Center for experimental study of subsurface environmental processes


Land/Atmospheric Interactions

Synopsis: We are investigating the contribution of physical process associated with evaporation from soil and how an understanding of the transient distribution of temperature, soil moisture and atmospheric demand may provide information necessary to properly up-scale these physical processes, thus allowing for the prediction of evaporation with more accuracy.

Funding Sources: Army Research Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, National Science Foundation

Vapor Intrusion from NAPL Sources and Groundwater Plumes

Synopsis: Volatilization of organic compounds in the subsurface produce vapor plumes that can migrate horizontally and vertically throughout the unsaturated zone, possibly entering into residential or commercial buildings through a process known as vapor intrusion (VI). In this work, we study vapor generation and VI, using carefully controlled experiments in multiscale test systems in an effort to improve VI screening models and generally aid remediation site managers with the assessment of risk, and the selection of alternative remediation strategies.

Funding Sources: Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP)

Geological storage of carbon dioxide

Synopsis: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) represents a strategy to stabilize, and eventually reduce, the net CO2 loading to the atmosphere from large stationary sources such as coal-fired power plants. The experiments we develop are aimed to characterize the migration, entrapment, and leakage risk of carbon dioxide, subsequent its injection into deep geologic formations.

Funding sources: U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and partially by the National Security Science and Engineering Fellowship (NSSEFF), supported by the National Defense Education Program (NDEP).

Contaminant Transport

Synopsis: Landmine detection in the age of modern, non-metallic mines can be accomplished by sensing vapors eminating from buried explosives. However, vapors from mines can follow different flow paths from the mine up to the ground surface based on how much water is in the soil, how hot, humid or windy it is outside, and variations in soil texture (e.g. soil particle size distribution, heterorgeneity or disturbance of soils). Therefore, interpreting sensor signals is no easy task. Our goal is to advance the science of chemical vapor movement in porous media to better understand how and when vapors cross the soil/atmospheric boundary, and thus where and when to search for them. Besides landmine detection, applications of this work include industrial spill site remediation of volatile organics and evaluation of subsurface methane leakage.

Environmental Monitoring

Synopsis: Managed aquifer recharge and recovery (MAR) utilizes aquifer storage to improve the quality and reliability of a water supply system. It is an attractive alternative in areas where surface storage options are unavailable or unappealing. Aquifer storage also enhances the public acceptance of treated water. However, the management of such systems is fraught with technical challenges that may impair performance. The aim of this project is to develop technologies for the optimal real-time operation of MAR systems for potable and non-potable reuse using systems approaches that combine sensor technologies and simulation models.

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC) ReNewIt project