Visualizing multiphase flow and trapped fluid configurations in a model three-dimensional porous medium

Amber T. Krummel, Sujit S. Datta, Stefan Münster, David A. Weitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


We report an approach to fully visualize the flow of two immiscible fluids through a model three-dimensional (3-D) porous medium at pore-scale resolution. Using confocal microscopy, we directly image the drainage of the medium by the nonwetting oil and subsequent imbibition by the wetting fluid. During imbibition, the wetting fluid pinches off threads of oil in the narrow crevices of the medium, forming disconnected oil ganglia. Some of these ganglia remain trapped within the medium. By resolving the full 3-D structure of the trapped ganglia, we show that the typical ganglion size, as well as the total amount of residual oil, decreases as the capillary number Ca increases; this behavior reflects the competition between the viscous pressure in the wetting fluid and the capillary pressure required to force oil through the pores of the medium. This work thus shows how pore-scale fluid dynamics influence the trapped fluid configurations in multiphase flow through 3-D porous media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1022-1029
Number of pages8
JournalAIChE Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Chemical Engineering


  • Capillarity
  • Fluid mechanics and transport phenomena
  • Multiphase flow
  • Permeability
  • Porous media
  • Wetting


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