Pore size effects on convective flow and diffusion through nanoporous silica gels
Journal article, 2015

Material structure has great impact on mass transport properties, a relationship that needs to be understood on several length scales. Describing and controlling the properties of flow through soft materials are both challenges concerning the industrial use of gel structures. This paper reports on how the porous structure in nanoporous materials affects the water transport through them. We used three different silica gels with large differences in the pore sizes but of equal silica concentration. Particle morphology and gel structure were studied using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy and image analysis to estimate the pore size distribution and intrinsic surface area of each gel. The mass transport was studied using a flow measurement setup and nuclear magnetic resonance diffusometry. The average pore size ranged from approximately 500. nm down to approximately 40. nm. An acknowledged limit for convective flow to occur is in the pore size range between 100 and 200. nm. The results verified the existence of a non-linear relationship between pore size and liquid flow at length scales below 500. nm, experimentally. A factor of 4.3 in flow speed separated the coarser gel from the other two, which presented almost identical flow speed data despite a factor 3 in pore size difference. In the setup, the mass transport in the gel with the largest pores was flow dominated, while the mass transport in the finer gels was diffusion dominated. Besides providing new insights into mass transport as a function of pore sizes, we conclude that three-dimensional analysis of the structures is needed for a comprehensive understanding of the correlation between structure and mass transport properties.

Model material

Mass transport

Liquid permeability

Silica gel



Charlotte Hamngren Blomqvist

Chalmers, Applied Physics, Eva Olsson Group

SuMo Biomaterials

Christoffer Abrahamsson

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Applied Chemistry

SuMo Biomaterials

Tobias Gebäck

SuMo Biomaterials

University of Gothenburg

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics

Annika Altskär

SP Food and Bioscience

SuMo Biomaterials

Anne-Marie Hermansson

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

SuMo Biomaterials

Magnus Nydén

SuMo Biomaterials

University of South Australia

Stefan Gustafsson

SuMo Biomaterials

Chalmers, Applied Physics, Eva Olsson Group

Niklas Lorén

Chalmers, Applied Physics, Eva Olsson Group

SuMo Biomaterials

Eva Olsson

Chalmers, Applied Physics, Eva Olsson Group

SuMo Biomaterials

Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects

0927-7757 (ISSN) 18734359 (eISSN)

Vol. 484 288-296

Enabling Science and Technology through European Electron Microscopy (ESTEEM 2)

European Commission (EC) (EC/FP7/312483), 2012-10-01 -- 2016-09-30.

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Materials Science

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences

Other Materials Engineering



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