Motional modes of dilatational waves in elastic porous media containing two immiscible fluids

Wei Cheng Lo, Garrison Sposito, Ernest Majer, Chao Lung Yeh

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Numerical simulations of dilatational waves in an elastic porous medium containing two immiscible viscous compressible fluids indicate that three types of wave occur, but the modes of dilatory motion corresponding to the three waves remain uncharacterized as functions of relative saturation. In the present paper, we address this problem by deriving normal coordinates for the three dilatational waves based on the general poroelasticity equations of Lo et al. 2005 [13]. The normal coordinates provide a theoretical foundation with which to characterize the motional modes in terms of six connecting coefficients that depend in a well defined way on inertial drag, viscous drag, and elasticity properties. Using numerical calculations of the connecting coefficients in the seismic frequency range for an unconsolidated sand containing water and air as a representative example relevant to hydrologic applications, we confirm that the dilatational wave whose speed is greatest corresponds to the motional mode in which the solid framework and the two pore fluids always move in phase, regardless of water saturation, in agreement with the classic Biot theory of the fast compressional wave in a water-saturated porous medium. For the wave which propagates second fastest, we show, apparently for the first time, that the solid framework moves in phase with water, but out of phase with air [Mode (III)], if the water saturation is below about 0.8, whereas the solid framework moves out of phase with both pore fluids [Mode (IV)] above this water saturation. The transition from Mode (III) to Mode (IV) corresponds to that between the capillarity-dominated region of the water retention curve and the region reflecting air-entry conditions near full water saturation. The second of the two modes corresponds exactly to the slow compressional wave in classic Biot theory, whereas the first mode is possible only in a two-fluid system undergoing capillary pressure fluctuations. For the wave which has the smallest speed, the dilatational mode is dominated by the motions of the two pore fluids, which are always out of phase, a result that is consistent with the proposition that this wave is caused by capillary pressure fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Mar

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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