Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mixing fluids efficiently in confined spaces: Let the fingers do the working

Date:
May 13, 2011
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Summary:
Researchers have shown that the injection of a thin or low-viscosity fluid into a much more viscous fluid (think of water spurting into molasses) will cause the two fluids to mix very quickly via a physical process known as viscous fingering. For maximum mixing to occur quickly, the ideal ratio of the viscosity of two fluids depends on the speed of injection. This work could have implications for the petroleum industry and microfluidics technology.

Formation of “fingers” by a yellow fluid moving through a more viscous fluid causes the two to mix quickly and naturally.
Credit: Birendra Jha of the Juanes Lab, MIT

Getting two fluids to mix in small or confined spaces is a big problem in many industries where, for instance, the introduction of one fluid can help extract another -- like water pumped underground can release oil trapped in porous rock -- or where the mixing of liquids is the essential point of the process. A key example of the latter is microfluidics technology, which allows for the controlled manipulation of fluids in miniscule channels often only a few hundred nanometers wide.

Microfluidic devices were first introduced in the 1980s and for many years were best known for their use in ink-jet printers, but have since been introduced in other fields, including the chemical analysis of blood or other sera in lab-on-a-chip technologies. These devices -- usually not much larger than a stick of chewing gum -- sometimes rely on nano-sized moving components, the geometry of the grooved channels or pulsed injections to induce a mixing of the fluids. But researchers in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering suggest that a simpler method might be equally, if not more, effective.

"Getting two fluids to mix in a very tight space is difficult because there's not much room for a disorderly flow," said Professor Ruben Juanes, the ARCO Associate Professor in Energy Studies and principal investigator on the research. "But with two fluids of highly contrasting viscosity, the thinner fluid naturally creates disorder, which proves to be a marvelously efficient means of mixing."

In an analysis published online May 12 in Physical Review Letters (PRL), the researchers show that the injection of a thin or low-viscosity fluid into a much more viscous fluid (think of water spurting into molasses) will cause the two fluids to mix very quickly via a physical process known as viscous fingering. The thinner liquid, say the researchers, will form fingers as it enters the thicker liquid, and those fingers will form other fingers, and so on until the two liquids have mixed uniformly.

They also found that for maximum mixing to occur quickly, the ideal ratio of the viscosity of any two fluids depends on the speed at which the thinner liquid is injected into the thicker one.

The research team of Juanes, postdoctoral associate Luis Cueto-Felgueroso and graduate students Birendra Jha and Michael Szulczewski, made a series of controlled experiments using mixtures of water and glycerol, a colorless liquid generally about a thousand times more viscous than water. By alternating the viscosity of the liquids and the velocity of the injection flows, Jha was able to create a mathematical model of the process and use that to determine the best viscosity ratio for a particular velocity. He is lead author on the PRL paper.

"It's been known for a very long time that a low viscosity fluid will finger through the high viscosity fluid," said Juanes. "What was not known is how this affects the mixing rate of the two fluids. For instance, in the petroleum industry, people have developed increasingly refined models of how quickly the low viscosity fluid will reach the production well, but know little about how it will mix once it makes contact with the oil."

Similarly, Juanes said, in microfluidics technology, the use of fluids of different viscosities has not been seriously proposed as a mixing mechanism, but the new study indicates it could work very efficiently in the miniscule channels.

"We can now say that on average, the viscosity of the fluid injected should be about 10 times lower than that of the fluid into which it is injected," said Juanes. "If the contrast is greater than 10, then the injection should be done more slowly to achieve the fastest maximum mixing. Otherwise, the low viscosity fluid will create a single channel through the thicker fluid, which is not ideal."

Cueto-Felgueroso said a similar process is at work in the engraved channels of a microfluidic device and in subsurface rock containing oil. "Mixing fluids at small scales or velocities is difficult because you can't rely on turbulence: it would be hard to stir milk into your coffee if you were using a microscopic cup," Cueto-Felgueroso said. "With viscous fingering, you let the fluids do the job of stirring."

This work was funded by the Italian energy company, Eni, and the ARCO Chair in Energy Studies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The original article was written by Denise Brehm. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Birendra Jha, Luis Cueto-Felgueroso, Ruben Juanes. Fluid Mixing from Viscous Fingering. Physical Review Letters, 2011; 106 (19) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.194502

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Mixing fluids efficiently in confined spaces: Let the fingers do the working." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150827.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. (2011, May 13). Mixing fluids efficiently in confined spaces: Let the fingers do the working. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150827.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Mixing fluids efficiently in confined spaces: Let the fingers do the working." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150827.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins