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Experimental and Numerical Investigations of Effects of Silica Colloids on Transport of Strontium in Saturated Sand Columns

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journal contribution
posted on 01.09.2006 by Hesham M. Bekhit, Ahmed E. Hassan, Rebekah Harris-Burr, Charalambos Papelis
Transport experiments with strontium were conducted using saturated sand columns in the presence and absence of silica colloids, and numerical modeling was performed with modeling results compared to experimental data. The experiments were aimed at testing the hypothesis that under certain chemical conditions colloids act as movement-retarding agents and yield a larger effective retardation factor for the migrating contaminant. Four individual experiments were conducted to identify conditions where the mobility of silica colloids is increased or decreased, and a similar set was conducted for strontium transport in the absence of colloids. Mobility of colloids was found to increase with decreasing ionic strength and increasing pH, with the ionic strength having the more significant impact. The reverse effect was obtained for strontium. Based on these results, two additional experiments were conducted where both colloids and strontium were injected at the column inlet. Results showed that under certain conditions of ionic strength and pH (I = 3.0 × 10-2 M and pH = 4−5.4) colloids retarded the movement of strontium. The retardation effect was obtained in two experiments under slightly modified conditions, which confirms the role of colloids as retarding agents. A finite difference numerical model was used to (a) simulate mobile breakthrough curves and compare to experimental data and (b) estimate the model parameters describing cotransport of strontium and colloids. The model accurately predicted arrival time and the overall shape of the breakthrough curves.