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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pore-Scale Hydrodynamics in a Progressively Bioclogged Three-Dimensional Porous Medium: 3-D Particle Tracking Experiments and Stochastic Transport Modeling.

  • Author(s): Carrel, M
  • Morales, VL
  • Dentz, M
  • Derlon, N
  • Morgenroth, E
  • Holzner, M
  • et al.

Biofilms are ubiquitous bacterial communities that grow in various porous media including soils, trickling, and sand filters. In these environments, they play a central role in services ranging from degradation of pollutants to water purification. Biofilms dynamically change the pore structure of the medium through selective clogging of pores, a process known as bioclogging. This affects how solutes are transported and spread through the porous matrix, but the temporal changes to transport behavior during bioclogging are not well understood. To address this uncertainty, we experimentally study the hydrodynamic changes of a transparent 3-D porous medium as it experiences progressive bioclogging. Statistical analyses of the system's hydrodynamics at four time points of bioclogging (0, 24, 36, and 48 h in the exponential growth phase) reveal exponential increases in both average and variance of the flow velocity, as well as its correlation length. Measurements for spreading, as mean-squared displacements, are found to be non-Fickian and more intensely superdiffusive with progressive bioclogging, indicating the formation of preferential flow pathways and stagnation zones. A gamma distribution describes well the Lagrangian velocity distributions and provides parameters that quantify changes to the flow, which evolves from a parallel pore arrangement under unclogged conditions, toward a more serial arrangement with increasing clogging. Exponentially evolving hydrodynamic metrics agree with an exponential bacterial growth phase and are used to parameterize a correlated continuous time random walk model with a stochastic velocity relaxation. The model accurately reproduces transport observations and can be used to resolve transport behavior at intermediate time points within the exponential growth phase considered.

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