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Overlimiting Current in Nonuniform Arrays of Microchannels: Recirculating Flow and Anticrystallization

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-03-30, 16:36 authored by Hyekyung Lee, Seoyun Sohn, Shima Alizadeh, Soonhyun Kwon, Tae Jin Kim, Seung-min Park, Hyongsok Tom Soh, Ali Mani, Sung Jae Kim
Overlimiting current (OLC) through electrolytes interfaced with perm-selective membranes has been extensively researched for understanding fundamental nano-electrokinetics and developing efficient engineering applications. This work studies how a network of microchannels in a nonuniform array, which mimics a natural pore configuration, can contribute to OLC. Here, micro/nanofluidic devices are fabricated with arrays of parallel microchannels with nonuniform size distributions, which are faced with a perm-selective membrane. All cases maintain the same surface and bulk conduction to allow probing of the sensitivity only by the nonuniformity. Rigorous experimental and theoretical investigation demonstrates that overlimiting conductance has a maximum value depending on the nonuniformity. Furthermore, in operando visualization reveals that the nonuniform arrays induce flow loops across the microchannel network enhancing advective transport. This recirculating flow eliminates local salt accumulations so that it can effectively suppress undesirable salt crystallization. Therefore, these results can significantly advance not only the fundamental understanding of the driving mechanism of the OLC but also the design rule of electrochemical membrane applications.