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Langmuir. 2016 Sep 13;32(36):9342-50. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.6b02184. Epub 2016 Sep 1.

Bead-Based Microfluidic Sediment Analogues: Fabrication and Colloid Transport.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines , Golden, Colorado 80401, United States.
Department of Petroleum Engineering, Colorado School of Mines , Golden, Colorado 80401, United States.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory , 902 Battelle Boulevard, Richland, Washington 99352, United States.


Mobile colloids can act as carriers for low-solubility contaminants in the environment. However, the dominant mechanism for this colloid-facilitated transport of chemicals is unclear. Therefore, we developed a bead-based microfluidic platform of sediment analogues and measured both single and population transport of model colloids. The porous medium is assembled through a bead-by-bead injection method. This approach has the versatility to build both electrostatically homogeneous and heterogeneous media at the pore scale. A T-junction at the exit also allowed for encapsulation and enumeration of colloids effluent at single particle resolution to give population dynamics. Tortuosity calculated from pore-scale trajectory analysis and its comparison with lattice Boltzmann simulations revealed that transport of colloids was influenced by the size exclusion effect. The porous media packed by positively and negatively charged beads into two layers showed distinctive colloidal particle retention and significant remobilization and re-adsorption of particles during water flushing. We demonstrated the potential of our method to fabricate porous media with surface heterogeneities at the pore scale. With both single and population dynamics measurement, our platform has the potential to connect pore-scale and macroscale colloid transport on a lab scale and to quantify the impact of grain surface heterogeneities that are natural in the subsurface environment.

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