Viscous fingering phenomena in the early stage of polymer membrane formation
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Currently, the most important preparation process for porous polymer membranes is the phase inversion process. While applied for several decades in industry, the mechanism that leads to diverse morphology is not fully understood today. In this work, we present time resolved experiments using light microscopy that indicate viscous fingering during the early stage of pore formation in porous polymer membranes. Numerical simulations using the smoothed particle hydrodynamics method are also performed based on Cahn–Hilliard and Navier–Stokes equations to investigate the formation of viscous fingers in miscible and immiscible systems. The comparison of pore formation characteristics in the experiment and simulation shows that immiscible viscous fingering is present; however, it is only relevant in specific preparation set-ups similar to Hele-Shaw cells. In experiments, we also observe the formation of Liesegang rings. Enabling diffusive mass transport across the immiscible interface leads to Liesegang rings in the simulation. We conclude that further investigations of Liesegang pattern as a relevant mechanism in the formation of morphology in porous polymer membranes are necessary.
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