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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Jul 1;37(13):3024-30.

Electrolyte management for effective long-term electro-osmotic transport in low-permeability soils.

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Chemistry and Materials Science Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550, USA.


Electro-osmosis, a coupled-flow phenomenon in which an applied electrical potential gradient drives water flow, may be used to induce water flow through fine-grained sediments. Test cell measurements of electro-osmotic transport in clayey cores extracted from the 27-31 m depth range of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory site indicate the importance of pH control within the anode and cathode reservoirs. In our first experiment, pH was not controlled. As a result, carbonate precipitation and metals precipitation occurred near the cathode end of the core, with acidification near the anode. The combination of these acid and base reactions led to the decline of electro-osmotic flow by a factor of 2 in less than one pore volume. In a second experiment, long-term water transport (>21 pore volumes) at stable electro-osmotic conductivity (k(eo) approximately 1 x 10(-9) m2/s-V) was effected with anode reservoir pH > 8, and cathode reservoir pH < 6. Hydraulic conductivity (k(h)) of the same core was 4 x 10(-10) m/s under a 0.07 MPa hydraulic gradient without electro-osmosis. Stable electro-osmotic flow was measured at a velocity of 4 x 10(-7) m/s under a 4 V/cm voltage gradient, and no hydraulic gradient-3 orders of magnitude greater than the hydraulic flow. We also observed chloroform production in the anode reservoir, resulting from electrochemical production of chlorine gas reacting with trace organics. The chloroform was transported electro-osmotically to the cathode, without measurable loss to adsorption, volatilization, or degradation.

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