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Comment on ‘fractal and superdiffusive transport and hydrodynamic dispersion in heterogeneous porous media’, by Muhammad Sahimi

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Two fundamental questions regarding the application of percolation theory to transport in porous media are addressed. First, when ‘critical path’ arguments (based on a sufficiently wide spread of microscopic transition rates) are invoked (in analogy to the case of transport in disordered semiconductors) to justify the application of percolation theory to the determination of relevant transport properties, then for long time scales (compared to the inverse of the ‘critical’ percolation rate), the fractal structure of the ‘critical’ path is relevant to transport, but not at short time scales. These results have been demonstrated concretely in the case of disordered semiconductors, and are in direct contradiction to the claims of the review. Second, the relevance of deterministic or stochastic methods to transport has been treated heretofore by most authors as a question of practicality. But, at least under some conditions, concrete criteria distinguish between the two types of transport. Percolative (deterministic) transport is temporally reproducible and spatially inhomogeneous while diffusive (stochastic) transport is temporally irreproducible, but homogeneous, and a cross-over from stochastic to percolative transport occurs when the spread of microscopic transition rates exceeds 4–5 orders of magnitude. It is likely that such conditions are frequently encountered in soil transport. Moreover, clear evidence for deterministic transport (although not necessarily percolative) exists in such phenomena as preferential flow. On the other hand, the physical limitation of transport to (fractally connected) pore spaces within soils (analogously to transport in metal-insulator composites) can make transport diffusive on a fractal structure, rather than percolative.

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Transport in Porous Media13 (1993), 3–40.

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Hunt, A. Comment on ‘fractal and superdiffusive transport and hydrodynamic dispersion in heterogeneous porous media’, by Muhammad Sahimi. Transp Porous Med 21, 175–188 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00613755

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Key words

  • diffusion
  • dispersion
  • percolation
  • fractals
  • scaling