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Environ Sci Technol. 2009 May 15;43(10):3619-25.

Measurement and estimation of organic-liquid/water interfacial areas for several natural porous media.

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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 impact of porous-medium texture on interfacial area between immiscible organic liquid and water 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/water interfacial area and of organic-liquid blob sizes. Ten porous media, comprising a range of median grain sizes, grain-size distributions, and geochemical properties, were used to evaluate the impact of porous-medium texture on interfacial area. The results show that fluid-normalized specific interfacial area (A) and maximum specific interfacial area (Am) correlate very well to inverse median grain diameter. These functionalities were shown to result from a linear relationship between effective organic-liquid blob diameter and median grain diameter. These results provide the basis for a simple method for estimating specific organic-liquid/water interfacial area as a function of fluid saturation for a given porous medium. The availability of a method for which the only parameter needed is the simple-to-measure median grain diameter should be of great utility for a variety of applications.

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