Bubble Control, Levitation, and Manipulation Using Dielectrophoresis

Carl V. Brown*, Andrew M. J. Edwards, Abigail Roberts, Michael I. Newton, Ian C. Sage, Rodrigo Ledesma‐Aguilar, Glen McHale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Bubbles attached to surfaces are ubiquitous in nature and in industry. However, bubbles are problematic in important technologies, including causing damage to the operation of microfluidic devices and being parasitic during heat transfer processes, so considerable efforts have been made to develop mechanical and electrical methods to remove bubbles from surfaces. In this work, liquid dielectrophoresis is used to force a captive air bubble to detach away from an inverted solid surface and, crucially, the detached bubble is then held stationary in place below the surface at a distance controlled by the voltage. In this “levitated” state, the bubble is separated from the surface by liquid layer with a voltage‐selected thickness at which the dielectrophoresis force exactly counterbalances the gravitational buoyancy force. The techniques described here provide exceptional command over repeatable cycles of bubble detachment, levitation, and reattachment. A theoretical analysis is presented that explains the observed detachment–reattachment hysteresis in which bubble levitation is maintained with voltages in an order of magnitude lower than those used to create detachment. The precision surface bubble removal and control concepts are relevant to situations such as nucleate boiling and microgravity environments and offer an approach toward “wall‐less” bubble microfluidic devices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2001204
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAdvanced Materials Interfaces
Issue number2
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021


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