Secondary flows of viscoelastic fluids in serpentine microchannels

Lucie Ducloué, Laura Casanellas, Simon J. Haward, Robert J. Poole, Manuel A. Alves, Sandra Lerouge, Amy Q. Shen, Anke Lindner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Secondary flows are ubiquitous in channel flows, where small velocity components perpendicular to the main velocity appear due to the complexity of the channel geometry and/or that of the flow itself such as from inertial or non-Newtonian effects. We investigate here the inertialess secondary flow of viscoelastic fluids in curved microchannels of rectangular cross-section and constant but alternating curvature: the so-called “serpentine channel” geometry. Numerical calculations (Poole et al. J Non-Newton Fluid Mech 201:10–16, 2013) have shown that in this geometry, in the absence of elastic instabilities, a steady secondary flow develops that takes the shape of two counter-rotating vortices in the plane of the channel cross-section. We present the first experimental visualization evidence and characterisation of these steady secondary flows, using the complementary techniques of quantitative microparticle image velocimetry in the centreplane of the channel, and confocal visualisation of dye-stream transport in the cross-sectional plane. We show that the measured streamlines and the relative velocity magnitude of the secondary flows are in qualitative agreement with the numerical results. In addition to our techniques being broadly applicable to the characterisation of three-dimensional flow structures in microchannels, our results are important for understanding the onset of instability in serpentine viscoelastic flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Confocal microscopy
  • Non-Newtonian fluids
  • Particle image velocimetry
  • Polymer solutions
  • Vortices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry


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