Wettability Control on Fluid-Fluid Displacements in Patterned Microfluidics

Monday, 15 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Benzhong Zhao, Mathias Trojer, Luis Cueto-Felgueroso and Ruben Juanes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
Two-phase flow in porous media is important in many natural and industrial processes like geologic CO2 sequestration, enhanced oil recovery, and water infiltration in soil. While it is well known that the wetting properties of porous media can vary drastically depending on the type of media and the pore fluids, the effect of wettability on fluid displacement continues to challenge our microscopic and macroscopic descriptions. Here we study this problem experimentally, starting with the classic experiment of two-phase flow in a capillary tube. We image the shape of the meniscus and measure the associated capillary pressure for a wide range of capillary numbers. We confirm that wettability exerts a fundamental control on meniscus deformation, and synthesize new observations on the dependence of the dynamic capillary pressure on wetting properties (contact angle) and flow conditions (viscosity contrast and capillary number). We compare our experiments to a macroscopic phase-field model of two-phase flow. We use the insights gained from the capillary tube experiments to explore the viscous fingering instability in the Hele-Shaw geometry in the partial-wetting regime.

A key difference between a Hele-Shaw cell and a porous medium is the existence of micro-structures (i.e. pores and pore throats). To investigate how these micro-structrues impact fluid-fluid displacement, we conduct experiments on a planar microfluidic device patterned with vertical posts. We track the evolution of the fluid-fluid interface and elucidate the impact of wetting on the cooperative nature of fluid displacement during pore invasion events. We use the insights gained from the capillary tube and patterned microfluidics experiments to elucidate the effect of wetting properties on viscous fingering and capillary fingering in a Hele-Shaw cell filled with glass beads, where we observe a contact-angle-dependent stabilizing behavior for the emerging flow instabilities, as the system transitions from drainage to imbibition.