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Effects of surface active agents on DNAPL migration and distribution in saturated porous media

Cheng, Zhou, Gao, Bin, Xu, Hongxia, Sun, Yuanyuan, Shi, Xiaoqing, Wu, Jichun
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.571 pp. 1147-1154
contact angle, dense nonaqueous phase liquids, groundwater, humic acids, polysorbates, porous media, quartz, soil, surface tension, surfactants, tetrachloroethylene, wettability
Dissolved surface active agents such as surfactant and natural organic matter can affect the distribution and fate of dense nonaqueous liquids (DNAPLs) in soil and groundwater systems. This work investigated how two common groundwater surface active agents, humic acid (HA) and Tween 80, affected tetrachloroethylene (PCE) migration and source zone architecture in saturated porous media under environmentally relevant conditions. Batch experiments were first conducted to measure the contact angles and interfacial tensions (IFT) between PCE and quartz surface in water containing different amount of surface active agents. Results showed that the contact angle increased and IFT decreased with concentration of surface active agent increasing, and Tween 80 was much more effective than HA. Five 2-D flow cell experiments were then conducted. Correspondingly, Tween 80 showed strong effects on the migration and distribution of PCE in the porous media due to its ability to change the medium wettability from water-wet into intermediate/NAPL-wet. The downward migration velocities of the PCE in three Tween 80 cells were slower than those in the other two cells. In addition, the final saturation of the PCE in the cells containing surface active agents was higher than that in the water-only cell. Results from this work indicate that the presence of surface active agents in groundwater may strongly affect the fate and distribution of DNAPL through altering porous medium wettability.