WORCESTER, Ma. — Brock Jolicoeur of Waterville, a member of Worchester Polytechnic Institute’s class of 2023 majoring in physics, is a co-author of a new report on how “active” fluids develop circulatory flows within a millimeter-scale droplet.

Jolicouer, a physics major, worked on the report with Kun-Ta Wu, assistant physics professor. The student helped to design the active fluid droplet experiments and investigated fluid dynamics of active fluid droplet systems, which included the development of a COMSOL-based active fluid simulation platform and two novel microfluidic devices.

Scientific Reports published the article, “Flow coupling between active and passive fluids across water-oil interfaces,” July 7.

Active fluids are soft materials containing molecules, cells, or other components that consume fuel, such as adenosine triphosphate, to spontaneously generate chaotic mixing flows without external intervention. Greater control and understanding of active fluids could have implications for the miniaturization of industrial micro-mixing processes.

Wu’s group researched the mixing and vorticity dynamics of active fluids and their potential applications in boosting mixing efficiency in conventional microfluidic mixing devices.

“This was a phenomenal achievement by (both undergraduate students) Yen-Chen (Chen) and Brock. First, from the perspective of intellectual merit, it demonstrates how a fluid spontaneously mixes within a millimeter-scale droplet,” Wu said in a news release from WPI. “Mixing is ubiquitous in everyday life, like blending dough for a birthday cake, but mixing fluids in millimeter scale remains a challenging task. Second, this work was accomplished by two undergraduate students with no background in soft matter and biophysics.”

The research was presented at the March meeting of the American Physical Society.

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