Anisotropy and compositional and structural heterogeneity in clays are causes of considerable deviations from homogeneous diffusion, in particular in terms of direction-dependent transport rates and preferred transport zones. Conventional diffusion experiments, in which the sample is treated as a homogeneous black box in a concentration gradient, are interminable and insensitive to spatial effects. In contrast, tomographic imaging methods are capable of both reducing the amount of observation time required and revealing space-dependent features of the diffusion process.
In the present study, positron-emission-tomography (PET) was applied as the most sensitive quantitative spatiotemporal tomographic modality for direct observation of positron-emitting radiotracers in opaque media at reasonable resolution (1 mm) on a laboratory scale (100 mm).
Geoscientific applications of PET, or GeoPET, have revealed anisotropic and heterogeneous effects in diffusion experiments that have been conducted on Opalinus clay samples of different sizes, as well as on other rock types. Applying the Comsol Optimization Module to 2D-image sections of the PET tomograms, effective parameter values were derived, thereby quantifying the anisotropic diffusion.