In this paper, we report numerical and experimental studies of the Joule heating-induced heat transfer in fabricated T-shape microfluidic channels. We have developed comprehensive 3D mathematical models describing the temperature development due to Joule heating and its effects on electrokinetic flow. The models consist of a set of governing equations including the Poisson-Boltzmann equation for the electric double layer potential profiles, the Laplace equation for the applied electric field, the modified Navier-Stokes equations for the electrokinetic flow field, and the energy equations for the Joule heating induced conjugated temperature distributions in both the liquid and the channel walls. Specifically, the Joule number is introduced to characterize Joule heating, to account for the effects of the electric field strength, electrolyte concentration, channel dimension, and heat transfer coefficient outside channel surface. As the thermophysical and electrical properties including the liquid dielectric constant, viscosity and electric conductivity are temperature-dependent, these governing equations are strongly coupled. We therefore have used the finite volume based CFD method to numerically solve the coupled governing equations. The numerical simulations show that the Joule heating effect is more significant for the microfluidic system with a larger Joule number and/or a lower thermal conductivity of substrates. It is found that the presence of Joule heating makes the electroosmotic flow deviate from its normal “plug-like” profiles, and cause different mixing characteristics. The T-shape microfluidic channels were fabricated using rapid prototyping techniques, including the Photolithography technique for the master fabrication and the Soft Lithography technique for the channel replication. A rhodamine B based thermometry technique, was used for direct “in-channel” measurements of liquid solution temperature distributions in microfluidic channels, fabricated by the PDMS/PDMS and Glass/PDMS substrates. The experimental results were compared with the numerical simulations, and reasonable agreement was found.

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