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Multiphase flows with digital and traditional microfluidics

Michael A Nilsson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Multi-phase fluid systems are an important concept in fluid mechanics, seen every day in how fluids interact with solids, gases, and other fluids in many industrial, medical, agricultural, and other regimes. In this thesis, the development of a two-dimensional digital microfluidic device is presented, followed by the development of a two-phase microfluidic diagnostic tool designed to simulate sandstone geometries in oil reservoirs. In both instances, it is possible to take advantage of the physics involved in multiphase flows to affect positive outcomes in both. In order to make an effective droplet-based digital microfluidic device, one must be able to precisely control a number of key processes including droplet positioning, motion, coalescence, mixing, and sorting. For planar or open microfluidic devices, many of these processes have yet to be demonstrated. A suitable platform for an open system is a superhydrophobic surface, as suface characteristics are critical. Great efforts have been spent over the last decade developing hydrophobic surfaces exhibiting very large contact angles with water, and which allow for high droplet mobility. We demonstrate that sanding Teflon can produce superhydrophobic surfaces with advancing contact angles of up to 151° and contact angle hysteresis of less than 4°. We use these surfaces to characterize droplet coalescence, mixing, motion, deflection, positioning, and sorting. This research culminates with the presentation of two digital microfluidic devices: a droplet reactor/analyzer and a droplet sorter. As global energy usage increases, maximizing oil recovery from known reserves becomes a crucial multiphase challenge in order to meet the rising demand. This thesis presents the development of a microfluidic sandstone platform capable of quickly and inexpensively testing the performance of fluids with different rheological properties on the recovery of oil. Specifically, these microfluidic devices are utilized to examine how shear-thinning, shear-thickening, and viscoelastic fluids affect oil recovery. This work begins by looking at oil displacement from a microfluidic sandstone device, then investigates small-scale oil recovery from a single pore, and finally investigates oil displacement from larger scale, more complex microfluidic sandstone devices of varying permeability. The results demonstrate that with careful fluid design, it is possible to outperform current commercial additives using the patent-pending fluid we developed. Furthermore, the resulting microfluidic sandstone devices can reduce the time and cost of developing and testing of current and new enhanced oil recovery fluids.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Physics|Energy

Recommended Citation

Nilsson, Michael A, "Multiphase flows with digital and traditional microfluidics" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589117.