A model for mass transport across the sediment‐water interface

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Molecular diffusion, dispersion, and turbulent diffusion can all contribute to the transport of mass across the sediment-water interface (SWI). Flow observations across the SWI are critical in the description of these transport processes but are currently very limited as the sediment bed is inaccessible in most experimental approaches. We overcome this constraint by combining refractive-index matching (RIM) with particle-tracking velocimetry (PTV). Using measurements of the flow dynamics across the SWI, we propose a mechanistic model that describes the interfacial mass transport over a wide and relevant parameter space. We show there are three transport regimes where molecular, dispersive, or turbulent transport dominates the mass flux of a passive tracer across the SWI. Transitions between these regimes are defined by the permeability Reynolds number Rek=√ku*/v, where K is the sediment permeability, u* is the shear velocity, and ν is the fluid viscosity. In the molecular regime (Rek≤O(0.01)), mass transport is described by the molecular diffusion coefficient (D). In both the dispersive (O(0.01)<Rek<O(1)) and turbulent regimes (Rek≥O(0.01)), the mass diffusivity is directly proportional to (√ku*). The model is strongly supported by an extensive data set of published interfacial mass flux observations and provides a tool for describing fluxes across the SWI in aquatic system models. © 2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2799-2812
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


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