velankarMcGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Sachin Velankar, PhD, Professor, Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, recently was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for his proposal entitled “Collaborative Research: Micromechanics of Meniscus-bound Particle Clusters.”  Dr. Valenkar shares this grant with Charles Schroeder, PhD, Associate Head and Ray and Beverly Mentzer Professor, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The award is for three years for a total of $510,000 ($292K as the Pitt portion).

An abstract of the proposal reads:

Surface tension phenomena are important in a variety of physical processes including blending of immiscible fluids, formation of sprays and aerosols and foaming of plastics. This collaborative project concerns particle-liquid mixtures that are generally called particulate suspensions. Examples include slurries encountered in mineral and ceramics processing, particle-filled molten plastics, and printing inks. In such particulate suspensions, the addition of a second immiscible liquid induces particle “sticking” and aggregation due to surface tension and capillary forces. A familiar example is a sandcastle whose strength comes from small water droplets which bind the sand grains together by capillary forces. This project will conduct fundamental studies of interparticle capillary forces in mixing flows. Particle clusters bound by capillary forces will be placed in well-defined flows and studied using new methods in automated flow control. This work aims to understand the flow dynamics of particle clusters and the limits of their stability, which refers to the conditions under which clusters rupture due to the applied flow. Over the past decade, surface tension-induced particle clustering has been exploited for a wide range materials and materials-processing applications including macroporous ceramics, 3D printing, conductive plastics, and printing electronic circuits. The results of this project will enable rational design of mixing operations that exploit capillary forces to develop new materials.

In multiphase suspensions containing particles and two immiscible liquids, capillary forces can induce particle clustering. The clusters comprise two or more particles bound by a meniscus liquid. In this project, the dynamics and rupture mechanics of particle clusters in simple shear or planar extensional flow fields will be studied using video microscopy and automated flow control. A feedback-controlled microfluidic device known as a Stokes trap will be used to precisely manipulate particles using viscous forces, to create well-defined meniscus-bound particle clusters, and to subject the clusters to precisely controlled flows. This work aims to achieve a fundamental understanding of the dynamics and rupture of particle clusters in well-defined flows. The project will reveal fundamentally new information, including the criteria for rupture of particle clusters, and how these criteria depend on the composition of the cluster, viscosity of the meniscus fluid, and particle roughness. The design of mixing operations for liquid/liquid/particle mixtures is presently empirical in nature. This project will establish micromechanics-based design rules for such mixing operations that exploit capillary forces to develop new materials. The project will form the basis for training of graduate and undergraduate students.  The two principal investigators will conduct numerous outreach activities at the undergraduate and pre-college level, including recruitment of underrepresented groups into their research groups, and mentorship of high-school students.

Congratulations, Dr. Valenkar!

Read more…

University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering News Release