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Transport and Adsorption of Nano-Colloids in Porous Media Observed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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We use magnetic resonance imaging to follow the adsorption of colloids during their transport through a porous medium (grain packing). We injected successive pulses of a suspension of nanoparticles able to adsorb onto the grains. To get quantitative information we carry out 2D imaging and 1D measurements of the evolution in time of the distribution profile of all particles (suspended or adsorbed) in cross-sectional layers along the sample axis during the flow. For the first injections we observe the 1D profile amplitude progressively damping as particles advance through the sample, due to their adsorption. 2D imaging shows that successive injections finally result in a coverage of grains by adsorbed particles regularly progressing along the sample. The analysis of the results makes it possible to get a clear description of the adsorption process. In our specific case (particle charged oppositely to the adsorption sites) it appears that the particles rapidly explore the pores and adsorb as soon as they encounter available sites on grains, and the surplus of particles goes on advancing in the sample. A further analysis of the profiles makes it possible to distinguish the respective concentration distribution of suspended and adsorbed particles over time at each step of the process.

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A :

Surface area of the pores

C :

Concentration of suspended particles \((\hbox {mol\,l}^{-1})\)

d :

Typical pore diameter

\(d_{\hbox {grain}}\) :

Diameter of sand grains

\(D_m\) :

Diffusion coefficient of particles

D :

Dispersion coefficient

\(D_w\) :

Self-diffusion coefficient of water

\(\varepsilon \) :


\(k_B\) :

Boltzmann constant \((1.38\times 10^{-23}\hbox {m}^{{2}}\hbox {\,kg\,s}^{-{2}}\hbox {\,K}^{-{1}})\)

\(l_{\hbox {ads}}\) :

Typical distance for particles to get adsorbed

Q :

Darcy flux \((\hbox {m\,s}^{-1})\)

\(\mu \) :

Fluid viscosity

R :

Particle relaxivity \((\hbox {mol}^{-1}\,\hbox {l\,s}^{-1})\)

r :

Particle radius

\(\rho \) :

Surface relaxivity \((\hbox {m\,s}^{-1})\)

\(\rho _0\) :

Surface relaxivity with no adsorbed particles \((\hbox {m\,s}^{-1})\)


Reynolds number

\(\rho _{w}\) :

Water density

\(R_{\hbox {ads}}\) :

Pseudo-relaxivity constant of sand surface saturated with adsorbed particles \((\hbox {mol}^{-1}\,\hbox {g\,s}^{-1})\)

s :

Concentration of adsorbed particles \((\hbox {mol\,g}^{-1})\)

S :

NMR signal

\(S_0\) :

NMR signal amplitude

\(S_\mathrm{res}\) :

MRI signal without particles

\(\tau \) :

Detection time

\(\hbox {T}_{E }\) :

Echo time

\(T_1\) :

Longitudinal relaxation time

\(T_2\) :

Transverse relaxation time

\(T_{\hbox {2,bulk}}\) :

Transverse relaxation time in particle-free bulk water

T :


\(T_D\) :

Time required for 95% particles adsorption

V :

Volume area of the pores

v :

Mean velocity through the pores


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We acknowledge technical help from B. Jouaud and M. Vielpeau, from INRA.

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Correspondence to P. Coussot.

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Lehoux, A.P., Faure, P., Michel, E. et al. Transport and Adsorption of Nano-Colloids in Porous Media Observed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Transp Porous Med 119, 403–423 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11242-017-0890-4

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  • Colloid
  • Transport
  • Adsorption
  • Magnetic resonance imaging