Breaking Anchored Droplets in a Microfluidic Hele-Shaw Cell
We study microfluidic self-digitization in Hele-Shaw cells using pancake droplets anchored to surface-tension traps. We show that above a critical flow rate, large anchored droplets break up to form two daughter droplets, one of which remains in the anchor. Below the critical flow velocity for breakup, the shape of the anchored drop is given by an elastica equation that depends on the capillary number of the outer fluid. As the velocity crosses the critical value, the equation stops admitting a solution that satisfies the boundary conditions; the drop breaks up in spite of the neck still having finite width. A similar breaking event also takes place between the holes of an array of anchors, which we use to produce a 2D array of stationary drops in situ.