Carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) are becoming promising candidates for oil/gas applications due to their biocompatibility and size-dependent optical and electronic properties. Their applications, however, are always associated with the flow of nanoparticles inside a reservoir, i.e., a porous medium, where insufficient studies have been conducted. In this work, we synthesized CNPs with two different size categories in 200 nm carbon balls (CNP-200) and 5 nm carbon dots (CNP-5), via a hydrothermal carbonation process. Comprehensive experiments in packed glass bead columns, as well as mathematical simulations, were conducted to understand the transport and deposition of CNPs under various ionic strength, particle sizes and concentration conditions. Our results show that the retention of CNP-200 is highly sensitive to the salinity and particle concentrations, while both of them are unaffected in the transport of small CNP-5. Supplemented with Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (DLVO) theory, the clean bed filtration theory with blocking effect can successfully fit the experimental breakthrough curves of CNP-200. However, the high breakthrough ability for CNP-5 regardless of ionic strength change is in conflict with the energy interactions predicted by traditional DLVO theory.
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