We investigate the stability of steady planar stagnation flows of a dilute polyethylene oxide (PEO) solution using T-shaped microchannels. The precise flow rate control and well-defined geometries achievable with microfluidic fabrication technologies enable us to make detailed observations of the onset of elastically driven flow asymmetries in steady flows with strong planar elongational characteristics. We consider two different stagnation flow geometries; corresponding to T-shaped microchannels with, and without, a recirculating cavity region. In the former case, the stagnation point is located on a free streamline, whereas in the absence of a recirculating cavity the stagnation point at the separating streamline is pinned at the confining wall of the microchannel. The kinematic differences in these two configurations affect the resulting polymeric stress fields and control the critical conditions and spatiotemporal dynamics of the resulting viscoelastic flow instability. In the free stagnation point flow, a strand of highly oriented polymeric material is formed in the region of strong planar extensional flow. This leads to a symmetrybreaking bifurcation at moderateWeissenberg numbers followed by the onset of three-dimensional flow at high Weissenberg numbers, which can be visualized using streak-imaging and microparticle image velocimetry. When the stagnation point is pinned at the wall this symmetry-breaking transition is suppressed and the flow transitions directly to a three-dimensional time-dependent flow at an intermediate flow rate. The spatial characteristics of these purely elastic flow transitions are compared quantitatively to the predictions of two-dimensional viscoelastic numerical simulations using a single-mode simplified Phan-Thien–Tanner (SPTT) model.
- polyethylene oxide (PEO)
- particle image velocimetry
- flow instability
- symmetry-breaking bifurcation
- simplified Phan-Thien-Tanner model