Complex Fluids

We have made some exciting discoveries in nanostructured complex fluids, whose properties and behavior can change dramatically in response to external conditions, showing promise for a variety of applications. Complex fluid are of particular interest since we can achieve synergistic behavior and tunability for various applications. For example through our research, a new mode of stabilizing emulsions with nanoparticles with no interaction with fluid or fluid interface has been discovered. In addition to its scientific interest, this process could significantly reduce the costs of emulsions for field applications. We have shown that simple chemical treatments for biomass-derived nanoparticles, permit tuning the properties of emulsions stabilized with those particles, including a remarkable ability to selectively block flow of one fluid phase in porous media. We have also discovered that the same particles exhibit a unique form of self-assembly, which contributes to the emulsion properties, but also has potential applications far beyond emulsions.

Here is some research we are currently working on:

  • Study of the mechanism and application of bicontinuous emulsion gels in the formation of co-continuous solid electrodes for applications in electorcatalysis and battery technologies. 
  • Use of laser scanning confocal microscopy to dynamically visualize multiphase systems.  Specifically, we aim to develop tools for 4D imaging and image analysis for improved understanding of spontaneous emulsification and enhanced oil recovery methods, such as emulsion flooding.
  • Photonic force microscopy study of emulsion droplet interactions for fundamental understanding of emulsion stabilization mechanisms, emulsion rheology, and particle-interface adsorption.
  • Modeling and direct numerical simulation of multi-phase systems and nanoparticle interactions and the processes involved. 
  • Effect of nanoparticle and surfactant synergy on foam stability and fundamental aspect of microstructural evolution in nanoparticle stabilized foams. 
  • Designing novel ionic liquids solvents, structured fluids (e.g. emulsions and foams), or a combination of both.
  • In-situ monitoring of complex fluid flow in porous media with the help of nanomaterials
  • Designing novel COfoam system to enhance heavy oil recovery with reducing the carbon footprint (i.e. COsequestration)

These discoveries are providing the framework to reduce the environmental impact of oil recovery processes and recovering oil from a much smaller footprint.