Exploring multi-stability in three-dimensional viscoelastic flow around a free stagnation point

Daniel W. Carlson, Amy Q. Shen, Simon J. Haward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fluid elements passing near a stagnation point experience finite strain rates over long persistence times, and thus accumulate large strains. By the numerical optimization of a microfluidic 6-arm cross-slot geometry, recent works have harnessed this flow type as a tool for performing uniaxial and biaxial extensional rheometry (Haward et al., 2023 [5,6]). Here we use the microfluidic ‘Optimized-shape Uniaxial and Biaxial Extensional Rheometer’ (OUBER) geometry to probe an elastic flow instability which is sensitive to the alignment of the extensional flow. A three-dimensional symmetry-breaking instability occurring for flow of a dilute polymer solution in the OUBER geometry is studied experimentally by leveraging tomographic particle image velocimetry. Above a critical Weissenberg number, flow in uniaxial extension undergoes a supercritical pitchfork bifurcation to a multi-stable state. However, for biaxial extension (which is simply the kinematic inverse of uniaxial extension) the instability is strongly suppressed. In uniaxial extension, the multiple stable states align in an apparently random orientation as flow joining from four neighbouring inlet channels passes to one of the two opposing outlets; thus forming a mirrored asymmetry about the stagnation point. We relate the suppression of the instability in biaxial extension to the kinematic history of flow under the context of breaking the time-reversibility assumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105169
JournalJournal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Elastic instability
  • Microfluidics
  • Polymer solutions
  • Rheology
  • Stagnation point

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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