The flow of solutions containing solutes and colloidal particles in porous media is widely found in systems including underground aquifers, hydraulic fractures, estuarine or coastal habitats, water filtration systems, etc. In such systems, solute gradients occur when there is a local change in the solute concentration. While the effects of solute gradients have been found to be important for many applications, we observe an unexpected colloidal behavior in porous media driven by the combination of solute gradients and the fluid flow. When two flows with different solute concentrations are in contact near a junction, a sharp solute gradient is formed at the interface, which may allow strong diffusiophoresis of the particles directed against the flow. Consequently, the particles accumulate near the pore entrance, rapidly approaching the packing limit. These colloidal dynamics have important implications for the clogging of a porous medium, where particles that are orders of magnitude smaller than the pore width can accumulate and block the pores within a short period of time. We also show that this effect can be exploited as a useful tool for preconcentrating biomolecules for rapid bioassays.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy