Pore-Scale Modeling of Fluid-Fluid Interfacial Area in Variably Saturated Porous Media Containing Microscale Surface Roughness

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21 Scopus citations


A pore-scale model is developed to simulate fluid-fluid interfacial area in variably saturated porous media, with a specific focus on incorporating the effects of solid-surface roughness. The model is designed to quantify total (film and meniscus) fluid-fluid interfacial area (Anw) over the full range of wetting-phase fluid saturation (Sw) based on the inherent properties of the porous medium. The model employs a triangular pore space bundle-of-cylindrical-capillaries framework, modified with three surface roughness-related parameters. The first parameter (surface roughness factor) represents the overall magnitude of surface roughness, whereas the other two parameters (interface growth factor and critical adsorptive film thickness) reflect the microscale structure of surface roughness. A series of sensitivity analyses were conducted for the controlling variables, and the efficacy of the model was tested using air-water interfacial area data measured for three natural porous media. The model produced good simulations of the measured Anw data over the full range of saturation. The results demonstrate that total interfacial areas for natural media are typically much larger than those for ideal media comprising smooth surfaces due to the substantial contribution of surface roughness to wetting-film interfacial area. The degree to which fluid-fluid interfacial area is influenced by roughness is a function of fluid-retention characteristics and the nature of the rough surfaces. The full impact of roughness may be masked to some degree due to the formation of thick wetting films, which is explicitly quantified by the model. Application of the model provides insight into the importance of the interplay between pore-scale distribution and configuration of wetting fluid and the surface properties of solids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019WR025876
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • bundle-of-cylindrical-capillaries (BCC)
  • interfacial area
  • pore geometry
  • surface roughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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