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Stabilization of miscible viscous fingering by a step growth polymerization reaction


Abstract: Fingering is a hydrodynamic instability that occurs when a more mobile fluid displaces a fluid of lower mobility. When the primary source of the mobility difference is viscosity, the instability is termed viscous fingering. Viscous fingering is often, though not always, undesirable in industrial processes, particularly secondary petroleum recovery. Linear stability analysis by Hejazi et al. has indicated that the production of a non-monotonic viscosity profile can stabilize the interface. Herein, we use step-growth polymerization at the interface between two miscible monomers as a model system. In particular, a dithiol monomer displaced a diacrylate that reacted to form a linear polymer that behaves as a Newtonian fluid. Viscous fingering was imaged in a horizontal Hele-Shaw cell via Schlieren, which is sensitive to changes in index of refraction, and therefore polymer conversion. By varying reaction rate via initiator concentration along with flow rate via a syringe pump, we were able to demonstrate increasing stabilization of the flow with increasing Damköhler number. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

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