UC Engineering Researcher Presents Porous Media Models Pivotal in Material Design

Porous Media Models
Left to Right: Benjamin Paisley, Dr. Lilit Yeghiazarian-Nistor, Sadegh Riasi and Amanda Cabezas.

Porous media exist all around us and play a role in many aspects of our daily lives. Numerous natural substances such as soil, rocks, wood, bones and cork, and also human engineered materials like ceramics, paper and cements, can be categorized as porous media.

The 8th annual meeting of the International Society of Porous Media (Interpore), which is co-sponsored by academic institutions and industrial corporations including the Procter & Gamble Company, aims to unite people from diverse disciplines who study and work with porous media.

From natural to industrial systems, porous media can be complex. The goal of the annual conference is to bring people together so they can exchange ideas and share information on research activities.

Interpore is a non-profit scientific society established in 2008 to advance and disseminate knowledge for the understanding, description and modeling of natural and industrial porous media systems. The University of Cincinnati is an institutional member of InterPore.

Faculty and students from four University of Cincinnati Colleges are presenting their work at the 2016 InterPore Conference, held at the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel in downtown Cincinnati, from May 9-13, 2016: College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS)College of MedicineCollege of Arts and Sciences, and the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.

“The University of Cincinnati and Interpore share a common vision in recognizing the work of talented researchers around the world, including its leading women,” says Beverly Davenport, UC senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Promoting the diversity of world-class talent fosters a more open and diverse scientific community, which allows for unique experiences to fuel the flames of innovation.”

Lilit Yeghiazarian-Nistor, associate professor in the UC CEAS Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, is not only the chairperson of the organizing committee for the 2016 InterPore Conference, she’s also a key presenter. On May 9, 2016, Yeghiazarian-Nistor presented her and her team’s research “Numerical Modeling of Flow in Highly Porous Thin Fibrous Materials using Pore Topology Method.”

The group discussed their work on thin, highly porous materials that are ubiquitous in nature and widely employed in many products and devices.

Examples range from living tissues, filters, membranes and absorbent materials to fuel cells, microfluidic devices, and polymer gels, driving the need to better understand the structure and processes in these materials. Their distinct properties, however, present new challenges in experimental and numerical characterization.

The thin, highly porous materials that the UC group works with are characterized by thickness on the order of pore dimension, and by porosity of larger than 60 percent. The higher the porosity, the more complex is the geometry of the void space, and the more difficult it is to understand how the material responds in applications, so design becomes a challenge.

Yeghiazarian-Nistor’s group has developed a micro-scale modeling technique designed to simulate flow in a wide range of porous media, including highly porous materials. This technique, called the Pore Topology Method (PTM), reduces the complexity of the 3-D void space geometry by employing its medial surface as the solution domain; hence, PTM provides a simple, topologically consistent and fast methodology to simulate flow in porous materials.

Yeghiazarian-Nistor says, “Our goal is to use PTM to design novel materials for a wide variety of applications. A top priority is water quality sensors to detect pathogenic microorganisms in streams and lakes. “

According to the National Institute of Health: “Waterborne pathogens and related diseases are a major public health concern worldwide, not only by the morbidity and mortality that they cause, but by the high cost that represents their prevention and treatment. These diseases are directly related to environmental deterioration and pollution. Despite the continued efforts to maintain water safety, waterborne outbreaks are still reported globally.”

The group also uses water data and mathematical models to map out streams with the highest risk of water contamination. They employ this information in a web-based water quality awareness service, much like weather prediction services many use to make decisions every day.

Yeghiazarian-Nistor says, “We are proud to host the 8th Annual InterPore Conference in Cincinnati. Close to 600 experts from around the world have gathered to present their work and to exchange ideas. You can see the incredible diversity of this field, as it brings together researchers from many disciplines. We have here physicists, biologists, material scientists, environmental and electrical engineers, to name just a few.”