EKU Faculty and Staff Scholarship


A Low‐Cost Programmable Reversing Flow Column Apparatus for Investigating Mixing Zones


Physics, Geosciences, and Astronomy

Document Type


Publication Date



This note describes the development and testing of a novel, programmable reversing flow 1D (R1D) experimental column apparatus designed to investigate reaction, sorption, and transport of solutes in aquifers within dynamic reversing flow zones where waters with different chemistries mix. The motivation for constructing this apparatus was to understand the roles of mixing and reaction on arsenic discharging through a tidally fluctuating riverbank. The apparatus can simulate complex transient flux schedules similar to natural flow regimes The apparatus uses an Arduino microcontroller to control flux magnitude through two peristaltic pumps. Solenoid valves control flow direction from two separate reservoirs. In-line probes continually measure effluent electrical conductance, pH, oxidation–reduction potential, and temperature. To understand how sensitive physical solute transport is to deviations from the real hydrograph of the tidally fluctuating river, two experiments were performed using: (1) a simpler constant magnitude, reversing flux direction schedule (RCF); and (2) a more environmentally relevant variable magnitude, reversing flux direction schedule (RVF). Wherein, flux magnitude was ramped up and down according to a sine wave. Modeled breakthrough curves of chloride yielded nearly identical dispersivities under both flow regimes. For the RVF experiment, Peclet numbers captured the transition between diffusion and dispersion dominated transport in the intertidal interval. Therefore, the apparatus accurately simulated conservative, environmentally relevant mixing under transient, variable flux flow regimes. Accurately generating variable flux reversing flow regimes is important to simulate the interaction between flow velocity and chemical reactions where Brownian diffusion of solutes to solid-phase reaction sites is kinetically limited.

Journal Title

Ground Water