Fully three-dimensional, time-dependent, direct simulations of the non-ideal Navier-Stokes equations for a two-component fluid shed light into the mechanism which inhibits droplet breakup in step emulsifiers below a critical threshold of the width-to-height (w/h) ratio of the microfluidic nozzle. Below w/h ∼ 2.6, the simulations provide evidence of a smooth topological transition of the fluid from the confined rectangular channel geometry to an isotropic (spherical) expansion of the fluid downstream the nozzle step. Above such threshold, the transition from the inner to the outer space involves a series of dynamical rearrangements which keep the free surface in mechanical balance. Such rearrangements also induce a backflow of the ambient fluid which, in turn, leads to jet pinching and ultimately to its rupture, namely, droplet formation. The simulations show remarkable agreement with the experimental value of the threshold, which is found around w/h ∼ 2.56.
Montessori, A., Lauricella, M., Stolovicki, E., Weitz, D.A., Succi, S. (2019). Jetting to dripping transition: Critical aspect ratio in step emulsifiers. PHYSICS OF FLUIDS, 31(2), 021703 [10.1063/1.5084797].