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posted on 09.12.2019 by Xuhui Zhou
Single phase immiscible fluid flow in porous media is often described by Darcy’s law. However, in two-phase or multi-phase conditions, the properties of porous medium rely on the saturation of each phase. One of the constitutive equations, the relationship between capillary pressure and saturation, exhibits hysteresis property. To accurately describe two-phase immiscible fluid in porous media, some researchers used interfacial area per volume (IAV) as an additional variable. Previous experiments were done by other experimenters to support the uniqueness of IAV in capillary pressure – saturation hysteresis relationship by externally changing the capillary pressure.
A technique called Electro-Wetting On Dielectric (EWOD) was developed for sealed micro-models to examine the saturation-pressure relationship by internally manipulating the saturation which in turns affects IAV. Single-plate EWOD samples were used to select material properties and experimental parameters. These experiments found that Poly-Di-Methyl-Siloxane (PDMS) is a good dielectric material that enabled changes in the contact angle between a droplet and PDMS from ~120° (non-wetting) to ~50° (wetting). Double-plate EWOD was used to demonstrate that discrete electrodes (with PDMS as dieletric on both plates) enabled the transportation and merging of droplet(s).
A novel method was developed to incorporate EWOD into a wedge-shaped PDMS micro-model. Imbibition and drainage scans of the capillary pressure – saturation relationship (Pc-S) were performed in the channel with and without voltage. The drainage curves differed significantly between the two conditions, while the imbibition curves were similar with and without voltage. The total energy for Pc-S decreased by 70 nJ with the application of EWOD with most of difference arising from a 20 Pa decrease in pressure for the same saturation condition during drainage.
Studies were also performed to examine the amount of energy associated with depiing of fluid interfaces. A 5-step wedge-shaped micro-model with EWOD was fabricated to increase the probability of pinning during an experiment. The amount of energy released as a fluid depinned was observed to be a function of capillary pressure. More energy was released at the 1st step for higher the pressures than lower pressures. The energy released from depinning at the first step in the channel ranged from 30 – 100 nJ for pressures from 70 to 100 Pa. The occurrence and magnitude of additional depinnings along the step-shaped channel also depended on the pressure. Each successive depining released less energy.
Finally, experiments were performed to examine the range of EWOD in a sealed micro-model with discrete electrodes. When voltage was not applied directly on the fluid-fluid interface but on the solution, the voltage could still actuate the interface causing it to move and advance farther into a channel. The ability of the application of EWOD to drive fluid-fluid interfaces decreases with active electrode distance from the interface.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Physics and Astronomy

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Laura Pyrak-Nolte

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. David Nolte

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Matthew Jones

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Hisao Nakanishi



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