Effect of surfactant surface and interfacial tension reduction on infiltration into hydrophobic porous media

Felix A. Ogunmokun, Rony Wallach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Surfactant molecules increase the infiltration rate into hydrophobic porous media by lowering the infiltrating water's surface tension and the interfacial tension between hydrophobic surfaces and water molecules. We investigated the relative effect of these rate-limiting processes on the infiltration rate of aqueous surfactant solution into hydrophobic porous media. Two surfactants at various concentrations were applied at a constant pressure head to 1D columns filled with hydrophobic soil, and water was applied at the same pressure head to columns filled with surfactant-pretreated hydrophobic soil. Based on the measured contact angle, surfactant pretreatment significantly reduced the hydrophobic soil's interfacial surface tension, which increased the infiltration rate compared to the direct aqueous surfactant application to the hydrophobic soil. The latter's slower infiltration rate was attributed to the depletion of surfactant molecules due to its adsorption to the hydrophobic molecules near the advancing wetting front, yielding an increase in the surface tension of the infiltrating solution. Surfactant pretreatment increased the opportunity time for surfactant adsorption to the hydrophobic molecules, resulting in interfacial tension reduction and infiltration rate increase. Diffusion-limited surfactant adsorption on the hydrophobic surfaces, leading to reduced interfacial tension between the surface and infiltrating liquid, had a greater impact on limiting infiltration into hydrophobic porous media compared to the reduction in surface tension of the infiltrating liquid due to surfactant presence.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number116735
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Dynamic contact angle
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Infiltration
  • Interfacial tension
  • Porous media
  • Surface tension
  • Surfactants
  • Viscosity


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