Modeling the effects of nonlinear equilibrium sorption on the transport of solute plumes in saturated heterogeneous porous media

A. Abulaban, J. L. Nieber

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Transport of sorbing solutes in 2D steady and heterogeneous flow fields is modeled using a particle tracking random walk technique. The solute is injected as an instantaneous pulse over a finite area. Cases of linear and Freundlich sorption isotherms are considered. Local pore velocity and mechanical dispersion are used to describe the solute transport mechanisms at the local scale. This paper addresses the impact of the degree of heterogeneity and correlation lengths of the log-hydraulic conductivity field as well as negative correlation between the log-hydraulic conductivity field and the log-sorption affinity field on the behavior of the plume of a sorbing chemical. Behavior of the plume is quantified in terms of longitudinal spatial moments: center-of-mass displacement, variance, 95% range, and skewness. The range appears to be a better measure of the spread in the plumes with Freundlich sorption because of plume asymmetry. It has been found that the range varied linearly with the travelled distance, regardless of the sorption isotherm. This linear relationship is important for extrapolation of results to predict behavior beyong simulated times and distances. It was observed that the flow domain heterogeneity slightly enhanced the spreading of nonlinearly sorbing solutes in comparison to that which occurred for the homogeneous flow domain, whereas the spreading enhancement in the case of linear sorption was much more pronounced. In the case of Freundlich sorption, this enhancement led to further deceleration of the solute plume movement as a result of increased retardation coefficients produced by smaller concentrations. It was also observed that, except for plumes with linear sorption, correlation between the hydraulic conductivity and the sorption affinity fields had minimal effect on the spatial moments of solute plumes with nonlinear sorption. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-905
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Published as Paper No. 001120039 of the scientific journal series of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station on research conducted under Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Project No. 12-047. This work was also supported by the Army High Performance Computing Research Center under the auspices of the Department of the Army, Army Research Laboratory cooperative agreement number DAAH04-95-2-0003/contract number DAAH04-95-C-0008, the content of which does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the government, and no official endorsement should be inferred. CRAY time for numerical simulations was provided in part by the Supercomputer Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Copyright 2004 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam. All rights reserved.


  • Equilibrium sorption
  • Freundlich isotherm
  • Particle tracking random walk
  • Porous media
  • Retardation
  • Solute transport


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