Tips and Tricks - Soft Matter
Microfluidic device coupled with total internal reflection microscopy for in situ observation of precipitation
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, T6G 1H9, Alberta, Canada
2 Central Faculty Office (FSET), Swinburne University, 3122, Melbourne, Australia
Accepted: 1 April 2021
Published online: 20 April 2021
In situ observation of precipitation or phase separation induced by solvent addition is important in studying its dynamics. Combined with optical and fluorescence microscopy, microfluidic devices have been leveraged in studying the phase separation in various materials including biominerals, nanoparticles, and inorganic crystals. However, strong scattering from the subphases in the mixture is problematic for in situ study of phase separation with high temporal and spatial resolution. In this work, we present a quasi-2D microfluidic device combined with total internal reflection microscopy as an approach for in situ observation of phase separation. The quasi-2D microfluidic device comprises of a shallow main channel and a deep side channel. Mixing between a solution in the main channel (solution A) and another solution (solution B) in the side channel is predominantly driven by diffusion due to high fluid resistance from the shallow height of the main channel, which is confirmed using fluorescence microscopy. Moreover, relying on diffusive mixing, we can control the composition of the mixture in the main channel by tuning the composition of solution B. We demonstrate the application of our method for in situ observation of asphaltene precipitation and -alanine crystallization.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to EDP Sciences, SIF and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021