Volume 33, Issue 1 (January 2010)
A Transparent Water-Based Polymer for Simulating Multiphase Flow
This study proposes a new water-based transparent material called Aquabeads for modeling flow in natural soils. Three types of this material were used to model miscible and multiphase flow transport process in layered soil systems. An optical system was set up to trace flow movements in a two-dimensional (2D) physical model of a soil profile, analyzed using digital image processing to define images of 2D concentration profiles in the model. Model surfactant flushing tests were conducted using a layered soil system and two contaminants, mineral oil and motor oil, in order to illustrate the feasibility of using this water-based polymer to visualize geoenvironmental contamination problems. A surfactant solution made of Triton X-100 mixed with sec-butanol alcohol and xanthan gum was used to achieve a recovery ratio of 88.5 % of motor oil and 95.8 % of mineral oil. Because a transparent soil is used, the optical systems allows for visualizing surfactant flushing. Addition of xanthan gum to increase viscosity prevents mineral oil’s downward migration, thus significantly enhancing the oil recovery. The increase in viscosity of the surfactant prevents motor oil from bypassing the plume, thus enhancing recovery by up to 20 times. The study demonstrates that Aquabeads are suitable for modeling multiphase flow, particularly in educational settings.