Understanding the dynamic behavior of polymeric fluids in porous media is essential for vast geoscience applications, particularly enhanced oil recovery and polymer-enhanced soil washing, to clean up soil contamination. During the past decades, the behavior of polymeric fluids in microscopic space has only been investigated using ensemble-averaged experimental methods in which a bulk phase behavior of the fluids characterizes flow mechanisms. Multiple flow mechanisms have been proposed based on ensemble-averaged data; however, microscale characterization of the interactions between polymers and solid surfaces and the mechanisms governing polymer retention and permeability reduction as well as the reversibility of polymer retention are lacking, resulting in a limited understanding of the flow mechanisms. Here we report direct visualization and multi-scale characterization of the dynamic behavior of polymer molecules in a representative porous medium by integrating microfluidics with single-molecule imaging. We demonstrate that the polymers' adsorption, entrapment and hydrodynamic retention contribute to their overall retention in porous media. Our study illustrates how microfluidics can help in understanding the dynamic behavior of polymers, their interactions with the solid/fluid interface and their effects on flow properties. Additionally, it demonstrates the role of microfluidic platforms in providing a more representative and accurate model for polymer retention and permeability reduction in porous media. The obtained insights encourage the development of improved models that better capture the behavior of complex fluids in confined environments and have significant implications for a wide range of applications in geoscience, materials science, and rheology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering