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Lab Chip. 2008 Jan;8(1):125-33. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Optical sectioning for microfluidics: secondary flow and mixing in a meandering microchannel.

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Beckman Laser Institute and Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.


Secondary flow plays a critical function in a microchannel, such as a micromixer, because it can enhance heat and mass transfer. However, there is no experimental method to visualize the secondary flow and the associated mixing pattern in a microchannel because of difficulties in high-resolution, non-invasive, cross-sectional imaging. Here, we simultaneously imaged and quantified the secondary flow and pattern of two-liquid mixing inside a meandering square microchannel with spectral-domain Doppler optical coherence tomography. We observed an increase in the efficiency of two-liquid mixing when air was injected to produce a bubble-train flow and identified the three-dimensional enhancement mechanism behind the complex mixing phenomena. An alternating pair of counter-rotating and toroidal vortices cooperated to enhance two-liquid mixing.

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