Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Plant, Environmental Management and Soil Sciences

Document Type



Better understanding of transport of dissolved chemicals in soils and aquifers is important to evaluate and remediate contaminated soils and aquifers. Because of the nature of heterogeneity of field porous media, studies on transport processes in non-homogeneous media are necessary. In this study, transport of solutes in layered and heterogeneous media was investigated using numerical approximations. For layered soils, transport properties were assumed homogeneous within individual layers but different between layers. For heterogeneous systems, either a time-dependent or distance-dependent dispersivity was considered to represent the effects of heterogeneity. In a series of simulations of transport in two-layered soils, we found that breakthrough curves (BTCs) were similar regardless of the layering sequence for all reversible and irreversible solute retention mechanisms. Such findings were in agreement with results from laboratory experiments using tritium as a tracer and Ca and Mg as reactive solutes. Field measured apparent dispersivity is often found to increase with time because of the heterogeneity of soils and aquifers. We proposed a fractal model to explain the time dependency of dispersivity. Our model indicates a nonlinear increase of variance of travel distance with time or mean travel distance, which implies a time-dependent dispersivity. Application of our model to three field experiments (the Cape Cod, the Borden, and the Columbus sites) indicates fractal behavior for all three cases. The term "scale effects" is often used in the literature to refer to the dependency of dispersivity on either mean travel distance or distance from source. We presented a critical review on the ambiguity in definition of this term. We presented comparisons between transport processes in systems with time-dependent and distance-dependent dispersivities. Our results showed that enhanced spreading in BTCs consistently occurred in systems with time-dependent dispersivities. Recently, a new governing equation, factional-order advection-dispersion equation (FADE) was proposed to describe transport processes in heterogeneous systems. We proposed a statistical method to justify the use of a FADE. A fractional order of 1.82 was confirmed to be necessary to describe the bromide plumes at the Cape Cod site.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

H. M. Selim