Does pore water velocity affect the reaction rates of adsorptive solute transport in soils? Demonstration with pore-scale modelling
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Modelling adsorptive solute transport in soils needs a number of parameters to describe its reaction kinetics and the values of these parameters are usually determined from batch and displacement experiments. Some experimental results reveal that when describing the adsorption as first-order kinetics, its associated reaction rates are not constants but vary with pore water velocity. Explanation of this varies but an independent verification of each explanation is difficult because simultaneously measuring the spatiotemporal distributions of dissolved and adsorbed solutes in soils is formidable. Pore-scale modelling could play an important role to address this gap and has received increased attention over the past few years. This paper investigated the transport of adsorptive solute in a simple porous medium using pore-scale modelling. Fluid flow through the void space of the medium was assumed to be laminar and in saturated condition, and solute transport consisted of advection and molecular diffusion; the sorption and desorption occurring at the fluid–solid interface were modelled as linear first-order kinetics. Based on the simulated spatiotemporal distribution of dissolved and adsorbed solutes at pore scale, volumetric-average reaction kinetics at macroscopic scale and its associated reactive parameters were measured. Both homogeneous adsorption where the reaction rates at microscopic scale are constant, and heterogeneous adsorption where the reaction rates vary from site to site, were investigated. The results indicate that, in contrast to previously thought, the macroscopic reaction rates directly measured from the pore-scale simulations do not change with pore velocity under both homogeneous and heterogeneous adsorptions. In particular, we found that for the homogeneous adsorption, the macroscopic adsorption remains first-order kinetic and can be described by constant reaction rates, regardless of flow rate; whilst for the heterogeneous adsorption, the macroscopic adsorption kinetics continues not to be affected by flow rate but is no longer first-order kinetics that can be described by constant reaction rates. We discuss how these findings could help explain some contrary literature reports over the dependence of reaction rates on pore water velocity.