Surfactant flow and transport in the vadose zone: a numerical experiment Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The presence of surfactants in the unsaturated zone is one of the scenarios where the flow depends on the solute concentration. The simulation of flow and transport of surfactants requires the coupling of flow and transport, where the surfactant concentration-dependent changes to water retention (i.e. changes in surface tension and/or contact angle) and hydraulic conductivity need to be considered. This research presents a numerical experiment that compares surfactant flow and transport under intermittent boundary conditions to that of a conservative tracer. A modified version of Hydrus 2D, with the concentration-dependent surface tension and viscosity effects, is used. The numerical experiment examines the effect of surfactant infiltration, redistribution and flushing in a low-water content unsaturated porous medium with a deep water table. The numerical experiment encompasses not only the hysteresis as a result of transient localised drainage and rewetting associated with the surfactant-induced pressure gradients, and the intermittent boundary conditions. The comparison of surfactant flow to that of a conservative tracer indicates significant differences for the same boundary conditions. The results from this experiment will be beneficial for the design and optimisation of infiltration galleries employing surfactants for soil and ground water remediation, as well as for the understanding the flow and transport of grey water in the unsaturated zone.

publication date

  • August 1, 2020