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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P031307/1
Title: Direct Numerical Simulations for Additive Manufacturing in Porous Media
Principal Investigator: Geiger, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Singleton, Mr M Mackay, Professor EJ Doster, Dr F
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Aramco Research Centre
Department: Sch of Energy, Geosci, Infrast & Society
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2018 Ends: 30 June 2021 Value (£): 477,852
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Apr 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 12 April 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
One of the key global technological and scientific challenges of the 21st century is the sustainable access to energy, water and food while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Central to this challenge is our understanding of porous media flow processes, specifically our understanding of how fluids such as oil, greenhouse gases or water, flow through the pores of subsurface reservoir rocks, and how these fluids interact physically and chemically with the rock. To enhance this understanding, high-quality experimental data and accurate numerical simulation methods for porous media flow problems are needed.

X-Ray Computed Tomography (X-Ray CT) combined with novel numerical simulation methods has revolutionised our ability to image and quantify the 3D physio-chemical interactions between fluids and rocks at the pore-scale. Yet, the heterogeneity and complexity of natural porous media render it difficult, if not impossible, to conduct repeatable X-Ray CT imaging experiments of flow in natural porous media in a fully controlled environment where hypotheses can be tested thoroughly and new numerical simulation approaches can be applied in a consistent way to aid the interpretation and quantification (or even prediction) of experimental results.

A transformative technology that could overcome this problem is additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. The applications of 3D printing are diverse and evolve almost daily, ranging from companies like Boeing that accelerate their production to companies like Audi that already print components of engine intake system to medical research that experiments with printing human tissue or develops affordable tests to detect the Zika virus.

The aim of this proposal is to apply 3D printing technologies to create 2D and 3D microfluidic chips representing natural porous media that can be deployed in repeatable and well-controlled porous media flow experiments supported by state-of-the-art numerical simulations. There are no reported attempts to link experiments using 3D printed microfluidic chips representing natural porous media with direct numerical simulations, let alone using data obtained from flow experiments on 3D printed samples as input for developing an international benchmarking standard for pore-scale numerical simulations and 3D printing of microfluidic chips and porous media (in both, 2D and 3D).

Consultants McKinsey have estimated that the global economic potential of 3D printing will be reach $230bn to $550bn annually in 10 years, viewing it as a key technology providing global economic growth. With major international companies like Thermo-Fisher and ZEISS already offering integrated technical solutions for X-Ray CT imaging and simulation for porous media applications related to energy extraction and greenhouse gas storage, it is likely that significant new business opportunities will emerge if X-Ray CT imaging and simulation technologies are combined with 3D printing. Clearly, the UK would benefit scientifically and economically from being an early adopter of 3D printing technologies for porous media experimentation and simulation.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk