A nanofluidic system based on cylindrical polymer brushes: how to control the size of nanodroplets

CW Li and H Merlitz and JU Sommer, SOFT MATTER, 18, 5598-5604 (2022).

DOI: 10.1039/d2sm00527a

In molecular dynamics simulations we investigate the self-organized formation of droplets from a continuous flow of incoming nanoparticles. This transformation is facilitated by a cylindrical channel that is decorated with a polymer brush in a marginally poor solvent. We analyze droplet formation and propagation by means of simple scaling arguments which are tested in the simulations. Polymer brushes in marginally poor solvents serve as a pressure feedback system, exhibit a collapse transition under the moderate pressure of the incident flow, without the need for additional external stimuli, and finally close spontaneously after droplet passage. Our results qualitatively demonstrate the control of polymer brushes over continuous fluids and droplet formation, and its effectiveness as a means of fluid control can be used to design nanofluidic rectification devices that operate reliably under moderate pressure.

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