Random close packing (RCP) of equal spheres: structure and implications for use as a model porous medium

Mellor, David W. (1989). Random close packing (RCP) of equal spheres: structure and implications for use as a model porous medium. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000dfc0


The structure of the Finney Random Close Packing (RCP) of equal spheres has been analysed, together with the influence which such structure exerts over the capillary pressure characteristics of geometrically similar sphere packings.

The analysis is centred on the simplicial, or Delaunay cell, which is an irregular tetrahedron with apices defined by four immediate neighbour sphere-centres. In terms of using RCP as a model porous medium, an individual simplicial cell is equivalent to an individual pore. A number of measured pore-size distribution parameters are presented for the Finney packing, from which it is shown from first principles that drainage-imbibition hysteresis is not an intrinsic property of the individual pore.

The nature and degree of randomness which characterises the Finney packing is evaluated on two levels. First, by classifying edgelengths as either short or long, seven mutually exclusive cell classes are defined. Using the binomial theorem it is shown that cells (pores) are not random on the level of the individual cell. There are less of the extreme cells (with 6 long edges, or with 6 short edges) and more of the bland cells (with 3 short and 3 long edges) in the Finney packing than predicted on the basis of simple random expectations. Second, the distribution of cell classes within the packing is shown to be essentially homogeneously random. Evidence for extremely slight cell class clustering is found.

The drainage and imbibition processes within the packing are simulated using pore-level algorithms. The algorithms utilise both the Haines' insphere approximation and the MS-P approximation for critical drainage meniscus curvature, and the cell cavity insphere radius approximation for critical imbibition meniscus curvature. Good agreement with experimental data is obtained, and the results confirm that drainage-imbibition hysteresis is a direct consequence of the connectivity between cells (pores), and is not an intrinsic property of the individual pore. Finally, the drainage and imbibition algorithms are adapted to emulate percolation theory models. The results prove that the classical bond problem of percolation theory does not adequately describe the drainage process for RCP, and that the classical site problem does not adequately describe the imbibition process for RCP.

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