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Research Blog

  • Writer's pictureDi Pu (Taichi Kabata)

Updated: Feb 27

The vast untapped heavy oil resources in combined with global carbon capture and storage (CCS) open up alluring vistas for the world’s sustaining energy landscape. This has spurred much innovative technologies for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes, and Taichi Microfluidics is joining the on-chip CO2-EOR research in its early stage.

Unlike the conventional oil reservoirs under the solution gas drive, in many heavy oil reservoirs, the released gas bubbles remain dispersed in the highly viscous liquid oil during the early stages of pressure depletion. This pseudo-single phase flow regime, also termed as the foamy oil flow regime, is believed to be linked to anomalously high ultimate oil recovery, high oil production rates and low production gas-in-oil ratio (GOR) observed in the primary production stage.

To support research and industry investigation on foamy oil flow during the cold heavy oil production process, a chip-scale platform for structural characterization of foamy oil under reservoir conditions is developed with patents issued in 2022/06/29.

This high-pressure sapphire cell allows for in-situ quantification of bubble morphology, size distribution, foam quality, etc. under the reservoir conditions, which is relevant for studying Oswald ripening process, characterizing structure-property relations, etc. Other applications can be also achieved when integrated with optical and phase-field techniques.

High-pressure Sapphire Cell for Real-time Visualization of Foamy Oil Flow

For collaboration and commercialization requests please contact us.

Speeding up precise diagnosis and reducing the cost of drug discovery and delivery are crucial for self-driving laboratories, where tasks often involve characterizing biomolecular interactions and optimizing stochastic gradient descent for deep neural networks. During the pandemic, the demand for high-throughput characterization has witnessed a remarkable upswing in micro-scale thermophoresis. However, the lack of a theoretical description of this non-equilibrium transport phenomenon in aqueous media remains a major obstacle that hampers its biological application scenarios.

In this work, we propose a holistic model that reveals multi-scale coupling mechanisms in aqueous systems, where the coupling is governed by Onsager's reciprocal relations. By performing the model-coupling analysis, we found that:

  • The temperature dependence of the Soret coefficient stems from the competition between long-range bulk effects and short-range interfacial effects.

  • The size dependence of the Soret coefficient relies on the volume-surface area scaling of the short-ranged interactions, which is rather system-specific and depends on the details of the particle surface chemistry.

  • An intricate competition between electrostatic and hydration entropy interactions determines the Soret coefficient of nano-sized polystyrene beads, while further shrinking down the size, the Seebeck and viscosity contributions become pronounced for T4 lysozyme suspensions.

These findings enhance our understanding of different interactions at the molecular level, which is relevant for point-of-care diagnostics, binding affinity determination, purification, protein-folding studies, and drug delivery. Last but not least, this type of non-equilibrium transport phenomenon provides nice playgrounds for deep learning, where neural networks can be visualized in the context of the energy landscape.

Publications: Pu D, Panahi A, Natale G, Benneker A. A Mode-Coupling Model of Colloid Thermophoresis in Aqueous Systems: Temperature and Size Dependencies of the Soret Coefficient. Nano Letters. 2024.

In this article, we study the temperature and size dependencies of colloid thermophoresis using a thermofluidic platform with femto-Newton sensitivity. In particular, the silica particles exhibit thermophilic behaviours over the experimental temperature range and the corresponding thermophoretic velocity increases in magnitude with increasing particle size. Throughout the paper, we show with experiments and theoretical calculations how the interplay between the chemical potential of water and binding energy influences the thermophoretic behaviour of silica spheres at the molecular level.

Publications: Pu D, Panahi A, Natale G, Benneker A. Colloid Thermophoresis in the Dilute Electrolyte Concentration Regime: From Theory to Experiment. Soft Matter. 2023.

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