Multiscale method for characterization of porous microstructures and their impact on macroscopic effective permeability

W. C. Sun, J. E. Andrade*, J. W. Rudnicki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Recent technology advancements on X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) offer a nondestructive approach to extract complex three-dimensional geometries with details as small as a few microns in size. This new technology opens the door to study the interplay between microscopic properties (e.g. porosity) and macroscopic fluid transport properties (e.g. permeability). To take full advantage of X-ray CT, we introduce a multiscale framework that relates macroscopic fluid transport behavior not only to porosity but also to other important microstructural attributes, such as occluded/connected porosity and geometrical tortuosity, which are extracted using new computational techniques from digital images of porous materials. In particular, we introduce level set methods, and concepts from graph theory, to determine the geometrical tortuosity and connected porosity, while using a lattice Boltzmann/finite element scheme to obtain homogenized effective permeability at specimen-scale. We showcase the applicability and efficiency of this multiscale framework by two examples, one using a synthetic array and another using a sample of natural sandstone with complex pore structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1279
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 23 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Geometrical tortuosity
  • Lattice Boltzmann/finite element method
  • Level set method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • General Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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