Immiscible two-phase flow in macroporous materials is a subject of significant applied and scientific interest. It is encountered in a series of environmental and energy-related processes such as soil remediation, enhanced oil recovery from fractured petroleum reservoirs, geothermal processes, CO2 sequestration etc. The study and optimization of such processes requires the development of rigorous modelling tools that successfully capture the physics of the flow process at the pore scale, and the careful setup of experimental studies to verify the precision of these tools. The proposed research aims at advancing the state-of-the-art in this direction through an integrated approach combining numerical and experimental techniques. The modelling of such processes will be based on a mesoscale description of the flow field within porous materials using a thermodynamically consistent Lattice-Boltzmann model that accounts for the interfacial physics and wetting properties from first principles. The complicated structure of the porous materials will be represented by digital domains constructed using a stochastic reconstruction method that reproduces the statistical properties of real porous media. This numerical approach will be validated through a series of experiments in mechanically engineered 2D porous domains, produced according to predefined specifications using a computer controlled etching machine. An experimental apparatus for controlling and monitoring the immiscible flow process through the domains will be used for the study of the population dynamics of Non Aqueous Phase Liquid blobs (NAPL’s) in oil/water systems and the construction of relative permeability curves. The proposed approach is expected to offer significantly improved quantitative results compared to other methods commonly used in these processes that lack this amount of detail in the description of both the flow problem and the representation of the medium.
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