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Inertial Migration and Axial Control of Deformable Capsules


The mechanical deformability of single cells is an important indicator for various diseases such as cancer, blood diseases and inflammation. Lab-on-a-chip devices allow to separate such cells from healthy cells using hydrodynamic forces. We perform hydrodynamic simulations based on the lattice-Boltzmann method and study the behavior of an elastic capsule in a microfluidic channel flow in the inertial regime. While inertial lift forces drive the capsule away from the channel center, its deformability favors migration in the opposite direction. Balancing both migration mechanisms, a deformable capsule assembles at a specific equilibrium distance depending on its size and deformability. We find that this equilibrium distance is nearly independent of the channel Reynolds number and falls on a single master curve when plotted versus the Laplace number. We identify a similar master curve for varying particle radius. In contrast, the actual deformation of a capsule strongly depends on the Reynolds number. The lift-force profiles behave in a similar manner as those for rigid particles. Using the Saffman effect, the capsule’s equilibrium position can be controlled by an external force along the channel axis. While rigid particles move to the center when slowed down, very soft capsules show the opposite behavior. Interestingly, for a specific control force particles are focused on the same equilibrium position independent of their deformability.

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