Meniscus arrest dominated imbibition front roughening in porous media with elongated pores

H Rieger and C Thome and Z Sadjadi, STATPHYS-KOLKATA VIII, 638, 012007 (2015).

DOI: 10.1088/1742-6596/638/1/012007

During spontaneous imbibition, a wetting liquid is drawn into a porous medium by capillary forces. Recently, anomalous scaling properties of front broadening during spontaneous imbibition of water in Vycor glass, a nanoporous medium, were reported. The mean height and the width of the propagating front increase with time t both proportional to t(1/2). We argue that this anomalously large roughening exponent of beta = 1/2 is due to long-lasting meniscus arrests, when at pore junctions the meniscus propagation in one or more branches comes to a halt when the Laplace pressure of the meniscus exceeds the hydrostatic pressure within the junction. From this hypothesis we derive the scaling relations for the emerging arrest time distribution in random pore networks and show that the average front width is proportional to the height yielding a roughness exponent of exactly beta = 1/2 as measured in the Vycor glass imbibition experiments. Extensive simulations of a random pore network model confirm these predictions. Finally, using a microfluidic setup as well as molecular dynamics simulations on the nanoscale, the basic hypothesis of the scaling theory is confirmed by demonstrating the existence of arrest events in Y-shaped junctions, analyzing them quantitatively and comparing them with the theoretical predictions.

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