Ultra-wide measuring range miniature viscometer with gallium nitride optics

As one of the basic physical properties of fluids, viscosity plays a vital role in physics, chemistry and biology. Viscosity measurement is therefore indispensable in many scientific, engineering and industrial fields. In this regard, the developers developed many methods based on different methods to quantify the viscosity of fluids, including capillary method, rotation method, falling ball method, oscillation method, ultrasonic method and acoustic wave method. To date, however, developing a fast, low-cost, miniaturized viscometer with a wide measuring range remains a huge challenge.

In order to overcome this challenge, the team of assistant professor Li Yixi of Southern University of Science and Technology reported a viscosity sensor combined with gallium nitride optics.

Unlike conventional viscometers based on fiber optics or other optical technologies, the proposed viscometers can be operated without the need for external optics. Miniature viscometers with 10?–10? mPa· Wide detection range, short detection time of <5 s and real-time monitoring capability.

The results were published in Light: Advanced Manufacturing under the title “Miniature viscometer incorporating GaN optical devices with an ultra-wide measurement range.”

Figure 1: Optical image of a gallium nitride device. Source: Light: Advanced Manufacturing 4, 2 (2023).

This work proposes the integration of tiny gallium nitride devices with flexible stainless steel reflective strips to prepare miniature viscometers. GaN devices responsible for luminescence and light detection are manufactured through scalable and controlled wafer-level processes. During viscosity measurement, the free end of the reflective strip is immersed in the fluid sample, while the gallium nitride device does not contact the fluid. When a vibration is applied, the fluid tends to impede the movement of the reflective strip and create resistance to it. The displacement of the reflective strip changes the amount of light reflected into the detector; Therefore, the photocurrent of the detector can be used to determine the viscosity of the fluid.

This work investigated the effect of the length, free end immersion depth, and vibration frequency of the stainless steel reflective strip on the detection signal. In addition to being able to distinguish between actual fluids of different viscosities, the viscometer shows a high degree of stability over 21,000 cycles.

The new compact viscometer offers excellent performance, including a wide measuring range, small size, fast measurement, high stability and real-time monitoring capability. It does not require additional complex designs and expensive components, has broad application prospects, and provides ideas for the establishment of a new generation of viscosity measurement cells. (Source: Advanced Manufacturing WeChat public account)

Figure 2: How a gallium nitride photoviscosity sensor works. Source: Light: Advanced Manufacturing 4, 2 (2023).

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