Effect of liquid distribution on gas-water phase mass transfer in an unsaturated sand during infiltration

Paul T. Imhoff, Peter R. Jaffe

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22 Scopus citations


Gas-water phase mass transfer was examined in a homogeneous sand with both the gas and water phase mobile: water was infiltrated from the top of the sand column while benzene-laden air flowed upward from the bottom. Mass-transfer limitations for this situation may be important for applications of bioventing, where water and nutrients are added at the ground surface simultaneously with induced air movement to carry oxygen and volatile organics to microbial populations. Gas- and water-phase samples indicate that gas-water phase mass transfer was sufficiently fast that equilibrium between gas and water phases was achieved at all sampling locations within the porous medium. Lower-bound estimates for the gas-water mass-transfer rate coefficient show that mass transfer was at least 10-40 times larger than predictions made from an empirical model developed for gas-water phase mass transfer in an identical porous medium. A water-phase tracer test demonstrates that water flow was much more uniform in this study than in those earlier experiments, which is a likely explanation for the differing rates of gas-water phase mass transfer. It is hypothesized that the liquid distribution in previous laboratory experiments was less uniform because of preferential flow paths due to wetting front instabilities. Gas-water phase mass-transfer rate coefficients reported in this investigation are for an ideal situation of uniform water infiltration: mass-transfer rates in field soils are expected to be significantly smaller.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-380
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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