New MUSE Leadership Plans to Highlight Research Outcomes
The MUlti-ScalE Fluid-Solid Interactions in Architected and Natural Materials (MUSE) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) is based at The University of Utah. Since its inception in 2018, MUSE has aimed to develop new fundamental understandings of fluids confined within solid materials containing many interconnected pores, known as porous media. The Center’s research focuses on the rate of substance transport via flow through porous media and the interface dynamics between two immiscible fluids (e.g., oil and water). MUSE integrates multi-scale (nano/micro- to macro-scale) experimental and theoretical methods, such as microscopy imaging and physics-based modeling. As the name, MUSE, implies, this research is carried out with both synthetic (architected) and natural porous materials.
Recently, the MUSE Director, Dr. Darryl Butt, decided to step down to pursue a new role. The vacancy has been filled by one of the MUSE deputy directors, Dr. Milind Deo. Milind is an experimental and computational researcher whose work in MUSE involves the study of flow through materials such as amorphous silica and Vycor glass, as well as changes in the thermodynamic properties of fluids while confined within these synthetic and natural materials. Over the next year, Milind will work to ensure that MUSE has accomplished its research goals and has highlighted its significant contributions to the scientific community.
Milind has extensive research experience in reservoir scale, pressure driven flow. It became his primary research focus after a significant increase in natural gas and liquid production from shales, which began over a decade ago. Milind and collaborators noticed anomalous behavior in the gas to oil ratios which deviated from theoretical calculations. It prompted them to investigate flow dynamics in reservoirs and specific natural porous materials. They eventually began creating synthetic porous materials to understand the fundamental effect of pore size and shape on flow dynamics and thermodynamics. This lack of fundamental understanding of fluid transport at the pore scale was used in the original proposal for MUSE, and as a central research topic, it provided the groundwork for a plethora of research achievements made by MUSE members. Some examples are advances in 3D printing , the creation of architected mesoporous materials with controllable pore shape , and simulation studies of molecular dynamics  and nanometer sized channels .
There has been an abundance of published work supported by MUSE, and in the 2022 review cycle, MUSE was awarded a two-year continuation. However, because of the short timeline of the continuation award, MUSE Principal Investigators (PIs) have to bring their research for MUSE to a close and highlight the most important accomplishments. This has been the largest organizational challenge for Milind, but he is optimistic about the group’s future. Many of the PIs will continue working together well into the future, demonstrating the trust forged out of their collaborative efforts. There have also been significant, ongoing collaborations between researchers specializing in experimental work and those specializing in simulation work, providing a diverse research perspective. When asked about assuming the role of director now, Milind said, “It’s a challenging time, but I plan to work hard independently with the PIs to help them succeed, especially the early career researchers.” Milind’s dedication to the group will benefit everyone moving on.
There is a clear path forward for MUSE researchers when the successful EFRC comes to a close. Much of the reservoir engineering and porous flow research that was completed can be applied to new, rapidly expanding areas of research such as carbon sequestration, hydrogen and other subsurface energy storage, and geothermal energy extraction. These will surely be targeted areas of research for many smaller groups of researchers, who became collaborators during their time in MUSE, as they prepare proposals for their future work. Thanks to Milind’s help, MUSE will be completed with its research goals met and PIs poised to tackle new problems facing the world of porous media flow.