Electrical Actuation of Electrically Conducting and Insulating Droplets using AC and DC Voltages

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N. Kumari, V. Bahadur, and S. V. Garimella, “Electrical Actuation of Electrically Conducting and Insulating Droplets using AC and DC Voltages,” Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering Vol. 18, 105015, 2008.


Electrical actuation of liquid droplets at the microscale offers promising applications in the fields of microfluidics and lab-on-chip devices. Much prior research has targeted the electrical actuation of electrically conducting liquid droplets using dc voltages (classical electrowetting). Electrical actuation of conducting droplets using ac voltages and the actuation of insulating droplets (using dc or ac voltages) has remained relatively unexplored. This paper utilizes an energy-minimization-based analytical framework to study the electrical actuation of a liquid droplet (electrically conducting or insulating) under ac actuation. It is shown that the electromechanical regimes of classical electrowetting, electrowetting under ac actuation and insulating droplet actuation can be extracted from the generic electromechanical actuation framework, depending on the electrical properties of the droplet, the underlying dielectric layer and the frequency of the actuation voltage. This paper also presents experiments which quantify the influence of the ac frequency and the electrical properties of the droplet on its velocity under electrical actuation. The velocities of droplets moving between two parallel plates under ac actuation are experimentally measured; these velocities are then related to the actuation force on the droplet which is predicted by the electromechanical model developed in this work. It is seen that the droplet velocities are strongly dependent on the frequency of the ac actuation voltage; the cut-off ac frequency, above which the droplet fails to actuate, is experimentally determined and related to the electrical conductivity of the liquid. This paper then analyzes and directly compares the various electromechanical regimes for the actuation of droplets in microfluidic applications.

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