Albert J. Valocchi
PORE-SCALE SIMULATION OF GROUNDWATER CONTAMINANT TRANSPORT PROCESSES
Professor Valocchi uses numerical simulation to track pollutant fate and transport in porous media, with applications to groundwater contamination and remediation. Organic compounds such as petroleum products and chlorinated solvents comprise some of the most serious threats to groundwater resources. These compounds can become trapped in the soil, where they dissolve slowly and contaminate groundwater for decades.
Although contaminant entrapment, dissolution, and fate are ultimately controlled by complex physical, chemical, and biological phenomena at the pore scale, engineers have traditionally investigated these processes using laboratory soil columns, where it is only possible to measure influent and effluent properties. Experimental techniques involving microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging have allowed direct pore-scale observation of these processes, while dramatic increases in computer-processing power and new computational methods have opened the possibility for direct numerical simulation of contaminant processes at the pore scale. During his Center appointment, Professor Valocchi will further develop and apply these tools to learn more about the entrapment, dissolution, and remediation of organic contaminants. A unique aspect of his project is that the pore-scale modeling will be tightly integrated with pore-scale experiments conducted at UIUC. Improved understanding of pore-scale processes will ultimately lead to better predictive methods for assessing public health risks resulting from groundwater contamination.