Depending on thermodynamic conditions, amphiphilic molecules may self-assemble into wormlike micelles. Entanglements between wormlike micelles create network structures, which impart high viscosity and elasticity to the fluid. This wide range of rheologic al properties, combined with the sensitivity to thermodynamic conditions, makes these fluids perfectly suited for environmentally friendly applications in oilfield industries. By mixing the viscoelastic surfactants (VES) with polymers, the rheological properties required can be obtained at a significantly lower fluid cost. Our goal is to increase the fundamental understanding of the relation between the microstructure and the rheological behaviour of VES-polymer fluids, using computer simulations at the particulate level. This will enable us to design new fluids with enhanced properties and at a lower cost. In the description of VES-polymer systems we discern two levels of detail.
At the atomistic level, the interplay between energy and entropy determines t he "mesoscopic" properties of the polymers and worms (e.g. size and stiffness) and the energetics of breaking up of entanglements. At a coarser level stiffness and entanglement energetics determine the network structure and hence the viscoelastic properties of the fluid. Dr M. Stukan has created Monte Carlo computer simulation of polymers solutions to study their phase behaviour (PhD work, INTAS grant). He will apply his experience in computer simulation to calculate the visco-elastic properties of mixtures of 'living polymers' (wormlike micelles) and polymers. Experimentalists and computational physicists at Schlumberger will provide the input needed for this work.
This project will enable him to further prepare for a career in research by diversifying his scientific knowledge and exposing himself to the culture of an industrial research laboratory. It will also reinforce scientific cooperation between Moscow labs and our western European research cluster.
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