Enhanced transport of colloidal oil droplets in saturated and unsaturated sand columns Academic Article uri icon


  • Colloidal-sized triacylglycerol droplets demonstrated enhanced transport compared to ideal latex colloid spheres in both saturated and unsaturated quartz sand columns. Oil droplets (mean diameter 0.74 ± 0.03 μm, density 0.92 g cm(-3), ζ-potential -34 ± 1 mV) were injected simultaneously with latex microsphere colloids (FluoSpheres; density 1.055 g cm(-3), diameters 0.02, 0.2, and 1.0 μm, ζ-potentials -16 ± 1, -30 ± 2, and -49 ± 1, respectively) and bromide into natural quartz sand (ζ-potential -63 ± 2 mV) via short-pulse column breakthrough experiments. Tests were conducted under both saturated and unsaturated conditions. Breakthrough of oil droplets preceded bromide and FluoSpheres. Recovery of oil droplets was 20% greater than similarly sized FluoSpheres in the saturated column, and 16% greater in the 0.18 ± 0.01 volumetric water content (VWC) unsaturated column. Higher variability was observed in the 0.14 ± 0.01 VWC column experiments with oil droplet recovery only slightly greater than similarly sized FluoSpheres. The research presents for the first time the direct comparison of colloidal oil droplet transport in porous media with that of other colloids, and demonstrates transport under unsaturated conditions. Based on experimental results and theoretical analyses, we discuss possible mechanisms that lead to the observed enhanced mobility of oil droplets compared to FluoSpheres with similar size and electrostatic properties.

publication date

  • January 1, 2011