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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2002 Nov;66(5 Pt 1):051603. Epub 2002 Nov 11.

Interface scaling in a two-dimensional porous medium under combined viscous, gravity, and capillary effects.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Géologie, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


We have investigated experimentally the competition between viscous, capillary, and gravity forces during drainage in a two-dimensional synthetic porous medium. The displacement of a mixture of glycerol and water by air at constant withdrawal rate has been studied. The setup can be tilted to tune gravity, and pressure is recorded at the outlet of the model. Viscous forces tend to destabilize the displacement front into narrow fingers against the stabilizing effect of gravity. Subsequently, a viscous instability is observed for sufficiently large withdrawal speeds or sufficiently low gravity components on the model. We predict the scaling of the front width for stable situations and characterize it experimentally through analyses of the invasion front geometry and pressure recordings. The front width under stable displacement and the threshold for the instability are shown, both experimentally and theoretically, to be controlled by a dimensionless number F which is defined as the ratio of the effective fluid pressure drop (i.e., average hydrostatic pressure drop minus viscous pressure drop) at pore scale to the width of the fluctuations in the threshold capillary pressures.

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