Gas-phase diffusive tracer test for the in-situ measurement of tortuosity in the vadose zone

Geoffrey R. Tick, Colleen M. McColl, Irfan Yolcubal, Mark L Brusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Robust measurements of porous-medium tortuosity are one of the many components needed for accurate characterization and prediction of fluid flow and contaminant transport in the subsurface. A gas-phase diffusive tracer-test method is evaluated for the in-situ measurement of tortuosity in the vadose zone. This technique presents an alternative to employing widely-used correlations to estimate tortuosity. A small-scale field study was conducted using a single well and a non-reactive gas-phase tracer (sulfur hexafluoride; SF6). Gas samples were collected from the injection point periodically after tracer injection into the soil matrix. An effective radius of influence of 50 cm was determined for the tests. An analytical solution was calibrated to the measured temporal concentration distribution, producing a fitted value for tortuosity. The value obtained from the tracer tests was compared to values estimated with several widely-used correlations. The value obtained from the tracer tests was generally larger than the values estimated with the correlations, which spanned a relatively wide range. The tracer-test method provides a means by which to determine in-situ measurements of tortuosity, allowing for better characterization of contaminant transport in the vadose zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-362
Number of pages8
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007



  • Tortuosity
  • Transport
  • Vadose zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Pollution
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this