Electrical actuation of dielectric droplets

Niru Kumari, Birck Nanotechnology Center and School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
Vaibhav Bahadur, Purdue University - Main Campus
Suresh Garimella, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version


This document has been peer-reviewed.



Electrical actuation of liquid droplets at the microscale offers promising applications in the fields of microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip devices. Much prior research has targeted the electrical actuation of electrically conducting liquid droplets; however, the actuation of dielectric droplets has remained relatively unexplored, despite the advantages associated with the use of a dielectric droplet. This paper presents modeling and experimental results on the electrical actuation of dielectric droplets between two flat plates. A first-order analytical model, based on the energy-minimization principle, is developed to estimate the electrical actuation force on a dielectric droplet as it moves between two flat plates. Two versions of this analytical model are benchmarked for their suitability and accuracy against a detailed numerical model. The actuation force prediction is then combined with available semi-analytical expressions for predicting the forces opposing droplet motion to develop a model that predicts transient droplet motion under electrical actuation. Electrical actuation of dielectric droplets is experimentally demonstrated by moving transformer oil droplets between two flat plates under the influence of an actuation voltage. Droplet velocities and their dependence on the plate spacing and the applied voltage are experimentally measured and showed reasonable agreement with predictions from the models developed.