Air Assisted Production of Alginate Beads Using Focusing Flow Microfluidic Devices: Numerical Modeling of Beads Formation
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Alginate micro-bead production represents an interesting technological application in many fields such as pharmaceutical, food, and cosmetics. Usually the studies of micro droplet or micro-bead creation in micro channels formed in different geometries and different techniques (mostly T channel or flow-focusing) have been the subject of many research studies using pure, well characterized solutions and do not take into account the behavior and interaction of food grade and natural products. The possibility of using air as focusing flow  in microfluidic devices to produce sodium alginate micro-bead introduce some advantages; for example, the utilization of different focusing fluids like oil frequently requires complicate production processes, introducing a barrier to the interaction of alginate solution with the calcium ions during gelification phase and requiring a posteriori filtering and washing procedure. Moreover, direct immersion of liquid alginate drops in a calcium chloride bath to induce gelification usually happens at relatively high speed, inducing a bead shape deformation due to inertial effects. As in microfluidics details really matter, the geometry of the device represents an important issue: small changes in geometrical configuration, like coaxial misalignment could results in major changes in the dynamics of droplet formation. In this work such effects are investigated using numerical analysis.
KeywordsAlginate beads Pre-gelation Microfluidic Numerical modeling
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