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Vadose Zone Journal Abstract - ORIGINAL RESEARCH

Characterizing Pore-Scale Configuration of Organic Immiscible Liquid in Multiphase Systems With Synchrotron X-Ray Microtomography

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This article in VZJ

  1. Vol. 5 No. 2, p. 641-648
    Received: May 16, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): brusseau@ag.arizona.edu
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  1. G. Schnaara and
  2. M. L. Brusseau *ab
  1. a Soil, Water and Environmental Science Dep., Univ. of Arizona, 429 Shantz Bldg., Tucson, AZ 85721
    b Hydrology and Water Resources Dep., Univ. of Arizona, 429 Shantz Bldg., Tucson, AZ 85721


The objective of this study was to examine the pore-scale distribution and morphology of organic immiscible liquid in natural porous media containing three immiscible fluids. High-resolution, three-dimensional images of an organic liquid (tetrachloroethene) in both three-phase (water–air–organic liquid) and two-phase (water–organic liquid) systems were obtained using synchrotron X-ray microtomography. These data were used to quantitatively characterize the morphology of the organic liquid residing within columns packed with one of three natural, sandy porous media. Organic-liquid blobs varied greatly in both size and shape, ranging from small, single spheres (≥0.03 mm in diameter) to large, amorphous ganglia with mean lengths of 4 to 5 mm. Singlets comprised the greatest number of blobs, whereas the large ganglia, while much fewer in number, comprised the majority of the organic-liquid surface area and volume. A significant portion of the organic liquid in the three-phase systems was observed to exist as lenses and films in contact with air. These features were not observed in the two-phase water–organic liquid systems. The median of the blob-frequency distributions was smaller and the variance larger for the three-phase systems. In addition, the global specific surface areas of the organic liquid were greater for the three-phase systems. These differences are attributed to the presence of the organic-liquid lenses and films for the three-phase systems.

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