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A simulation of a variable-focus liquid lens for a miniature camera during the transition between
focal lengths. The lens is made from the interface between two fluids – the lower phase velocity
field is colored, the upper phase is shown by an arrow plot. The electrowetting effect is used to
change the contact angle at the edge of the cylinder, creating a different meniscus radius and so
modifying the focal length of the lens.

Variable focus Liquid Lens Simulation

COMSOL Introduces the
Microfluidics Module

The new Microfluidics Module from COMSOL provides an integrated environment for modeling microfluidic and rarefied flows.

Burlington (May 26, 2011) -- COMSOL, Inc., the makers of the award winning COMSOL Multiphysics simulation software, today announced the release of the Microfluidics Module. Based on COMSOL Multiphysics, the Microfluidics Module brings easy-to-use tools for the study of microfluidic devices and rarefied gas flows. The module is designed for researchers, engineers, and experimentalists in the fields of microfluidics and vacuum science. Target application areas include lab-on-chip devices, digital microfluidics, biosensors, electrokinetic and magnetokinetic devices, inkjet technology, and vacuum system design. The module is accompanied by a suite of tutorial and industrially relevant models that serve as both instructional examples and as a foundation for future work.

“The simulation of microfluidic devices frequently requires multiple physical effects to be incorporated,” comments Dr. James Ransley, developer of the Microfluidics Module with COMSOL, Inc. “The Microfluidics Module offers a range of tools to deal with single- and multi-phase flows, transport and chemical reactions, flow in porous media, and rarefied flows. Thanks to the single user-interface in COMSOL for modeling all physics, these phenomena can be seamlessly coupled with thermal and electromagnetic effects.”

Specialized Microfluidics Interfaces

The Microfluidics Module includes interfaces for single-phase flow. With these interfaces users can simulate such applications as compressible gas flows at low pressures, non-Newtonian flows (for example blood flow), and laminar and creeping flows that typically occur in lab-on–a-chip systems.

A particular strength in this module is its modeling interfaces for executing two-phase flow simulations using the level set, phase field, and moving mesh methods. A variety of important fluid-interface effects are included such as surface tension forces, capillary forces, and Marangoni effects.

These flow simulation tools and the multiphysics capabilities of COMSOL make it easy to set up coupled electrokinetic and magnetohydrodynamic models for the simulation of electrophoresis, magnetophoresis, dielectrophoresis, electroosmosis, and electrowetting effects that are used alone or in combinations in both existing and emerging passive electronic display technologies for their basic function.

COMSOL Model Wizard microfluidics

The COMSOL Model Wizard lets Microfluidics Module users choose from a wide range of functionalities to address fluid flow and other coupled phenomena.

“We strongly believe that the Microfluidics Module will offer a very attractive set of tools for our electronic display customers,” comments Dr. Ransley. Chemical diffusion for multiple dilute species is also included in the module, enabling the simulation of processes occurring in lab-on-chip devices and biosensors.

Electric potentialfluid streamlines concentration profile

Electric potential (left) and fluid streamlines and concentration profile (right), for an electroosmotic mixer during operation. Mixers are important components of lab-on-a-chip systems and the electroosmotic effect enables very small mixers to be created.

Molecular Flow

The Microfluidics Module comes with a new free molecular flow interface that uses the fast angular coefficient method and allows for simulations where the molecular mean free path is much longer than the geometric dimensions. Combined with COMSOL’s LiveLink interfaces for industry-standard CAD packages, this tool is invaluable for vacuum system design because it enables users to run quick parametric studies of chamber geometries and pump configurations.

Simulation of a semiconductor ion implanter

Simulation of a semiconductor ion implanter to minimize the pressure along the ion beam path using the Microfluidics Module in COMSOL. The plot shows the pressure on the surfaces of the vacuum system; two walls have been removed so that the inside of the chamber is visible.


The Microfluidics Module is supplied with a set of fully documented industrially relevant and tutorial models:

  • Capillary Rise
  • Jet Instability
  • Drug Delivery System
  • Electrokinetic Valve
  • Electroosmotic Mixer
  • Electrowetting Lens
  • Lamella Mixer
  • Star Chip
  • Viscous Catenary
  • Vacuum Capillary
  • Ion Implanter

“The Microfludics Module combines proven and robust multiphysics solvers with the easy-to-use user interface of COMSOL together with a range of solutions targeted at microfluidics applications,” concludes Dr. Ransley. “The net result is a product with unprecedented ease of use which can handle arbitrarily complicated industrial and academic problems.”

Microfluidics Module Highlights

  • Model single-phase, multiphase, and porous media flows with dedicated physics interfaces.
  • Multiphase flows can be simulated with Level Set, Phase field, and Moving Mesh physics interfaces.
  • Incorporation of essential microfluidic effects such as electrophoresis, magnetophoresis, dielectrophoresis, electroosmosis, and electrowetting.
  • Model chemical diffusion with multiple dilute species. Diffusion and reactions in one phase of a two-phase flow with the two-phase flow moving mesh interface.
  • Solve stationary, highly rarefied flows, such as flows in high vacuum systems, using the free molecular flow interface.


COMSOL Multiphysics is a software environment for the modeling and simulation of any physics-based system. A particular strength is its ability to account for multiphysics phenomena. Optional modules add discipline-specific tools for mechanical, fluid, electromagnetics, and chemical simulations, as well as CAD interoperability. Founded in 1986, the company has U.S. offices in Burlington, MA, Los Angeles, CA, and Palo Alto, CA. International operations have grown to include offices in the Benelux countries, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Independent distributors of COMSOL Multiphysics are located in Australia, China, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Additional information about the company is available at

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