We present an experimental micro-model of drying porous media, based on microfluidic cells made of arrays of pillars on a regular grid, and complement these experiments with a matching two-dimensional pore-network model of drying. Disorder, or small-scale heterogeneity, was introduced into the cells by randomly varying the radii of the pillars. The microfluidic chips were filled with a volatile oil and then dried horizontally, such that gravitational effects were excluded. The experimental and simulated drying rates and patterns were then compared in detail, for various levels of disorder. The geometrical features were reproduced well, although the model under-predicted the formation of trapped clusters of drying fluid. Reproducing drying rates proved to be more challenging, but improved if the additional trapped clusters were added to the model. The methods reported can be adapted to a wide range of multi-phase flow problems, and allow for the rapid development of high-precision micro-models containing tens of thousands of individual elements.
Bibliographical note18 pages, 13 figures
Pre-print version on Arxiv submitted under title: 'Validating pore-scale models of drying using microfluidic experiments'