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Concept: Plume


Drawing from a series of field measurement activities including the Alternative Aviation Fuels Experiments (AAFEX1 and AAFEX2), we present experimental measurements of particle number, size, and composition-resolved mass that describe the physical and chemical evolution of aircraft exhaust plumes on the time scale of 5 sec to 2-3 min. As the plume ages, the particle number emission index initially increases by a factor of 10-50, due to gas-to-particle formation of a nucleation/growth mode, and then begins to fall with increased aging. Increasing the fuel sulfur content causes the initial increase to occur more rapidly. The contribution of the nucleation/growth mode to the overall particle number density is most pronounced at idle power and decreases with increasing engine power. Increasing fuel sulfur content - but not fuel aromatic content - causes the nucleation/growth mode to dominate the particle number emissions to higher powers than for a fuel with “normal” sulfur and aromatic content. Particle size measurements indicate that the observed particle number emissions trends are due to continuing gas-to-particle conversion and coagulation growth of the nucleation/growth mode particles, processes which simultaneously increase particle mass and reduce particle number density. Measurements of nucleation/growth mode mass are consistent with the interpretation of particle number and size data and suggest that engine exit plane measurements may underestimate the total particle mass by much as a factor of between 5 and 10.

Concepts: Particle physics, Experiment, Physical quantities, Particle, Fuel, Plume, Ultra-low sulfur diesel, Number density


All moving animals, including flies [1-3], sharks [4], and humans [5], experience a dynamic sensory landscape that is a function of both their trajectory through space and the distribution of stimuli in the environment. This is particularly apparent for mosquitoes, which use a combination of olfactory, visual, and thermal cues to locate hosts [6-10]. Mosquitoes are thought to detect suitable hosts by the presence of a sparse CO2 plume, which they track by surging upwind and casting crosswind [11]. Upon approach, local cues such as heat and skin volatiles help them identify a landing site [12-15]. Recent evidence suggests that thermal attraction is gated by the presence of CO2 [6], although this conclusion was based experiments in which the actual flight trajectories of the animals were unknown and visual cues were not studied. Using a three-dimensional tracking system, we show that rather than gating heat sensing, the detection of CO2 actually activates a strong attraction to visual features. This visual reflex guides the mosquitoes to potential hosts where they are close enough to detect thermal cues. By experimentally decoupling the olfactory, visual, and thermal cues, we show that the motor reactions to these stimuli are independently controlled. Given that humans become visible to mosquitoes at a distance of 5-15 m [16], visual cues play a critical intermediate role in host localization by coupling long-range plume tracking to behaviors that require short-range cues. Rather than direct neural coupling, the separate sensory-motor reflexes are linked as a result of the interaction between the animal’s reactions and the spatial structure of the stimuli in the environment.

Concepts: Nervous system, Natural environment, Heat, The Animals, Force, Tracking, Tracking system, Plume


Most of the current ash transport and dispersion models neglect particle-fluid (two-way) and particle-fluid plus particle-particle (four-way) reciprocal interactions during particle fallout from volcanic plumes. These interactions, a function of particle concentration in the plume, could play an important role, explaining, for example, discrepancies between observed and modelled ash deposits. Aiming at a more accurate prediction of volcanic ash dispersal and sedimentation, the settling of ash particles at particle volume fractions (ϕp) ranging 10(-7)-10(-3) was performed in laboratory experiments and reproduced by numerical simulations that take into account first the two-way and then the four-way coupling. Results show that the velocity of particles settling together can exceed the velocity of particles settling individually by up to 4 times for ϕp ~ 10(-3). Comparisons between experimental and simulation results reveal that, during the sedimentation process, the settling velocity is largely enhanced by particle-fluid interactions but partly hindered by particle-particle interactions with increasing ϕp. Combining the experimental and numerical results, we provide an empirical model allowing correction of the settling velocity of particles of any size, density, and shape, as a function of ϕp. These corrections will impact volcanic plume modelling results as well as remote sensing retrieval techniques for plume parameters.

Concepts: Scientific method, Experiment, Hypothesis, Model, Part, Volcano, Fraction, Plume


High-speed laser imaging (HSLI) is the preferred technique to characterize the geometry of the plume in pressurized metered dose inhalers (pMDIs). However, current methods do not allow for simulation of inhalation airflow and do not use drug mass quantification to determine plume angles. To address these limitations, a Plume Induction Port Evaluator (PIPE) was designed to characterize the plume geometry based on mass deposition patterns. The method is easily adaptable to current pMDI characterization methodologies, uses similar calculations methods, and can be used under airflow. The effect of airflow and formulation on the plume geometry were evaluated using PIPE and HSLI. Deposition patterns in PIPE were highly reproducible and log-normal distributed. Mass Median Plume Angle (MMPA) was a new characterization parameter to describe the effective angle of the droplets deposited in the induction port. Plume angles determined by mass showed a significant decrease in size as ethanol increases which correlates to the decrease on vapor pressure in the formulation. Additionally, airflow significantly decreased the angle of the plumes when cascade impactor was operated under flow. PIPE is an alternative to laser-based characterization methods to evaluate the plume angle of pMDIs based on reliable drug quantification while simulating patient inhalation.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Effectiveness, Pressure, Angle, Vapor pressure, Partial pressure, Plume


Many studies indicate that small-scale heterogeneity and/or mobile-immobile mass exchange produce transient non-Fickian plume behavior that is not well captured by the use of the standard, deterministic advection-dispersion equation (ADE). An extended ADE modeling framework is presented here that is based on continuous time random walk (CTRW) theory. It can be used to characterize non-Fickian transport coupled with simultaneous sequential first-order reactions (e.g. biodegradation or radioactive decay) for multiple degrading contaminants such as chlorinated solvents, RDX, pesticides, and radionuclides. To demonstrate this modeling framework, new transient analytical solutions are derived and are inverted in Laplace space. Closed-form, steady-state, multi-species analytical solutions are also derived for non-Fickian transport in highly heterogeneous aquifers with linear sorption-desorption and matrix diffusion for use in spreadsheets. The solutions are general enough to allow different degradation rates for the mobile and immobile zones. The transient solutions for multi-species transport are applied to examine the effects of source remediation on the natural attenuation of downgradient plumes of both parent and degradation products in highly heterogeneous aquifers. Results for representative settings show that the use of the standard, deterministic ADE can over-estimate cleanup rates and under-predict the cleanup timeframe in comparison to the extended ADE analytical model. The modeling framework and calculations introduced here are also applied for a 30 year groundwater cleanup program at a site in Palm Bay, Florida. The simulated plume concentrations using the extended ADE exhibited agreement with observed long concentration tails of TCE, cis 1,2 DCE and VC that remained above cleanup goals.

Concepts: Concentration, Radioactive decay, Diffusion, Heterogeneity, Attenuation, Solution, Radionuclide, Plume


Sequestered mass in low permeability zones has been increasingly recognized as an important source of organic chemical contamination that acts to sustain downgradient plume concentrations above regulated levels. However, few modeling studies have investigated the influence of this sequestered mass and associated (coupled) mass transfer processes on plume persistence in complex dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) source zones. This paper employs a multiphase flow and transport simulator (a modified version of the modular transport simulator MT3DMS) to explore the two- and three-dimensional evolution of source zone mass distribution and near-source plume persistence for two ensembles of highly heterogeneous DNAPL source zone realizations. Simulations reveal the strong influence of subsurface heterogeneity on the complexity of DNAPL and sequestered (immobile/sorbed) mass distribution. Small zones of entrapped DNAPL are shown to serve as a persistent source of low concentration plumes, difficult to distinguish from other (sorbed and immobile dissolved) sequestered mass sources. Results suggest that the presence of DNAPL tends to control plume longevity in the near-source area; for the examined scenarios, a substantial fraction (43.3-99.2%) of plume life was sustained by DNAPL dissolution processes. The presence of sorptive media and the extent of sorption non-ideality are shown to greatly affect predictions of near-source plume persistence following DNAPL depletion, with plume persistence varying one to two orders of magnitude with the selected sorption model. Results demonstrate the importance of sorption-controlled back diffusion from low permeability zones and reveal the importance of selecting the appropriate sorption model for accurate prediction of plume longevity. Large discrepancies for both DNAPL depletion time and plume longevity were observed between 2-D and 3-D model simulations. Differences between 2- and 3-D predictions increased in the presence of sorption, especially for the case of non-ideal sorption, demonstrating the limitations of employing 2-D predictions for field-scale modeling.

Concepts: Concentration, Chemistry, Diffusion, Computer graphics, 3D computer graphics, Zone, Mass transfer, Plume


Precise delineation of contaminant plume distribution is essential for effective remediation of contaminated sites. Traditional in situ investigation methods like direct-push (DP) sampling are accurate, but are usually intrusive and costly. Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) method, as a non-invasive geophysical technique to map spatiotemporal changes in resistivity of the subsurface, is becoming increasingly popular in environmental science. However, the resolution of ERT for delineation of contaminant plumes still remains controversial. In this study, ERT and DP technique were both conducted at a real inorganic contaminated site. The reliability of the ERT method was validated by the direct comparisons of their investigation results that the resistivity acquired by ERT method is in accordance with the total dissolved solid concentration in groundwater and the overall variation of the total iron content in soil obtained by DP technique. After testifying the applicability of ERT method for contaminant identification, the extension of contaminant plume at the study site was revealed by supplementary ERT surveys conducted subsequently in the surrounding area of the contaminant source zone.

Concepts: Comparison, Environmental remediation, Accuracy and precision, In situ, Comparisons, Resistivity, Plume, Electrical resistivity tomography


It is evident based on historical data that groundwater contaminant plumes persist at many sites, requiring costly long-term management. High-resolution site-characterization methods are needed to support accurate risk assessments and to select, design, and operate effective remediation operations. Most subsurface characterization methods are generally limited in their ability to provide unambiguous, real-time delineation of specific processes affecting mass-transfer, transformation, and mass removal, and accurate estimation of associated rates. An integrated contaminant elution and tracer test toolkit, comprising a set of local-scale groundwater extraction-and injection tests, was developed to ameliorate the primary limitations associated with standard characterization methods. The test employs extended groundwater extraction to stress the system and induce hydraulic and concentration gradients. Clean water can be injected, which removes the resident aqueous contaminant mass present in the higher-permeability zones and isolates the test zone from the surrounding plume. This ensures that the concentrations and fluxes measured within the isolated area are directly and predominantly influenced by the local mass-transfer and transformation processes controlling mass removal. A suite of standard and novel tracers can be used to delineate specific mass-transfer and attenuation processes that are active at a given site, and to quantify the associated mass-transfer and transformation rates. The conceptual basis for the test is first presented, followed by an illustrative application based on simulations produced with a 3-D mathematical model and a brief case study application.

Concepts: Measurement, Concentration, Plume


Flying insects routinely forage in complex and cluttered sensory environments. Their search for a food or a pheromone source typically begins with a whiff of odor, which triggers a flight response, eventually bringing the insect near the odor source. However, pinpointing the precise location of an odor source requires use of both visual and olfactory modalities, aided by odor plumes. Here, we investigated odor-tracking behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) presented with low- or high-contrast visual landmarks, either paired with or separate from an attractive odor cue. These experiments were conducted either in a gentle air stream which generated laminar odor plumes, or in still air in which odor dissipates uniformly in all directions. Trajectories of flies revealed several novel features of their odor-tracking behavior in addition to those previously documented. First, in both moving and still air, odor-seeking flies rely on co-occurrence of visual landmarks with olfactory cues to guide them to odorant objects. Second, flies abruptly decelerate upon encountering an odor plume, thereafter steering towards nearest visual objects that had no inherent salience in the absence of odor. Thus, interception of an attractive odor increases their salience to nearby high-contrast visual landmarks. Third, flies adopt distinct odor tracking strategies during flight in moving vs. still air. Whereas they weave in and out of plumes towards an odor source in airflow, their approach is more incremental in still air. Both strategies are robust and flexible, and enable flies to reliably find odor sources under diverse visual and airflow environments.

Concepts: Insect, Olfaction, Odor, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Flight, Plume


Sulfolane, a water-soluble organosulfur compound, is used industrially worldwide and is associated with one of the largest contaminated groundwater plumes in the state of Alaska. Despite being widely used, little is understood about the degradation of sulfolane in the environment, especially in cold regions. We conducted aerobic and anaerobic microcosm studies to assess the biological and abiotic sulfolane degradation potential of contaminated subarctic aquifer groundwater and sediment from Interior Alaska. We also investigated the impacts of nutrient limitations and hydrocarbon co-contamination on sulfolane degradation. We found that sulfolane underwent biodegradation aerobically but not anaerobically under nitrate, sulfate, or iron-reducing conditions. No abiotic degradation activity was detectable under either oxic or anoxic conditions. Nutrient addition stimulated sulfolane biodegradation in sediment slurries at high sulfolane concentrations (100 mg L-1), but not at low sulfolane concentrations (500 μg L-1), and nutrient amendments were necessary to stimulate sulfolane biodegradation in incubations containing groundwater only. Hydrocarbon co-contamination retarded aerobic sulfolane biodegradation rates by ~30%. Our study is the first to investigate the sulfolane biodegradation potential of subarctic aquifer substrate and identifies several important factors limiting biodegradation rates. We concluded that oxygen is an important factor limiting natural attenuation of this sulfolane plume, and that nutrient amendments are unlikely to accelerate biodegradation within in the plume, although they may biostimulate degradation in ex situ groundwater treatment applications. Future work should be directed at elucidating the identity of indigenous sulfolane-degrading microorganisms and determining their distribution and potential activity in the environment.

Concepts: Water, Ecology, Natural environment, Water pollution, Anaerobic digestion, Alaska, Environmental science, Plume