14-17 May 2018
New Orleans
US/Central timezone

Nanoparticle heterogeneous adsorption in porous media

15 May 2018, 16:34
New Orleans

New Orleans

Oral 20 Minutes MS 4.13: Natural and engineered nanoparticles in porous media: experimental findings and modeling approaches Parallel 5-F


Gaétan Gerber (ENPC - Harvard SEAS)


Colloidal particles released by various chemical and industrial processes penetrate soils and groundwater, and transport themselves other contaminants like heavy metals or PCBs. Thus, an accurate description of the transport and retention of these particles is required to prevent and manage environmental contamination, like the pollution of drinking water supplies. Literature stands that colloid sorption (also referred to as attachment) is the main process controlling transport in the case of strong particle-medium interactions and absence of straining events. Sorption mechanisms have been widely studied using micromodels (2D systems or pore scale studies [2,3]) or indirect observation (Breakthrough curves [6]), completed by simulations to account for the complexity of real media like soils [7]. We propose here to tackle the usually neglected impact of the system’s heterogeneity, in direct 3D visualizations at local and global scales.

Glass beads at random close packing are chosen as a model porous medium for their large pore throat size distribution (down to 0 at contact points). We inject in the system suspensions of iron nanoparticles (NPs), with a strong attraction interaction with the medium, which leads to heterogeneous adsorption and coverage of the beads. Coverage is followed by confocal imaging in time and at multiple scales; from local singular geometries (pore scale, tens of µm) to global average behaviours (sample’s scale, cm).

We show that for a given NPs-medium affinity, the dynamics of adsorption strongly depend on the accessibility of the surface, in accordance with the flow streamlines. We identify configurations (regions of highest confinement, i.e. contact points between beads) where the adsorption is fully diffusion limited. At early stages of adsorption, these regions can account for up to 10% of the surface of the medium and therefore impact the supposedly known dynamics at global scale.

To go further, we link local observations and global description of the dynamics to discuss the impact of the pore size heterogeneity, at various flow rates (Darcy velocities in the range 0.05 to 9 mm/s). We show the impact of the flow on the heterogeneity of the deposition of the NPs through 1D coverage profiles over time and over the whole sample. Finally, we propose a simple model describing the full beads coverage dynamics over space and time. We can define and decouple a geometric (characteristic deposition length) and a kinetic (characteristic exploration time) components for a complete understanding of the adsorption mechanisms.

Figure – (Left) Confocal sections of a glass beads pack partially saturated with NPs. From a clean medium, progressive adsorption of nanoparticles at the beads surface is followed by fluorescence. Local and global studies (Right) highlight variations of the dynamics due to the heterogeneity of the medium: confined areas (blue) are covered later and slower than areas directly accessible to the flow.


[1] Transport and adsorption of nano-colloids in porous media observed by MRI. Transp Porous Med, 2017
[2] Ochiai N and al. Methods for colloid transport visualization in pore networks. Wat Res Research, 2006
[3] Dersoir B et al. Clogging of a single pore by colloidal particles. Microfluid Nanoflui, 2015
[4] Gerber G. et al. Particle size-exclusion clogging regimes in porous media. PRL, 2017 (submitted)
[5] Tan KL, Hameed BH. Insight into the adsorption kinetics models for the removal of contaminants from aqueous solutions. Journal of the Taiwan Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2017
[6] Bradford SA and al. Physical factors affecting the transport and fate of colloids in saturated porous media. Wat Res Research, 2002
[7] Malnar IL and al. The impact of immobile zones on the transport and retentions of nanoparticles in porous media. Wat Res Research, 2015
[8] Thomas HC. Heterogeneous ion exchange in a flowing system. J AM Chem Soc 1944; 66:1664-6
[9] Bridge JW and al. Non-invasive quantitative measurement of colloid transport in mesoscale porous medium. Env Sci Tech, 2006

Acceptance of Terms and Conditions Click here to agree

Primary authors

Gaétan Gerber (ENPC - Harvard SEAS) Mr Dave WEITZ (Harvard University) Philippe Coussot (Univ. Paris-Est)

Presentation Materials

There are no materials yet.