Inertial focusing in planar pulsatile flows

Giridar Vishwanathan, Gabriel Juarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oscillatory flows have the potential to overcome long-standing limitations encountered when using steady flows for inertial focusing due to low particle Reynolds numbers. The periodic displacement generated by oscillatory flow increases the total path length travelled by a suspended particle with no net displacement within a channel or the need for increased channel length. The effects of unsteady inertial forces on inertial focusing, however, have not been thoroughly examined. Here, we present a combined theoretical and experimental study on the effect of Womersley number on inertial focusing in planar pulsatile flows. The migration velocity for a small and weakly inertial particle was evaluated for different oscillation frequencies using the method of matched asymptotics. Using experiments in a custom-built microchannel, we show that oscillatory flows are remarkably efficient for inertial focusing, even at low particle Reynolds numbers. For appropriately selected oscillation amplitude and frequency, inertial focusing is achieved in only a fraction of the channel length (1Â % to 10Â %) compared to what would be required in a steady flow. We show that the Womersley number influences the equilibrium focusing position and the overall focusing efficiency. In fact, above a critical Womersley number, inertial focusing does not occur despite increasing particle Reynolds number. Lastly, the application of oscillatory inertial focusing for the direct measurement of particle migration velocity is demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberR1
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Aug 25 2021


  • microfluidics
  • particle/fluid flow
  • suspensions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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