Internal Domains of Natural Porous Media Revealed: Critical Locations for Transport, Storage, and Chemical Reaction

John Zachara, Sue Brantley, Jon Chorover, Robert Ewing, Sebastien Kerisit, Chongxuan Liu, Edmund Perfect, Gernot Rother, Andrew G. Stack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Internal pore domains exist within rocks, lithic fragments, subsurface sediments, and soil aggregates. These domains, termed internal domains in porous media (IDPM), represent a subset of a material's porosity, contain a significant fraction of their porosity as nanopores, dominate the reactive surface area of diverse media types, and are important locations for chemical reactivity and fluid storage. IDPM are key features controlling hydrocarbon release from shales in hydraulic fracture systems, organic matter decomposition in soil, weathering and soil formation, and contaminant behavior in the vadose zone and groundwater. Traditionally difficult to interrogate, advances in instrumentation and imaging methods are providing new insights on the physical structures and chemical attributes of IDPM, and their contributions to system behaviors. Here we discuss analytical methods to characterize IDPM, evaluate information on their size distributions, connectivity, and extended structures; determine whether they exhibit unique chemical reactivity; and assess the potential for their inclusion in reactive transport models. Ongoing developments in measurement technologies and sensitivity, and computer-assisted interpretation will improve understanding of these critical features in the future. Impactful research opportunities exist to advance understanding of IDPM, and to incorporate their effects in reactive transport models for improved environmental simulation and prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2811-2829
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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