Missouri S&T researcher tracks subsurface water flow

http://www.forestwander.comBy combining computational mathematics and several engineering disciplines, a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher hopes to consistently predict the underground flow of water through porous terrain with large fractures, channels or conduits.

Dr. Xiaoming He, an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Missouri S&T, tracks the flow of water and waterborne pollutants as they wash through soil and rocks. He simulates subsurface ground water systems through a three-step process. First, he develops and analyzes a mathematical model, then a numerical method for the simulation. Finally, he collaborates with engineering colleagues to process the porous medium flow coupled with free flow in conduits.

“Even though the conduits occupy a small portion of volume in the underground system, they provide a much easier pathway for the water and pollutants than the porous medium,” says He. “Liquids always find the easiest passage out of a pressurized field. My work helps to predict its direction through a field of soil, rocks and fractures.”

His simulations could apply in almost any field where understanding porous medium flow and free flow has an impact. Ground water systems, oil extraction, and industrial filtration are a few of the immediate applications, He says.

“For example, Florida has over 90 percent of its underground water flowing through a ‘Karst aquifer,’ which is a type of subsurface rock that is formed by its own dissolution,” says He. “By tracking the water through this fractured area, we can better predict things such as pollutant transportation.”

Dr. Xiaoming He.

Dr. Xiaoming He.

He brings smaller-scale portions of the project into the classroom to involve his students in real-world problems, instead of the traditional approach to teaching mathematical equations and formulas. He also believes this will better engage his non-mathematics-majoring students, as the problems combine math with fields such as civil, mining, environmental and petroleum engineering.

“This project provides my undergraduate and graduate students with valuable experiential learning and training opportunities,” says He. “They get to keep in touch with some of the newest developments in mathematical analysis methods and engineering applications, while seeing first-hand how math can be applied in various fields of study.”

He’s project, titled “Non-Iterative Multi-Physics Domain Decomposition Method for the Navier-Stokes-Darcy Model,” is funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Mingzhen Wei, an assistant professor of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering at Missouri S&T, is the project’s co-investigator.

Comments

  1. Darcy described the water flow through a surface with a defined porosity more than 150 years ago and it is still used in hydrogeology today even the limits of the model are known as the flow are rarely unidirectional. This is why the work of Mr He is very interesting and could have as it is said a lot of applications and interests many industries. Then Mr He seems to be a very good teacher knowing how to enthrall his students, congratulations !

  2. Indeed, it is very interesting research that is being conducted by Mr. He. Depending on the outcome, it could change the way some BMPs are perceived and methods used when addressing water quality.
    Additionally, to his merit, Mr. He uses the opportunity to give his students a chance for real practice instead of the classical methods.
    Will be fascinating to follow it’s development.