AIChE Journal Highlight: Understanding Fluid Flow through Porous Media in Microgravity | AIChE

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AIChE Journal Highlight: Understanding Fluid Flow through Porous Media in Microgravity

January
2021

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Fluid flow through porous media occurs in many places. It is encountered in such technologies as chemical reactors using porous catalysts as packing, and it is also found in nature, such as water, gas, and oil flow in porous rocks. An understanding of the mechanisms by which injected fluids (e.g., water or carbon dioxide) displace oil from porous rock requires an understanding of the role of capillary forces in the displacement process. The capillary forces are determined by the size of the pores, the interfacial tension between the fluids, and the wetting characteristics of the porous medium.

In most terrestrial applications, such as enhanced oil recovery, the pore size is small enough that gravity effects are negligible. In space, applications include chemical reactors for air and water revitalization, as well as flows to deliver water and nutrients to plants. These systems operate very differently in the microgravity environment encountered in space — especially at very low to moderate flowrates — because the separating or draining effect of gravity no longer influences the flow distribution, regardless of the size of the pores. Instead, the interfacial or capillary forces along with the viscous forces control the flow dynamics.../

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