Laminar Flow of Two Miscible Fluids in a Simple Network

Casey Karst, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Brian Storey, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
John B. Geddes, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

© 2012 American Institute of Physics. This article was published in Physics of Fluids, vol. 29, iss. 3 and can be found here.


When a fluid comprised of multiple phases or constituents flows through a network, nonlinear phenomena such as multiple stable equilibrium states and spontaneous oscillations can occur. Such behavior has been observed or predicted in a number of networks including the flow of blood through the microcirculation, the flow of picoliter droplets through microfluidic devices, the flow of magma through lava tubes, and two-phase flow in refrigeration systems. While the existence of nonlinear phenomena in a network with many inter-connections containing fluids with complex rheology may seem unsurprising, this paper demonstrates that even simple networks containing Newtonian fluids in laminar flow can demonstrate multiple equilibria. The paper describes a theoretical and experimental investigation of the laminar flow of two miscible Newtonian fluids of different density and viscosity through a simple network. The fluids stratify due to gravity and remain as nearly distinct phases with some mixing occurring only by diffusion. This fluid system has the advantage that it is easily controlled and modeled, yet contains the key ingredients for network nonlinearities. Experiments and 3D simulations are first used to explore how phases distribute at a single T-junction. Once the phase separation at a single junction is known, a network model is developed which predicts multiple equilibria in the simplest of networks. The existence of multiple stable equilibria is confirmed experimentally and a criterion for existence is developed. The network results are generic and could be applied to or found in different physical systems.