Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geophysics (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

Roohollah (Radwin) Askari

Advisor 2

Ezequiel Medici

Committee Member 1

John S. Gierke


This research presents results from a laboratory-scale experimental setup that was designed to visualize the behavior of ferrofluid percolation through a porous media. Ferrofluids are colloidal suspensions made of magnetic particles of a few nanometers and stabilized in carrier liquids like water or mineral oil. Ferrofluids get magnetized and align themselves in the direction of a magnetic field when a field gradient is applied.

With the help of this experiment we investigate the viability of controlling fluid flow in porous medium by a magnetic field in vicinity. The experiments show that ferrofluids can be used as a transporting media to push the higher viscosity fluid out of the porous media when magnetic forces are acting on it. The magnetic force produces stronger attractive forces on the ferrofluid around the magnet which results in a predictable arrangement which is in- dependent of the heterogeneity of the medium. When capillary or viscous forces are predominant during the 2-dimensional drainage of immiscible fluids in a permeable medium, the injected fluid forms very thin finger like structure which then retains the fluid being displaced in them. No fingers due to varying viscosities are observed during displacement by ferrofluids in the medium. Displacement visualization experiments in an oil saturated porous medium shows that ferrofluids obtain a rectangular shaped final configuration around the magnet, irrespective of the initial arrangement and flow path. The aim of this research is to control the instabilities that occur during the displacement of a fluid with the help of ferrofluid and magnetic field in vicinity.

While the applications of ferrofluids are promising in the field of engineering, the results obtained are particularly relevant to the laboratory scale experiments where the weakening of magnetic strength due to increasing distance is a smaller limitation. Ferrofluids may find an immediate application in areas like enhancing oil recovery, in environmental engineering that requires maneuvering subsurface liquids in the field, treatment. Their properties could also be utilized in a situation that requires controlling the emplacement of fluid motion, guiding to or positioning to target zones in the subsurface without coming in direct access with it.