Multi-scale micro-structure generation strategy for up-scaling transport in clays

Tyagi, Manav; Gimmi, Thomas; Churakov, Sergey (2013). Multi-scale micro-structure generation strategy for up-scaling transport in clays. Advances in water ressources, 59, pp. 181-195. Elsevier 10.1016/j.advwatres.2013.06.002

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Clays and claystones are used as backfill and barrier materials in the design of waste repositories, because they act as hydraulic barriers and retain contaminants. Transport through such barriers occurs mainly by molecular diffusion. There is thus an interest to relate the diffusion properties of clays to their structural properties. In previous work, we have developed a concept for up-scaling pore-scale molecular diffusion coefficients using a grid-based model for the sample pore structure. Here we present an operational algorithm which can generate such model pore structures of polymineral materials. The obtained pore maps match the rock’s mineralogical components and its macroscopic properties such as porosity, grain and pore size distributions. Representative ensembles of grains in 2D or 3D are created by a lattice Monte Carlo (MC) method, which minimizes the interfacial energy of grains starting from an initial grain distribution. Pores are generated at grain boundaries and/or within grains. The method is general and allows to generate anisotropic structures with grains of approximately predetermined shapes, or with mixtures of different grain types. A specific focus of this study was on the simulation of clay-like materials. The generated clay pore maps were then used to derive upscaled effective diffusion coefficients for non-sorbing tracers using a homogenization technique. The large number of generated maps allowed to check the relations between micro-structural features of clays and their effective transport parameters, as is required to explain and extrapolate experimental diffusion results. As examples, we present a set of 2D and 3D simulations and investigated the effects of nanopores within particles (interlayer pores) and micropores between particles. Archie’s simple power law is followed in systems with only micropores. When nanopores are present, additional parameters are required; the data reveal that effective diffusion coefficients could be described by a sum of two power functions, related to the micro- and nanoporosity. We further used the model to investigate the relationships between particle orientation and effective transport properties of the sample.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Gimmi, Thomas and Churakov, Sergey


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Thomas Gimmi

Date Deposited:

08 Aug 2014 12:28

Last Modified:

20 Mar 2018 10:54

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Clays, Microstructure, Monte Carlo method, Up-scaling, Diffusion, Homogenization




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