Environmental Earth Sciences

, 59:901 | Cite as

Experimental study on imbibition displacement mechanisms of two-phase fluid using micro model

  • Liang-Cheng ChangEmail author
  • Jui-Pin Tsai
  • Hsin-Yu Shan
  • Hung-Hui Chen
Original Article


This study applies a transparent micro model and digital image analysis to the experimental study of the displacement mechanisms for water and air in porous media during imbibition process, and examines the displacement formulas. This study conducts experiments following Lenormand’s assumptions as closely as possible. Various displacement mechanisms were observed, and their images were recorded. The displacement mechanisms in imbibition are mainly snap-off, In type imbibition and piston-type motion. The experimental fluid displacement images and associated capillary pressure were then used to verify the displacement formulas. This experimental study shows that, when snap-off occurred, the experimental capillary pressures were close to the Lenormand’s estimation of critical capillary pressures where enough surrounding area of the throat was saturated. When I1 and I2 type imbibitions occurred, the experimental capillary pressures were also close to the Lenormand’s estimation of critical capillary pressures where enough connecting throats were saturated. The In type imbibition and its associated piston-type motions are the main processes to increase the wetting phase fluid saturation. For the pore–throat distribution applied in this study, snap-off can facilitate the occurrence of In type imbibition and its associated piston-type motion; therefore, snap-off is an important displacement mechanism in facilitating the increase of the wetting phase fluid saturation in the imbibition process. To summarize, this study provides valuable experimental support and suggestions for Lenormand’s displacement formulas, which are the basis for many related experimental and numerical studies.


Displacement mechanisms Micro model Imbibition Porous media Pore–throat network Two-phase flow Pore scale 

List of symbols


Contact angle


Half-corner (angle)


Pressure (cmH2O)


Saturation (fraction)


Capillary pressure (cmH2O)


Experimental capillary pressure (cmH2O)


Critical snap-off capillary pressure calculated by Hughes’s formula


Critical snap-off capillary pressure calculated by Lenormand’s formula


Critical In imbibition capillary pressure calculated by Lenormand’s formula


Saturation of wetting phase fluid fraction


Saturation of non-wetting phase fluid fraction


Sn indicated ‘Snap-off where i is the throat label and j is the snap-off selected evolution step’


In indicated ‘In type imbibitions’ where i is the pore label and j is the In type imbibition selected evolution step



The authors would like to thank the National Science Council of the Republic of China, Taiwan, for financially supporting this research under Contract No. 96-2221-E-009-090.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang-Cheng Chang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jui-Pin Tsai
    • 1
  • Hsin-Yu Shan
    • 1
  • Hung-Hui Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of the Civil EngineeringNational Chiao Tung UniversityHsin-chuTaiwan
  2. 2.Civil Engineering DepartmentMin Hsin University Science TechnologyHsin-chuTaiwan

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