Electrohydrodynamic (In)Stability of Microfluidic Channel Flows: Analytical Expressions in the Limit of Small Reynolds Number

Goran Goranović*, Mads Peter Sørensen, Henrik Bruus, Morten Brøns

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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We study electrohydrodynamic (EHD) linear (in)stability of microfluidic channel flows, i.e., the stability of interface between two shearing viscous (perfect) dielectrics exposed to an electric field in large aspect ratio microchannels. We then apply our results to particular microfluidic systems known as two-liquid electroosmotic (EO) pumps. Our novel results are detailed analytical expressions for the growth rate of two-dimensional EHD modes in Couette–Poiseuille flows in the limit of small Reynolds number (R); the expansions to both zeroth and first order in R are considered. The growth rates are complicated functions of viscosity-, height-, density-, and dielectric-constant ratio, as well as of wavenumbers and voltages. To make the results useful to experimentalists, e.g., for voltage-control EO pump operations, we also derive equations for the impending voltages of the neutral stability curves that divide stable from unstable regions in voltage–wavenumber stability diagrams. The voltage equations and the stability diagrams are given for all wavenumbers. We finally outline the flow regimes in which our first-order-R voltage corrections could potentially be experimentally measured. Our work gives insight into the coupling mechanism between electric field and shear flow in parallel-planes channel flows, correcting an analogous EHD expansion to small R from the literature. We also revisit the case of pure shear instability, when the first-order-R voltage correction equals zero, and replace the renowned instability mechanism due to viscosity stratification at small R with the mechanism due to discontinuity in the slope of the unperturbed velocity profile.
Original languageEnglish
Article number544
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Electrohydrodynamic (EHD) instability
  • Electroosmotic pump
  • Impending voltage
  • Microfluidic channel
  • Slope discontinuity (kink)
  • Viscosity stratification
  • Viscous dielectrics


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