Indexed on: 20 Feb '18Published on: 20 Feb '18Published in: arXiv - Physics - Soft Condensed Matter
As a typical multiphase fluid flow process, drainage in porous media is of fundamental interest in nature and industrial applications. During drainage processes in unsaturated soils and porous media in general, saturated clusters, in which a liquid phase fully occupies the pore space between solid grains, affect the relative permeability and effective stress of the system. In this study, we experimentally studied drainage processes in unsaturated granular media as a model porous system. The distribution of saturated clusters is analysed by an optical imaging method under different drainage conditions, in which pore-scale information from Voronoi and Delaunay tessellation was used to characterise the topology of saturated cluster distributions. By employing statistical analyses, the observed spatial and temporal information of multiphase flow and fluid entrapment in porous media are described. The results indicate that the distributions of both the crystallised cell size and pore size are positively correlated to the spatial and temporal distribution of saturated cluster sizes. The saturated cluster size is found to follow a lognormal distribution, in which the generalised Bond number correlates negatively to the scale parameter and positively to the shape parameter. These findings can be used to connect pore-scale behaviour with overall hydro-mechanical characteristics in partially saturated porous media, using both the degree of saturation and generalised Bond number.