This paper, together with a companion paper which follows, describes a many-faceted experimental investigation aimed at determining basic characteristics of fluid flow through deformable porous media. A major focus of the work is to establish the validity and the range of applicability of a simple analytical model for the fluid flow. The present paper describes experiments with a gas (air) as the working fluid, while the companion paper (Part II) deals with liquid-flow (i.e., water-flow) experiments. The experiments encompassed three distinct phases. In the first phase, the stress-deformation characteristics were measured (without fluid flow). In the second, flow-related material properties that are relevant to the analytical model (e.g., permeability, Forchheimer coefficient) were determined. The third phase consisted of measurements of mass flow rate as a function of applied pressure differential. The results of the first two phases were used as input to the analytical model, which yielded predictions of mass flow versus applied pressure. These predictions were shown to be in very good agreement with the experimental results, for those conditions where the model is applicable. Two unusual features of the participating deformable materials (polyurethane foams) were encountered, namely, a decrease of cross-sectional area with increasing compression and a slow relaxation of the internal stresses at a fixed compression.

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