Microfluidic Devices for Characterizing Pore-scale Event Processes in Porous Media for Oil Recovery Applications
Vavra, Eric D.; Zeng, Yongchao; Xiao, Siyang; Hirasaki, George J.; Biswal, Sibani L.
Microfluidic devices are versatile tools for studying transport processes at a microscopic scale. A demand exists for microfluidic devices that are resistant to low molecular-weight oil components, unlike traditional polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) devices. Here, we demonstrate a facile method for making a device with this property, and we use the product of this protocol for examining the pore-scale mechanisms by which foam recovers crude oil. A pattern is first designed using computer-aided design (CAD) software and printed on a transparency with a high-resolution printer. This pattern is then transferred to a photoresist via a lithography procedure. PDMS is cast on the pattern, cured in an oven, and removed to obtain a mold. A thiol-ene crosslinking polymer, commonly used as an optical adhesive (OA), is then poured onto the mold and cured under UV light. The PDMS mold is peeled away from the optical adhesive cast. A glass substrate is then prepared, and the two halves of the device are bonded together. Optical adhesive-based devices are more robust than traditional PDMS microfluidic devices. The epoxy structure is resistant to swelling by many organic solvents, which opens new possibilities for experiments involving light organic liquids. Additionally, the surface wettability behavior of these devices is more stable than that of PDMS. The construction of optical adhesive microfluidic devices is simple, yet requires incrementally more effort than the making of PDMS-based devices. Also, though optical adhesive devices are stable in organic liquids, they may exhibit reduced bond-strength after a long time. Optical adhesive microfluidic devices can be made in geometries that act as 2-D micromodels for porous media. These devices are applied in the study of oil displacement to improve our understanding of the pore-scale mechanisms involved in enhanced oil recovery and aquifer remediation.