved spermatazoa cells. Cryopreservation of reproductive cells provides researchers a viable solution to continuing a particular strain of a species - without the expense of maintaining a live colony.

This study encompasses a broad range of engineering topics, pairing experiment with simulation in: fluid flow, heat and mass transfer, and cellular mechanics.

Nanoparticle Synthesis

Yuehao Li says:

My current research focuses on the simulation of synthesis of Au clusters inside microfludic devices. These methods offer superior control of reaction conditions, such as reagent addition, mixing, and temperature. Online monitoring can easily be implemented to provide a useful technique to explore kinetics and optimize yield. Scale up of microfludic methods is also straight forward in principle, involving the parallel operation of multiple reactor units.

However, since microfludic reactors usually operates under laminar flow conditions, the deposition of solid material within the channel eventually leads to the plugging of the reactor. This becomes a main challenge for these microfludic reactors. Nucleation of the particles takes place on the walls of the reactor channels preferentially at low flow rate where the surface serves as a nucleation starter. Laminar flow also suffers from axial dispersion due to non uniform velocity profile resulting in broad residence time distributions and consequently, broad particle size distribution.

My goal is to simulate the fluid flow and species transport inside the microchannel. Also I can employ a population balance equation to predict the particle size distribution. Based on the results from these simulations, we can choose proper conditions to synthesize the particles.