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Controlling capillary penetration in porous media

Dr. Hanaor - Department of Ceramic Materials - TU Berlin's picture

Tuning capillary penetration in porous media: Combining geometrical and evaporation effects

It is my pleasure to share here this work, led by the esteemed Dr. Liu. and published last year. Published last year in the International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

The ability to control the movement of water or other fluids in porous materials is very important in emerging microfluidc devices for various diagnostic applications. In particular, with advances in biotech, paper based devices can be used for a growing range of analyses including medical diagnoses, analysis of water quality and chemical identification. As new developments take place in the field of smart sensors and paper based diagnostics, controlling the movement of fluid through different regions of porous materials in ambient conditions is expected to grow in importance over the coming years. 



Abstract : Capillary penetration of liquids in porous media is of great importance in many applications and the ability to tune such penetration processes is increasingly sought after. In general, liquid penetration can be retarded or restricted by the evaporation of volatile liquid at the surface of the porous media. Moreover, when capillary penetration occurs in a porous layer with non-uniform cross section, the penetration process can be accelerated or impeded by adjusting the section geometry. In this work, on the basis of Darcy's Law and mass conservation, a theoretical model of capillary penetration combining evaporation effects in two-dimensional homogeneous porous media of varying cross-section is developed and further examined by numerical simulations. The effects of sample geometry and liquid evaporation on capillary penetration are quantitatively analyzed. Results show that the penetration velocity is sensitive to the geometry of the porous layer, and can be tuned by varying the evaporation rate for a given geometry. Under given evaporation conditions, penetration is restricted to a limited region with a predictable boundary. Furthermore, we find that the inhibition of liquid penetration by evaporation can be offset by varying the geometry of the porous layer. In addition, the theoretical model is further extended to model the capillary flow in three-dimensional porous media, and the interplay of geometry and evaporation during the capillary flow process in 3D conditions is also investigated. The results obtained can be used for facilitating the design of porous structures, achieving tunable capillary penetration for practical applications in various fields.

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