The transport, retention, and release of hydrophobic and hydrophilic polystyrene latex microsphere colloids were examined in 0.5-cm-thick, 26-cm-long slab chambers filled with either regular (hydrophilic) or weakly water-repellent sand. The water-repellent sand consisted of a mixture of 0.4% strongly water-repellent grains with unmodified regular sand for the remainder. The concentration of colloids in the outflow water was measured at the same time as the pore-scale distribution of colloids was recorded in still and video images. Although the type of sand affected the flow pattern in the top of the chamber, it did not affect the breakthrough for the same type of colloids. More hydrophilic colloids were eluted in the drainage water than hydrophobic colloids. Images showed that there was a greater retention of the hydrophobic colloids due to strongly attractive hydrophobic interaction forces between colloids and subsequent filtering of colloidal aggregates in the narrow passages between grains. Once filtered, these aggregates then served as preferred sites for attachment of other hydrophobic colloids. The hydrophilic colloids were retained primarily in a thin film of water at the edge of the menisci, the air–water–solid (AWS) interface. Centrifugal motion within the pendular rings observed in the videos contributed to movement of the colloids toward the AWS interface, where colloids were retained due to both low laminar flow velocities near the grain surface and straining in the thin water film at the edge of the meniscus. Except near the solid interface, sorption at the air–water (AW) interface was not observed and appeared unimportant to the retention of colloids. The findings form an essential link between colloid retention and transport processes at the interfacial, pore, and Darcy scales.

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