Capillary Sorting of Particles by Dip Coating
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Capillary Sorting of Particles by Dip Coating


In this letter, we describe the capillary sorting of particles by size based on dip coating. A substrate withdrawn from a liquid bath entrains a coating whose thickness depends on the withdrawal speed and the liquid properties. If the coating material contains particles, they will only be entrained when the viscous force pulling them with the substrate overcomes the opposing capillary force at the deformable meniscus. This force threshold occurs at different liquid thicknesses for particles of different sizes. Here, we show that this difference can be used to separate small particles from a mixed suspension through capillary filtration. In a bidisperse suspension, we observe three distinct filtration regimes. At low capillary numbers, Ca, no particles are entrained in the liquid coating. At high Ca, all particle sizes are entrained. For a range of capillary numbers between these two extremes, only the smallest particles are entrained while the larger ones remain in the reservoir. We explain how this technique can be applied to polydisperse suspension. We also provide an estimate of the range of capillary number to separate particles of given sizes. The combination of this technique with the scalability and robustness of dip coating makes it a promising candidate for high-throughput separation or purification of industrial and biomedical suspensions.

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