U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, VOL. 47, W12514 (2011); doi:10.1029/2011WR010575,


Rigorous numerical description of multispecies diffusion requires coupling of species, charge, and aqueous and surface complexation reactions that collectively affect diffusive fluxes. The applicability of a fully coupled diffusion model is, however, often constrained by the availability of species self-diffusion coefficients, as well as by computational complication in imposing charge conservation. In this study, several diffusion models with variable complexity in charge and species coupling were formulated and compared to describe reactive multispecies diffusion in groundwater. Diffusion of uranyl [U(VI)] species was used as an example in demonstrating the effectiveness of the models in describing multispecies diffusion. Numerical simulations found that a diffusion model with a single, common diffusion coefficient for all species was sufficient to describe multispecies U(VI) diffusion under a steady state condition of major chemical composition, but not under transient chemical conditions. Simulations revealed that for multispecies U(VI) diffusion under transient chemical conditions, a fully coupled diffusion model could be well approximated by a component-based diffusion model when the diffusion coefficient for each chemical component was properly selected. The component-based diffusion model considers the difference in diffusion coefficients between chemical components, but not between the species within each chemical component. This treatment significantly enhanced computational efficiency at the expense of minor charge conservation. The charge balance in the component-based diffusion model can be enforced, if necessary, by adding a secondary migration term resulting from model simplification. The effect of ion activity coefficient gradients on multispecies diffusion is also discussed. The diffusion models were applied to describe U(VI) diffusive mass transfer in intragranular domains in two sediments collected from U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford 300A, where intragranular diffusion is a rate-limiting process controlling U(VI) adsorption and desorption. The grain-scale reactive diffusion model was able to describe U(VI) adsorption/desorption kinetics that had been previously described using a semiempirical, multirate model. Compared with the multirate model, the diffusion models have the advantage to provide spatiotemporal speciation evolution within the diffusion domains.