Experimental Investigation and Pore-Scale Modeling Interpretation of Compound-Specific Transverse Dispersion in Porous Media

Massimo Rolle, David Hochstetler, Gabriele Chiogna, Peter K. Kitanidis, Peter Grathwohl

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this study, we performed multitracer laboratory bench-scale experiments and pore-scale simulations in different homogeneous saturated porous media (i.e., different grain sizes) with the objective of (i) obtaining a generalized parameterization of transverse hydrodynamic dispersion at the continuum Darcy scale; (ii) gaining an improved understanding of the role of basic transport processes (i.e., advection and molecular diffusion) at the subcontinuum scale and their effect on the macroscopic description of transverse mixing in porous media; (iii) quantifying the importance of compound-specific properties such as aqueous diffusivities for transport of different solutes. The results show that a non-linear compound-dependent parameterization of transverse hydrodynamic dispersion is required to capture the observed lateral displacement over a wide range of seepage velocities (0.1-35 m/day). With pore-scale simulations, we can prove the hypothesis that the interplay between advective and diffusive mass transfer results in vertical concentration gradients leading to incomplete mixing in the pore channels. We quantify mixing in the pore throats using the concept of flux-related dilution index and show that different solutes undergoing transport in a flow-through system with a given average velocity can show different degrees of incomplete mixing. Furthermore, it is this compound-specific incomplete mixing within pores that causes different local transverse (mechanical) dispersion to result at the Darcy scale for high flow velocities. We conclude that physical processes at the microscopic level significantly determine the observed macroscopic behavior and, therefore, should be properly reflected in up-scaled parameterizations of transport processes such as local hydrodynamic dispersion coefficients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)347-362
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemical Engineering (all)
  • Catalysis
  • Dilution index
  • Incomplete mixing
  • Multitracer experiments
  • Pore-scale modeling
  • Transverse dispersion
  • Average velocity
  • Concentration gradients
  • Diffusive mass transfer
  • Experimental investigations
  • Flow-through systems
  • Grain size
  • High flow velocity
  • Hydrodynamic dispersions
  • Lateral displacements
  • Local hydrodynamics
  • Macroscopic behaviors
  • Microscopic levels
  • Molecular diffusion
  • Multi-tracer experiments
  • Multitracer
  • Parameterizations
  • Physical process
  • Pore channels
  • Pore throat
  • Pore-scale simulation
  • Saturated porous media
  • Seepage velocity
  • Transport process
  • Transverse mixing
  • Experiments
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Mixing
  • Parameterization
  • Porous materials
  • Dispersions
  • channel flow
  • Darcy law
  • diffusivity
  • dispersion
  • experimental study
  • flow velocity
  • hydrodynamics
  • laboratory method
  • mass transfer
  • mixing
  • numerical model
  • porous medium
  • solute transport


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