Electrokinetic Control of Interfacial Instabilities

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Interfacial instabilities have significant impact on the efficiency of various processes that are present in our surroundings. These instabilities occur due to fluid-fluid interfacial perturbations which could be driven electrically, magnetically, via pressure, surface tension, etc. One of the most frequent occurrences of interfacial instabilities is the displacement of a more viscous fluid by a less viscous one which results in an instability known as ‘viscous fingering’. Controlling viscous fingering is challenging since it occurs at the onset of the displacement and affects the overall displacement pattern observed. Nevertheless, researchers have proposed passive and active control methods to address this issue. The objective of this thesis is to extensively explore the use of electric fields for actively controlling viscous fingering in both miscible and immiscible fluid systems. A combination of experimental and numerical techniques are employed to investigate this phenomenon. The first fluid system examined is immiscible, in which the resident fluid is a perfect dielectric fluid with a preferential wetting on the substrate and no notable fluid-fluid and fluid-wall interfacial charges. The second fluid system involves both miscible and conducting fluids with electro-neutral fluid-fluid interface. The immiscible third fluid system has significant interfacial charges between fluids due to added ionic surfactants in the invading brine, leading to preferential substrate wetting. The results of the first study conducted experimentally, indicated that viscous fingering can be effectively controlled even when one of the fluids is completely non-conductive. Regardless of the magnitude of the applied electric field, positive values stabilized the displacement, while negative values destabilized it. For the miscible fluid system, numerical simulations revealed that the effect of positive or negative electric fields on the displacement (de)-stabilization depended on whether the resident fluid experienced a higher or lower electroosmotic flow under the influence of an electric field. The third study’s experimental results revealed that the presence of the combination of electric field and ionic surfactants dramatically altered the system’s behavior, due to the presence of fluid-fluid interfacial charges that induced electro-Marangoni stresses at the interface when acted upon by an external electric field, which ultimately destabilized the displacement in most cases.
Viscous fingering, Electrokinetics, Electrohydrodynamics, Electric field, Wettability, Surfactant, Interfacial tension, Computational fluid dynamics, Interfacial instability, Hele-Shaw cell, Numerical modelling
Nwani, B. N. (2023). Electrokinetic control of interfacial instabilities (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.