Coarsening of foam in two model fractures with different roughness

Kai Li*, Mohammadamin Sharifnik, Karl Heinz A.A. Wolf, William R. Rossen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Foam coarsening by diffusion (Ostwald ripening) has been well studied in bulk foams. However, it is less well understood in porous media. In particular, the mechanisms that may slow or stop coarsening have not been fully investigated. In this paper, we report an experimental study of foam coarsening in two 1-m-long and 15-cm-wide model fractures. The model fractures, Model 1 and Model 2, are made of glass plates and have different roughness. Model 1 has a regular roughness with hydraulic aperture of 46 μm. Model 2 has an irregular roughness with hydraulic aperture of 78 μm. The two model fractures are transparent, which allows direct investigation of foam in the fractures. We characterize the fracture geometries by studying the aperture distribution in the two model fractures. Both model fractures are then represented by a 2D network of pore bodies and pore throats. To study coarsening, we inject pre-generated foam at different foam qualities (ratio of gas volumetric rate to total rate) into the model fractures. After foam reaches steady-state, we shut the inlet and outlet valves of the fractures for 24 h. Foam coarsens by gas diffusion during this period. We use a high-speed camera to record images of the static foam during coarsening at two fixed locations in the fracture: 19 and 73 cm from the inlet, separately. We then use ImageJ software to process the images to study foam texture and quantify coarsening process. By correlating the aperture histogram of model fractures and water-occupied area fraction, we estimate the local aperture at water-gas interfaces at each specific coarsening time. Using the local aperture, we further estimate the height of lamellae available for gas diffusion at the end of the coarsening experiments. Based on this information, we discuss whether coarsening stops at the end of the coarsening experiments because bubbles are in equilibrium in pressure, or slows nearly to a stop because bubbles lose contact through lamellae. Coarsening studies in bulk and microfluidics assume coarsening slows and stops when lamella curvature is zero. We show in our model fractures that the lack of lamellae in wet foams can also play a part. In addition, we adopt a novel technique to calculate water saturation and capillary pressure of foam in our model fractures. We then explain how these foam properties affect its coarsening behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127666
Number of pages13
JournalColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • capillary pressure
  • coarsening
  • foam
  • fractures
  • lamella
  • water saturation


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