Vortex fluidic device shows how to mix the unmixable

Thursday, 24 February, 2022

Vortex fluidic device shows how to mix the unmixable

In one of the grand challenges of science, a Flinders University-developed device which previously ‘unboiled’ an egg is tackling incompatible fluids — a development that could enhance many future products, industrial processes and even the food we eat.

Using the highly advanced rapid processing techniques possible in the vortex fluidic device (VFD), Flinders researchers have found a way to use clean chemistry to unlock the mystery of ‘mixing immiscibles’. The breakthrough was published in the journal Chemical Science and led by senior author Professor Colin Raston, the inventor of the VFD.

“Mixing immiscible liquids is fundamentally important in process engineering and usually involves a lot of energy input and waste products,” Prof Raston said.

“We now demonstrate how this process, using a common solvent and water, can avoid the use of other substances for controlling reactions across immiscible liquids, making it cleaner and greener,” he said. This will have applications in a range of global industries — from food processing and nutraceuticals to cosmetics and drug delivery.

“Using thin-film microfluidics in combination with high shear flow chemistry and high heat and mass transfer, the rapidly evolving VFD technology is overcoming the mixing limitations of traditional batch processing,” said study co-author Matt Jellicoe.

Co-author Aghil Igder added, “We conducted over 100,000 experiments to establish how liquids mix and what their flow behaviours are at very small nanometre dimensions.”

The Flinders University team has also upsized the VFD machine on experimental biodegradable polymers to start making its organic substances and clean technologies available at scale to suit a range of industries. The VFD has been used in multiple experiments to produce quality drug elements such as peptides, better fish oil and food products, and many other value-adding green chemical processes, which can now be replicated in a scaled-up version of the device which has been developed.

Pictured: Photographs of emulsified toluene and water, and the demixed liquids post VFD processing. Image ©Chem. Sci., 2022, Advance Article (cropped from the original) under CC BY 3.0

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