Mobility of Dissolved Gases in Smectites under Saturated Conditions: Effects of Pore Size, Gas Types, Temperature, and Surface Interaction

JP Owusu and K Karalis and NI Prasianakis and SV Churakov, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C, 126, 17441-17455 (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.2c05678

In a nuclear waste repository, the corrosion of metals and the degradation of the organic material in the waste matrix can generate significant amounts of gases. These gases should be able to migrate through the multibarrier system to prevent a potential pressure build-up that could lead to a loss of barrier integrity. Smectite mineral particles form a tortuous pore network consisting of larger interparticle pores and narrow interlayer pores between the platelets of the smectite minerals. These pores are normally saturated with water, so one of the most important mechanisms for the transport of gases is diffusion. The diffusion of gases through the interparticle porosity depends on the distribution of gas molecules in the water-rich phase, their self-diffusion coefficients, and the tortuosity of the pore space. Classical molecular dynamics simulations were applied to study the mobility of gases (CO2, H2, CH4, He, and Ar) in Na-montmorillonite (Na- MMT) under saturated conditions. The simulations were used to estimate the gas diffusion coefficient (D) in saturated Na-MMT as a function of nanopore size and temperature. The temperature dependence of the diffusion coefficient was expressed by the Arrhenius equation for the activation energy (Ea). The predicted D values of gases were found to be sensitive to the pore size as the D values gradually increase with increasing pore size and asymptotically converge to the gas diffusion coefficient in bulk water. This behavior is also observed in the self- diffusion coefficients of water in Na-MMT. In general, H2 and He exhibit higher D values than Ar, CO2, and CH4. The predicted Ea values indicate that the confinement affects the activation energy. This effect is due to the structuring of the water molecules near the clay surface, which is more pronounced in the first two layers of water near the surface and decreases thereafter. Atomic density profiles and radial distribution functions obtained from the simulations show that the interaction of the gas with the liquid and the clay surface influences mobility. The obtained diffusion coefficient for different gases and slit pore size were parameterized with a single empirical relationship, which can be applied to macroscopic simulations of gas transport.

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