Using dispersivity values to quantify the effects of pore-scale flow focusing on enhanced reaction along a transverse mixing zone

Thomas Willingham, Changyong Zhang, Charles J. Werth, Albert J. Valocchi, Mart Oostrom, Thomas W. Wietsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A key challenge for predictive modeling of transverse mixing and reaction of solutes in groundwater is to determine values of transverse dispersivity (αT) in heterogeneous flow fields that accurately describe mixing and reaction at the pore scale. We evaluated the effects of flow focusing in high permeability zones on mixing enhancement using experimental micromodel flow cells and pore-scale lattice-Boltzmann-finite-volume model (LB-FVM) simulations. Micromodel results were directly compared to LB-FVM simulations using two different pore structures, and excellent agreement was obtained. Six different flow focusing pore structures were then systematically tested using LB-FVM, and both analytical solutions and a two-dimensional (2D) continuum-scale model were used to fit αT values to pore-scale results. Pore-scale results indicate that the overall rate of mixing-limited reaction increased by up to 40% when flow focusing occurred, and it was greater in pore structures with longer flow focusing regions and greater porosity contrast. For each pore structure, αT values from analytical solutions of transverse concentration profiles or total product at a given longitudinal location showed good agreement for nonreactive and reactive solutes, and values determined in flow focusing zones were always smaller than those downgradient after the flow focusing zone. Transverse dispersivity values from the 2D continuum model were between values within and downgradient from the flow focusing zone determined from analytical solutions. Also, total product and transverse concentration profiles along the entire pore structure from the 2D continuum model matched pore scale results. These results indicate that accurate quantification of pore-scale flow focusing with transverse dispersion coefficients is possible only when the entire flow and concentration fields are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-535
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Dispersion
  • Micromodel
  • Mixing
  • Preferential-flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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