Flow of wormlike micellar solutions around confined microfluidic cylinders†
Wormlike micellar (WLM) solutions are frequently used in enhanced oil and gas recovery applications in porous rock beds where complex microscopic geometries result in mixed flow kinematics with strong shear and extensional components. Experiments with WLM solutions through model microfluidic porous media have revealed a variety of complex flow phenomena, including the formation of stable gel-like structures known as a Flow-Induced Structured Phase (FISP), which undoubtedly play an important role in applications of WLM fluids, but are still poorly understood. A first step in understanding flows of WLM fluids through porous media can be made by examining the flow around a single micro-scale cylinder aligned on the flow axis. Here we study flow behavior of an aqueous WLM solution consisting of cationic surfactant cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a stable hydrotropic salt 3-hydroxy naphthalene-2-carboxylate (SHNC) in microfluidic devices with three different cylinder blockage ratios, β. We observe a rich sequence of flow instabilities depending on β as the Weissenberg number (Wi) is increased to large values while the Reynolds number (Re) remains low. Instabilities upstream of the cylinder are associated with high stresses in fluid that accelerates into the narrow gap between the cylinder and the channel wall; vortex growth upstream is reminiscent of that seen in microfluidic contraction geometries. Instability downstream of the cylinder is associated with stresses generated at the trailing stagnation point and the resulting flow modification in the wake, coupled with the onset of time-dependent flow upstream and the asymmetric division of flow around the cylinder.