Testing the validity of the miscible-displacement interfacial tracer method for measuring air-water interfacial area: Independent benchmarking and mathematical modeling

Asma El Ouni, Bo Guo, Hua Zhong, Mark L. Brusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The interfacial tracer test (ITT) conducted via aqueous miscible-displacement column experiments is one of a few methods available to measure air-water interfacial areas for porous media. The primary objective of this study was to examine the robustness of air-water interfacial area measurements obtained with interfacial tracer tests, and to examine the overall validity of the method. The potential occurrence and impact of surfactant-induced flow was investigated, as was measurement replication. The column and the effluent samples were weighed during the tests to monitor for potential changes in water saturation and flux. Minimal changes in water saturation and flux were observed for experiments wherein steady flow conditions were maintained using a vacuum-chamber system. The air-water interfacial areas measured with the miscible-displacement method completely matched interfacial areas measured with methods that are not influenced by surfactant-induced flow. This successful benchmarking was observed for all three media tested, and over a range of saturations. A mathematical model explicitly accounting for nonlinear and rate-limited adsorption of surfactant at the solid-water and air-water interfaces as well as the influence of changes in surface tension on matric potentials and flow was used to simulate the tracer tests. The independently-predicted simulations provided excellent matches to the measured data, and revealed that the use of the vacuum system minimized the occurrence of surfactant-induced flow and its associated effects. These results in total unequivocally demonstrate that the miscible-displacement ITT method produced accurate and robust measurements of air-water interfacial area under the extant conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number128193
JournalChemosphere
Volume263
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Adsorption
  • Air-water interface
  • Surfactant-induced flow
  • Tracer test
  • Unsaturated

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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