Micromodel study of two-phase flow under transient conditions: Quantifying effects of specific interfacial area

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Recent computational studies of two-phase flow suggest that the role of fluid-fluid interfaces should be explicitly included in the capillarity equation as well as equations of motion of phases. The aim of this study has been to perform experiments where transient movement of interfaces can be monitored and to determine interfacial variables and quantities under transient conditions. We have performed two-phase flow experiments in a transparent micromodel. Specific interfacial area is defined, and calculated from experimental data, as the ratio of the total area of interfaces between two phases per unit volume of the porous medium. Recent studies have shown that all drainage and imbibition data points for capillary pressure, saturation, and specific interfacial area fall on a unique surface. But, up to now, almost all micromodel studies of two-phase flow have dealt with quasi-static or steady state flow conditions. Thus, only equilibrium properties have been studied. We present the first study of two-phase flow in an elongated PDMS micromodel under transient conditions with high temporal and spatial resolutions. We have established that different relationships between capillary pressure, saturation, and specific interfacial area are obtained under steady state and transient conditions. The difference between the surfaces depends on the capillary number. Furthermore, we use our experimental results to obtain average (macroscale) velocity of fluid-fluid interfaces and the rate of change of specific interfacial area as a function of time and space. Both terms depend on saturation nonlinearly but show a linear dependence on the rate of change of saturation. We also determine macroscale material coefficients that appear in the equation of motion of fluid-fluid interfaces. This is the first time that these parameters are determined experimentally.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8125-8140
Number of pages16
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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