Three-dimensional diffusion of non-sorbing species in porous sandstone: Computer simulation based on X-ray microtomography using synchrotron radiation

Yoshito Nakashima, Tsukasa Nakano, Koichi Nakamura, Kentaro Uesugi, Akira Tsuchiyama, Susumu Ikeda

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61 Citations (Scopus)


The diffusion pathways of porous sandstone were examined by a three-dimensional (3-D) imaging technique based on X-ray computed tomography (CT) using the SPring-8 (Super Photon ring-8 GeV, Hyogo, Japan) synchrotron radiation facility. The analysis was undertaken to develop better understanding of the diffusion pathways in natural rock as a key factor in clarifying the detailed mechanism of the diffusion of radionuclides and water molecules through the pore spaces of natural barriers in underground nuclear waste disposal facilities. A cylindrical sample (diameter 4 mm, length 6 mm) of sandstone (porosity 0.14) was imaged to obtain a 3-D image set of 4503 voxels=2.623 mm3. Through cluster-labeling analysis of the 3-D image set, it was revealed that 89% of the pore space forms a single large pore-cluster responsible for macroscopic diffusive transport, while only 11% of the pore space is made up of isolated pores that are not involved in long-range diffusive transport. Computer simulations of the 3-D diffusion of non-sorbing random walkers in the largest pore cluster were performed to calculate the surface-to-volume ratio of the pore, tortuosity (diffusion coefficient in free space divided by that in porous rock). The results showed that (i) the simulated surface-to-volume ratio is about 60% of the results obtained by conventional pulsed-field-gradient proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) laboratory experiments and (ii) the simulated tortuosity is five to seven times larger than the results of laboratory diffusion experiments using non-sorbing I- and Br-. These discrepancies are probably attributed to the intrinsic sample heterogeneity and limited spatial resolution of the CT system. The permeability was also estimated based on the NMR diffusometry theory using the results of the random walk simulations via the Kozeny-Carman equation. The estimated permeability involved an error of about 20% compared with the permeability measured by the conventional method, suggesting that the diffusometry-based NMR well logging with gradient coils is applicable to the in-situ permeability measurement of strata. The present study demonstrated that X-ray CT using synchrotron radiation is a powerful tool for obtaining 3-D pore structure images without the beam-hardening artifacts inevitable in conventional CT using X-ray tubes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-264
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Oct


  • Diffusion coefficients of iodine and bromine
  • NMR geophysical exploration
  • Pore structure NMR logging
  • Porous media
  • Pulsed-field-gradient stimulated-echo NMR


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