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Visualization of Fluid Flow in Porous Media



We are computing fluid flow through porous media using the Lattice Boltzmann method. In the Lattice Boltzmann method particles are allowed to move and collide on a lattice.  The rules governing the collisions are designed such that the time-average motion of the particles is consistent with the Navier-Stokes equations.    The Lattice Boltzman method has multiple advantages including:

  • its time and space efficient computations that are straightforward to parallelize,
  • it handles complex boundaries without difficulty, and
  • it directly links microscopic and macroscopic phenomena.


Visualization helps develop a conceptual framework for understanding complex physical processes. In particular with fluid flow, visual comparisons with experiment are important to validate models.   

The visualizations were created using a variety of standard scientific visualization techniques and software.  The two-dimensional images were created by taking a cross-section of of the three-dimensional model and mapping fluid density to color and intensity.   


In the three-dimensional images, fluids are depicted with isosurfaces and volume visualization techniques using color, intensity, and transparency to indicate fluid density.  Fluid movement is expressed by assembling visualizations at a series of time steps into animations.  The three-dimensional images also use isosurfaces to delineate the structure of the medium such as the sandstone, or the surface of the tube structure within which the fluid flow is being modeled.   


  • Collaborating Scientist: Nick Martys
  • Parallel Computing: John Hagedorn
  • Visualization: John Hagedorn
  • Group Leader: Judith Terrill






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Porous Media:

Fontainebleau sandstone image acquired via X-ray microtomography; 22% porosity

7.5 % porosity

Fontainebleau sandstone image acquired via X-ray microtomography; 22% porosity

22% porosity

The Lattice Boltzmann method is useful for computing fluid flow in complex geometries like those shown above. These are images of two 64x64x64 portions of Fontainebleau sandstone acquired via X-ray microtomography.  See Large Scale Simulations of Single and Multi-Component Flow in Porous Media for details.


Two dimensional cross section of two component fluid flow through porous media.

Two dimensional cross section of two-component fluid flow through a porous medium. This is a single frame from an animated sequence:


Measured and modeled permeabilities of Fontainebleau sandstone medium.

Measured and modeled permeabilities of Fontainebleau sandstone media.  Click on image for larger version.


Taylor-Tomitaka Instability

Two animations of the Taylor-Tomitaka instability. These two animations depict the same data from different vantage points.


 Taylor-Tomitaka instability; first frame of animation; angled view

Oblique view

 Taylor-Tomitaka instability; first frame of animation; side view

Side view


Phase Separation of a Two Component Fluid

This animation shows a lattice Boltzmann simulation of phase separation of a 15% - 85% relative composition fluid mixture (an off-critical mixture) under steady shear. The quench depth parameter is 0.287 and the reduced shear rate is 0.56.

Phase Separation of a Two Component Fluid (jpg 180)

This animation is available at two resolutions and in two formats:

High Resolution:

Low Resolution: