Section: Scientific Foundations
Multi-fluid flows and application for complex fluids, microfluidics
Participants : Angelo Iollo, Charles-Henri Bruneau, Thierry Colin, Mathieu Colin, Kévin Santugini.
By a complex fluid, we mean a fluid containing some mesoscopic objects, i.e. structures whose size is intermediate between the microscopic size and the macroscopic size of the experiment. The aim is to study complex fluids containing surfactants in large quantities. It modifies the viscosity properties of the fluids and surface-tension phenomena can become predominant.
Microfluidics is the study of fluids in very small quantities, in micro-channels (a micro-channel is typically 1 cm long with a section of ). They are many advantages of using such channels. First, one needs only a small quantity of liquid to analyze the phenomena. Furthermore, very stable flows and quite unusual regimes may be observed, which enables to perfom more accurate measurements. The idea is to couple numerical simulations with experiments to understand the phenomena, to predict the flows and compute some quantities like viscosity coefficients for example. Flows in micro-channels are often at low Reynolds numbers. The hydrodynamical part is therefore stable. However, the main problem is to produce real 3D simulations covering a large range of situations. For example we want to describe diphasic flows with surface tension and sometimes surface viscosity. Surface tension enforces the stability of the flow. The size of the channel implies that one can observe some very stable phenomena. For example, using a "T" junction, a very stable interface between two fluids can be observed. In a cross junction, one can also have formation of droplets that travel along the channel. Some numerical difficulties arise from the surface tension term. With an explicit discretization of this term, a restrictive stability condition appears for very slow flows  . Our partner is the LOF, a Rhodia-Bordeaux 1-CNRS laboratory.
One of the main points is the wetting phenomena at the boundary. Note that the boundary conditions are fundamental for the description of the flow since the channels are very shallow. The wetting properties cannot be neglected at all. Indeed, for the case of a two non-miscible fluids system, if one considers no-slip boundary conditions, then since the interface is driven by the velocity of the fluids, it shall not move on the boundary. The experiments shows that this is not true: the interface is moving and in fact all the dynamics start from the boundary and then propagate in the whole volume of fluids. Even with low Reynolds numbers, the wetting effects can induce instabilities and are responsible of hardly predictable flows. Moreover, the fluids that are used are often visco-elastic and exhibit "unusual" slip length. Therefore, we cannot use standard numerical codes and have to adapt the usual numerical methods to our case to take into account the specificities of our situations. Moreover, we want to obtain reliable models and simulations that can be as simple as possible and that can be used by our collaborators. As a summary, the main specific points of the physics are: the multi-fluid simulations at low Reynolds number, the wetting problems and the surface tension that are crucial, the 3D characteristic of the flows, the boundary conditions that are fundamental due to the size of the channels. We need to handle complex fluids. Our collaborators in this lab are J.-B. Salmon, P. Guillot, A. Colin.
The evolution of non-newtonian flows in webs of micro-channels are therefore useful to understand the mixing of oil, water and polymer for enhanced oil recovery for example. Complex fluids arising in cosmetics are also of interest. We also need to handle mixing processes.