The tiny domain of microfluidics has opened big horizons in chemistry and pharmaceuticals, allowing creation of lab on a chip platforms for experiments and drug development. But as scientists look at processes at ever-smaller length and time scales, the problems of rapidly and efficiently mixing different fluids—in channels far thinner than a human hair—become formidable. That’s made it hard to use these platforms to drill down into some potentially fruitful, high-reaction-rate frontiers of chemical engineering. Nanomixers could be a possible solution.
Now, in numerical experiments, a team of researchers has proposed a possible solution to the problem: using nanoparticles and the radiation pressure of light to create a nanomixer that can rev up otherwise slow diffusion mixing in the channel.
The researchers’ calculations suggest that the proposed nanomixer can operate at length scales an order of magnitude smaller than other approaches for mixing on lab-on-chip platforms. And the team believes the system can find use not only in mixing on-chip reagents at very short length and time scales, but also as a system for sorting certain nanoparticles by size.