Dylan Childs, “The Milwaukee Column: A Simple, Affordable, and Effective Apparatus for Teaching and Research of One-Dimensional Flow and Transport in Porous Media”
Mentors: Charles Paradis, Adam Schmidt, and Maxwell Morgan, Geosciences
How groundwater travels and interacts with porous media is an imperative concept taught in any hydrogeology related field. This relationship is important for understanding how long it takes for water, or pollutants in the water, to travel underground. Public and private interests often use this information to locate and treat polluted water, quantify water yields, and assess how much groundwater wells can provide for service. When teaching students about the relationship between groundwater and porous media, running a lab experiment to visualize these concepts often involves the acquisition of equipment and machinery that can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. The goal of this research project is to design a simplified, affordable water column kit that costs no more than $100 to allow for easier and more readily available access to hydrogeology experiments and education. This kit will be able to replicate a one-dimensional flow and transport experiment with precision and accuracy. The experiment involves the use of deionized water and two tracers (dye and potassium chloride) flowing through a column filled with granular porous media at a steady state. The dye helps visually trace the flow and as the solution exits the column, samples are taken to measure the change in concentration of potassium chloride over time. Data of the percent concentration over time is used to generate a breakthrough curve and mean residence time. Prototypes of this column have been developed and current research is on down-scaling the equipment, increasing visualization, and developing a simple graphical user interface (GUI) to analytically model the data. The final version of this design will encourage hydrogeology labs abroad to construct the Milwaukee Column for improved teaching and experimental methods.