– This is a doubly special paper for me, not only is it the first time I publish in PRL, but it also happens to be the first Letter of the new SFF PoreLab, says Moura. – Indeed, I got the news of the acceptance of the article during one of the dinners of the kickoff workshop that started the PoreLab activities. As you can imagine, that was one happy dinner for me!
Relevant for CO2 storage
This is Moura's explanation in short:
- When a material full of pores (like a porous rock or a sponge) is soaked in a fluid and another fluid is forced into it, an interesting dynamics arises in which the invading fluid sequentially displaces the other one out of the pores. In the late 80s a group of researchers employed computer simulations to quantify the relative probabilities of such pore displacements, making numerical predictions about how this probability varies with space and time.
- By using synthetic porous samples and modern image analysis techniques, we have been able to finally verify those predictions experimentally and to give a full theoretical explanation for the observations. The increased understanding of this kind of phenomena is relevant for many fields in which one fluid displaces another from a porous network, such as CO2 storage in subsea rocks and the remediation of contaminated soils.
A Norwegian Centre of Excellence, established in 2017.
Situated at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and the University of Oslo (UiO).
Focuses on the physics of porous media using experimental, theoretical and computational methods.
It is led by five principal scientists from physics, chemistry and reservoir engineering.
Moura just completed his PhD degree with the thesis Burst Dynamics in Quasi- 2D Disordered Systems: Experiments on Porous Media Two-Phase Flows. He is now a postdoctoral resarcher working in the PoreLab group at the Department of Physics. PoreLab (Porous Media Laboratory) is a Norwegian Center of Excellence established in 2017.
Moura has studied the motion of fluids in an artificial porous network.
- The system is made of glass, so it's transparent, which is convenient because we can directly see the fluids moving inside of it, he says.
- Our goal is to understand the basic mechanisms behind the process in which one liquid (say air, or CO2) displaces another (say water, or oil) from this porous network. This process is important because it is very general. It happens in CO2 sequestration, but also simply when one is writing on a paper and the ink displaces the air from the voids between paper fibers, or when we water the plants and water displaces air from the soil pores.
Collaboration is key
- Having a very simplified system like ours is convenient because things become more comprehensible than in a real porous network like a rock in the subsea or real soils. Nevertheless, of course we don't capture the full myriad of phenomena that occur in real systems, he explains.
- It is important to notice that the full understanding of fluid motion and interaction with porous networks is a highly complex matter, requiring the collaboration of people working with complementary approaches in several different fields. This is one point that has been very much emphasized in the meetings of our new SFF PoreLab.
An earlier article on the subject, also by Moura and others: Critical behaviour in porous media flow