The acoustically-driven dynamics of isolated particle-like objects in microfluidic environments is a well-characterised phenomenon, which has been the subject of many studies. Conversely, very few acoustofluidic researchers looked at coated microbubbles, despite their widespread use in diagnostic imaging and the need for a precise characterisation of their acoustically-driven behaviour, underpinning therapeutic applications. The main reason is that microbubbles behave differently, due to their larger compressibility, exhibiting much stronger interactions with the unperturbed acoustic field (primary Bjerknes forces) or with other bubbles (secondary Bjerknes forces). In this paper, we study the translational dynamics of commercially-available polymer-coated microbubbles in a standing-wave acoustofluidic device. At increasing acoustic driving pressures, we measure acoustic forces on isolated bubbles, quantify bubble-bubble interaction forces during doublet formation and study the occurrence of sub-wavelength structures during aggregation. We present a dynamic characterisation of microbubble compressibility with acoustic pressure, highlighting a threshold pressure below which bubbles can be treated as uncoated. Thanks to benchmarking measurements under a scanning electron microscope, we interpret this threshold as the onset of buckling, providing a quantitative measurement of this parameter at the single-bubble level. For acoustofluidic applications, our results highlight the limitations of treating microbubbles as a special case of solid particles. Our findings will impact applications where knowing the buckling pressure of coated microbubbles has a key role, like diagnostics and drug delivery.
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