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EPSRC Reference: EP/R045364/1
Title: Viscous fingering on soft substrates
Principal Investigator: Pihler-Puzovic, Dr D
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 January 2019 Ends: 30 September 2021 Value (£): 237,970
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids Continuum Mechanics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Jun 2018 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel June 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The research proposed here is motivated by recent striking observations of the viscous fingering instability on soft substrates. This instability readily develops if a viscous fluid is displaced by a less viscous fluid in a narrow gap between rigid plates, and typically results in complex highly branched patterns of fingers on the interface between the two fluids. Viscous fingering has been of long-standing research interest because it serves as an archetype for front-propagating pattern-forming phenomena, as diverse as the growth of bacterial colonies and the propagation of flame fronts. We find that this instability can be manipulated by replacing the bottom bounding plate with a soft substrate. Firstly, we observe that the instability can be delayed, so that the interface remains axisymmetric for injection rates at which the pattern in the corresponding rigid system already exhibits nonlinear growth. This is similar to other systems in which the fluid flow interacts with a compliant boundary, for example, with thin elastic membranes, although soft substrates deform differently compared to those. Secondly, the thickness and the stiffness of the soft substrate can be tuned to change the structure of the fingers that do develop once the circular interface becomes unstable to non-axisymmetric perturbations. The resulting patterns range from the highly branched fingering observed in rigid systems to the stubby fingers that develop on the meniscus between two cylinders co-rotating with the same speed. Thus, the instability is strongly influenced by the deformation of the soft substrate, which in turn deforms in response to the two-phase flow, and is likely to have viscoelastic properties. We propose to employ a combination of experimental, theoretical and computational approaches to fully-characterise the complex fluid-structure interactions that lead to these novel phenomena.

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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk