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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Nov 1;39(21):8403-10.

Pore-scale characterization of organic immiscible-liquid morphology in natural porous media using synchrotron X-ray microtomography.

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  • 1Soil, Water and Environmental Science Department, University of Arizona, 429 Shantz Building, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


The objective of this study was to quantitatively characterize the pore-scale morphology of organic immiscible liquid residing within natural porous media. Synchrotron X-ray microtomography was used to obtain high-resolution, three-dimensional images of solid and liquid phases in packed columns. The image data were processed to generate quantitative measurements of organic-liquid blob morphology. Three porous media, comprising a range of particle-size distributions, were used to evaluate the impact of porous-medium texture on blob morphology. The sizes and shapes of the organic-liquid blobs varied greatly, ranging from small spherical singlets (> or = 0.03 mm in diameter) to large, amorphous ganglia with mean lengths of 4-5 mm. The smaller blobs were composed primarily of singlets, which comprised approximately half of all blobs for all three media. Conversely, large, complex blobs comprising four or more bodies composed 11-24% of the total number of blobs. However, the majority of the total organic-liquid surface area and volume was associated with the largest blobs. The ratio of median blob size to median grain size was close to unity for all three systems. The distribution of blob sizes was greatest for the porous medium with the broadest particle-size and pore-size distributions. These results illustrate the utility of synchrotron X-ray microtomography for characterizing fluid distributions at the pore scale in natural porous media.

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