EMSL builds custom flow cells for pore and intermediate scale experiments to study multiphase flow and transport phenomena in saturated and undersaturated subsurface conditions. For pore scale studies, resources are available for fabrication of micromodels—which can be built to user-defined specifications—including pore structures characterized by X-ray microtomography. The micromodels are used in microfluidics experiments with imaging performed using fluorescence and epifluorescence microscopes and charged-coupled device cameras. For the intermediate scale, instrumented columns and flow cells are built to meet individual experimental needs in systems ranging up to several meters in scale. These flow cells are packed with porous media of differing porosity and permeability, and they can be arranged to represent geological features relevant to specific research questions. Groundwater or other fluids are introduced under controlled conditions; fluid flow and transport behavior are monitored by direct sampling through the walls of the flow cells and indirectly by imaging of fluid-specific, colored dyes; measurement of electrical resistivity; and other methods. In situ geochemical monitoring can also be performed using planar optodes. An automated, dual-energy gamma radiation source and detector system is also available for quantifying saturations of two fluids or measuring bulk density or porosity and saturation of one fluid.
Understanding subsurface transport contributes to EMSL’s broader goal of characterizing Earth systems through studies of subsurface hydrology and coupled biogeochemical processes.
These resources support the Terrestrial-Atmosphere Processes Integrated Research Platform by enabling studies of subsurface flow and its effects on chemical transport and biogeochemical reactions. Understanding these phenomena can help us refine global biogeochemical models and improve accuracy of predicted ecosystem responses to environmental perturbations.
Tips for success
Users should consult with us prior to submitting a proposal. This ensures that resources are available for your research and that your research plan will provide the data you need to address your science questions of interest.