Flow-driven formation of solid-like microsphere heaps
We observe the formation of heaps of repulsive microspheres, created by flowing a colloidal microsphere suspension towards a flat-topped ridge placed within a quasi two-dimensional microfluidic channel. This configuration allows for both shear and normal forces on the microspheres in contact with the ridge. The heaps, which are formed against the ridge, are characterized by two distinct phases: a solid-like bulk phase in the interior and a highly fluctuating, liquid-like state which exists along its leading edge. We observe that heaps only form above a critical flow velocity, vc, and that they are destroyed by thermal rearrangements when the flow ceases. We monitor the dynamics of heap formation using fluorescence video microscopy, measuring the heap volume and the angle of repose in response to microsphere deposition and erosion processes. We find that the steady state angle of repose, [small theta]f, increases as a function of inflow velocity, v[infinity], with a functional form .