Accounting for corner flow unifies the understanding of droplet formation in microfluidic channels

Piotr M. Korczyk, Volkert van Steijn, Slawomir Blonski, Damian Zaremba, David A. Beattie, Piotr Garstecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


While shear emulsification is a well understood industrial process, geometrical confinement in microfluidic systems introduces fascinating complexity, so far prohibiting complete understanding of droplet formation. The size of confined droplets is controlled by the ratio between shear and capillary forces when both are of the same order, in a regime known as jetting, while being surprisingly insensitive to this ratio when shear is orders of magnitude smaller than capillary forces, in a regime known as squeezing. Here, we reveal that further reduction of—already negligibly small—shear unexpectedly re-introduces the dependence of droplet size on shear/capillary-force ratio. For the first time we formally account for the flow around forming droplets, to predict and discover experimentally an additional regime—leaking. Our model predicts droplet size and characterizes the transitions from leaking into squeezing and from squeezing into jetting, unifying the description for confined droplet generation, and offering a practical guide for applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2528
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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