The liquid state is deeply fascinating in many respects. The drive of interfacial tension to minimize the surface area and the ability of the liquid to respond to it, thanks to the molecular mobility, typically promotes a spherical droplet shape of a liquid surrounded by a different fluid. Under flow, however, liquids may develop a range of transitory shapes which can also be stabilized surprisingly long by adding suitable components to the system, in particular polymers dissolved in the liquid(s) and surfactants, adsorbing at interfaces and reducing interfacial tension.
In a microfluidic set-up we can study a variety of liquid flow phenomena on very small scale, using the optical microscope. The small scale also has some spectacular consequences, such as the absence of turbulence and convective mixing, meaning that even miscible fluids can flow directly next to each other, in laminar flow, with negligible mixing taking place. Our research uses microfluidics in particular in producing multiple emulsions, for instance of thin liquid crystal shells containing and surrounded by immiscible isotropic liquids.
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