Numerical Modelling of Tracer Transport in Unsaturated Porous Media


1 National Centre of Excellence for Environmental and Hazardous Waste and Management, Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok 10140, Thailand

2 Sustainable Water and Energy Research Group (SWERG), School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

3 Sterling College, Level 3, 770 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia


Many types of chemical substances have been used as tracers to estimate the migration of contaminant in a porous media. Inorganic ionic compounds have been applied extensively as hydrogeologic tracers. Sodium chloride is generally used as a tracer since this common salt does not degrade or get removed from the system. Movement of tracer could be described as migration of a non-reactive constituent. A tracer transport numerical model was developed according to the advectivedispersive contaminant transport equation in unsaturated porous media. The governing equation was solved numerically and coded in MATLAB program. The objectives of this study were to develop a model for estimating the non-reactive constituent transport in the unsaturated porous media and to determine the impact of ionic strength of tracer and the effect of the thickness of porous media. The experiments were conducted with two different sodium chloride tracer concentrations (low strength-200 mg/L and high strength-500 mg/L) and for two different soil depths (5 and 20 cm). The observation and simulation data indicate that the interference from soil background concentration is significant, provided that the high strength tracer is applied. As expected, the tracer transport in the thick layer took longer elapse time than in the thin layer. The simulation results using the developed model corresponded very well with the observed data.