Fluid breakup during simultaneous two-phase flow through a three-dimensional porous medium

Sujit S. Datta, Jean Baptiste Dupin, David A. Weitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


We use confocal microscopy to directly visualize the simultaneous flow of both a wetting and a non-wetting fluid through a model three-dimensional (3D) porous medium. We find that, for small flow rates, both fluids flow through unchanging, distinct, connected 3D pathways; in stark contrast, at sufficiently large flow rates, the non-wetting fluid is broken up into discrete ganglia. By performing experiments over a range of flow rates, using fluids of different viscosities, and with porous media having different geometries, we show that this transition can be characterized by a state diagram that depends on the capillary numbers of both fluids, suggesting that it is controlled by the competition between the viscous forces exerted on the flowing oil and the capillary forces at the pore scale. Our results thus help elucidate the diverse range of behaviors that arise in two-phase flow through a 3D porous medium. C

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062004
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 26 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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