Liquid crystal droplet production in a microfluidic device

Benjamin D. Hamlington, Benjamin Steinhaus, James J. Feng, Darren Link, Michael J. Shelley, Amy Q. Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liquid crystal drops dispersed in a continuous phase of silicone oil are generated with a narrow distribution in droplet size in microfluidic devices both above and below the nematic-to-isotropic transition temperature. Our experiments show that the surface properties of the channels can be critical for droplet formation. We observe different dynamics in liquid crystal droplet generation and coalescence, and distinct droplet morphology on altering the microchannel surface energy. This is explained by the thermodynamic description of the wetting dynamics of the system. The effect of the nematic-to-isotropic transition on the formation of liquid crystal droplets is also observed and related to the capillary number. We also investigate how the nematic droplet size varies with the flow rate ratio and compare this behaviour with a Newtonian reference system. The effect of the defect structures of the nematic liquid crystal can lead to distinctly different scaling of droplet size in comparison with the Newtonian system. When the nematic liquid crystal phase is stretched into a thin filament before entering the orifice, different defect structures and numbers of defect lines can introduce scatter in the drop size. Capillary instabilities in thin nematic liquid crystal filament have an additional contribution from anisotropic effects such as surface gradients of bending stress, which can provide extra instability modes compared with that of isotropic fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-870
Number of pages10
JournalLiquid Crystals
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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