Droplet manipulation by light-induced isomerization was numerically demonstrated and investigated regarding the driving mechanism. Such a non-invasive manipulation of a droplet in a microchannel can be realized, for example, by the use of watery solution of photoresponsive surfactant that exhibits the isomerization. Due to variable fluid properties between the cis
isomers, one-side light irradiation on a liquid column in a tube would lead to some kind of imbalance between the two ends of the liquid column and then drive droplet migration. The present numerical simulations of air–liquid two-phase flow and its scalar transport of the isomer, considering the variable static contact angle, agreed quantitatively with the experimental results in terms of the migration speed. This fact supports the contention that the droplet migration is more likely to be driven by an imbalance in the wettability, or the contact angle. The migration speed was found to be less dependent on the liquid-column length, but proportional to the tube diameter.
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