Aerosols are tiny particles that can have a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and human health.
For example, these microdroplets can reflect incoming sunlight back into outer space, helping to cool a warming planet. Or they can be used to deliver medication to the lungs, especially to treat respiratory illnesses.
Thus, the ability to more precisely control how aerosols move is extremely important for pharmaceutical sciences and climate research. Aerosol science is also a key aspect of many industries, from automobiles to food processing.
Now, scientists have published a study describing a breakthrough device – a new whipped-jet aerosol sprayer – that is relatively inexpensive to build and operate.
“We created a gas-focused, steady-state, single-whip jet that uses no electricity,” says lead author Sankar Raju Narayanasamy, PhD, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and an affiliated researcher at Berkeley Lab and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
“This development is a significant achievement that could have a wide range of applications,” says Narayanasamy, who conducted the research as a fellow at BioXFEL, a US National Science Foundation-funded research consortium led by the University at Buffalo, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) and partner institutions.
Martin Trebbin, PhD, SUNY Empire innovation assistant professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, is a corresponding co-author of the study.
He says “fine monodisperse aerosols with controlled sizes are useful in instrumentation of the sample environment, such as in mass spectrometry, X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) and cryoelectron microscopy, which are used to study biomacromolecules for structural analysis and drug discovery”.
Trebbin, who calls the research an “important achievement in fluid dynamics and microfluidics,” is a faculty member at the UB RENEW Institute and holds a position at the BioXFEL Science and Technology Center.
The technology is described in a study entitled “A sui generis whipping instability based on self-sequencing multi-monodisperse 2D Sprays from an anisotropic microfluidic liquid jet device”, which was published January 11 in the journal Cell Press Cells Reports Physical Sciences.
The study marks a third-generation advance in liquid jet technology. First came cylindrical liquid jets in 1998 and flat liquid jets in 2018.
The new whipping jet is the first of its kind because it produces homogeneous droplets in a two-dimensional profile, says co-corresponding author Hoi-Ying N. Holman, PhD, director of the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology imaging program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Over the past 20 years, scientists have tried various ways, such as piezoelectric actuation or local heating, to precisely control the movement of aerosols. The use of these techniques, however, is limited because they tend to alter the specimens that scientists are using to study aerosols. This is especially true with biological samples.
In the study, the researchers discuss the important role that analytical fluid dynamics – a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical analysis and data structures to analyze and solve problems involving fluid flows – played in their work.
That includes explaining the devices’ “jet diameter, whipping regime, and propagation angle,” says Ramakrishna Vasireddi, PhD, co-first author and research scientist at SOLEIL, the French synchrotron facility in Paris.
He adds: “The phenomenon is characterized experimentally by measuring the angle in relation to the flow rate, the distances between the drops, the shapes of the drops and the reproducibility of these parameters.”
In the study, the team also explains how to build these devices, which are relatively inexpensive.
This work was supported by the Cluster of Excellence “The Hamburg Center for Ultrafast Imaging — Structure, Dynamics and Control of Matter at the Atomic Scale” of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The work was conducted through the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology (BSISB) program, which is supported by the US Department of Energy. It was carried out under the auspices of the United States Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.