Enhancing Immiscible Fluid Mobilization in Porous Media Using Solute Deposition induced Permeability Control

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Secondary imbibition is the process by which a wetting fluid displaces a non-wetting fluid in a partially saturated porous medium. Researchers at Princeton University have developed a novel process for mobilizing an immiscible fluid in a porous medium. An increase in the viscous pressure drop across trapped immiscible fluids in a porous medium can be achieved by locally reducing the permeability of the porous medium in the region immediately transverse to the ganglia with respect to the flow direction. This is accomplished by depositing colloidal particles to decrease the porosity and pore throat size of the porous medium to give a local permeability profile that enhances immiscible fluid mobilization. Deposition occurs by injecting a solution or suspension at a controlled flowrate or pressure drop to yield a desired concentration profile.



• Tertiary or enhanced oil recovery (EOR)

• Groundwater remediation techniques

• Contaminant removal

• Water filtration



• Temporary alteration to the porous medium matrix that selectively reduces its

permeability based on the distribution of the trapped immiscible fluid

• Range of materials that can be chosen as the solute are wider than present techniques


One possible limitation of this process is that the permeability profile created within the porous medium through deposition of colloidal particle, may be irreversible. This may not be desirable, especially for applications in contaminant removal. Choosing solutes that have a weak affinity for the porous medium matrix and transiently bind would solve this problem. Another possible limitation of this process is that the deposition rate of solutes is not well controlled. The use of structured particles would help the practitioner speed up or slow down the deposition rate depending on particle design. By fabricating particles with a high affinity for the porous medium, the deposition rate could also be sped up.



Stage of Development

The inventors have made two suspensions containing polystyrene colloids that have a binding affinity for a negatively charged borosilicate porous medium and tested one injection process that effectively mobilizes trapped oil in both of these systems. They have also developed an analytical model that calculates the permeability as a function of the porosity, which changes due to varying amounts of the residual immiscible fluid and solute concentration over time and space, and the pore size, which changes as a result of changing solute concentration. They are currently in the process of developing a mathematical model that calculates the capillary pressure threshold as the pore size changes over time and space, and the viscous pressure drop as a function of the numerical permeability values across the porous medium.



Sujit Datta is an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University and the Principal Investigator of the lab. He did his undergraduate work in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, graduate work in Physics at Harvard, and postdoctoral training in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Caltech. He joined Princeton in 2017, where his lab seeks to understand and control the behavior of soft and active materials in complex settings, motivated by challenges like developing cleaner oil/gas recovery, more effective water remediation, and targeted drug delivery. Prof. Datta is the recipient of the LeRoy Apker Award from the American Physical Society, the Andreas Acrivos Award in Fluid Dynamics from the American Physical Society, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund New Investigator Award, the Alfred Rheinstein Faculty Award, and multiple Princeton Engineering Commendations for Outstanding Teaching.


Joanna Schneider is a second-year graduate student in Chemical and Biological Engineering co-advised with Rod Priestley. She did her undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied DNA self-assembly in the Schulman lab. She also spent a summer abroad studying cell-free protein synthesis with Cleo Kontoravdi at Imperial College London. Her current work focuses on the use of nanoparticles for water remediation.


Navid Bizmark is a PCCM postdoctoral researcher co-advised with Rod Priestley. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Tehran and University of Waterloo, respectively. His work focuses on applications of nanoparticles in multiphase systems. He is currently working on structured Pickering emulsions.



Rodney Priestley is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Associate Director of the Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PCCM), and the Director of Graduate Studies. He obtained his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University in 2008 and his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Texas Tech University in 2003. Work in the Priestley Laboratory applies principles of physics, chemistry and engineering towards nanoscale processing and characterization of polymers and soft matter with particular emphasis on thin films, colloids, and nanocomposites. Dr. Priestley’s laboratory aims to advance the fundamental understanding of how processing combined with confinement and interfacial effects modify materials properties, and how these modifications can be exploited for new materials design. He is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2013, the AICHE MSED Owens Corning Early Career Award in 2017, and was named ASEE list of 20 under 40 Inspiring Young Faculty in 2014.


Intellectual Property Status

Patent protection is pending. Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.


Prabhpreet S. Gill

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-3653• psgill@princeton.edu


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Prabhpreet Gill
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Sujit Datta
Joanna Schneider
Navid Bizmark
Rodney Priestley