The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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Bureau Seminar, September 23, 2011

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)
a New Tool for Reservoir Characterization


Dr. Farzam Javadpour
Bureau of Economic Geology

Farzam Javadpour

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), a relatively new tool for studying surface characterization and force interactions between the surfaces of materials, can image features down to atomic resolution. It not only can obtain topographic images of surfaces, but AFM can also measure infinitesimal interactive forces such as electrostatic and van der Waals forces between surfaces. Since its invention in the 1980's, AFM has been used in material science and medical research, although it has not received the attention that it probably deserves in reservoir engineering. The emergence of unconventional shale gas reservoirs and the application of nanoparticles in reservoir appraisal, however, have opened new research frontiers for AFM in the field of reservoir engineering. The unique capabilities of AFM make it ideal for use in several disciplines in the field, such as rock characterization, fluid flow in shales, and nanoparticle transport in porous media. Here we present the possible contributions that AFM could make to the fields of geological sciences and reservoir engineering. Granted, characterization studies are generally performed at much larger scales, but we illustrate herein how the knowledge of governing physics at the submicron scale might be used in analyzing macroscale phenomena. For example, AFM can improve fluid flow models in shale gas by detecting nanopores and obtaining necessary fluid flow coefficients. It also enhances nanoparticle transport models by quantifying particle-mineral and particle-fluid interface interactive forces. Our introduction of the AFM technique in reservoir characterization will be met with exemplary results.


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