Department Water Resources and Drinking Water

Subsurface Environmental Processes

The main objective of our research is to quantify the links between the physical heterogeneity of subsurface environments, including porous and fractured media, the heterogeneity of the resulting flow fields, and the effective transport behavior, including solute dispersion, mixing, and (bio-)chemical reactions. We tackle these problems using both experiments — performed over scales ranging from micro to field scale — and (numerical and theoretical) modelling. The environmental and industrial applications of our research include the study of the impact of climate change on groundwater resources, remediation of polluted sites, nuclear waste storage, geothermal energy, geological sequestration of CO2, recovery of hydrocarbons, and hydraulic fracturing.


Dr. Joaquin Jimenez-MartinezSubsurface Environmental Processes GroupTel. +41 58 765 5475Send Mail


Mixing and (bio-)reactive transport in porous and fractured media

Chemical reactions (reaction rates) in subsurface environments can be mixing- and/or kinetically-driven. Mixing is the process that bring reactants into contact with each other. The topology of the system, the heterogeneity in the flow field, the rheological properties of the fluids involved (i.e., viscosity and density), and the presence of partially-miscible or immiscible phases are some of the parameters controlling mixing and (bio-)reactivity. We study the competence between the mixing processes and the kinetic of the reactions involved on fluid-fluid, fluid-solid, and biologically-induced reactions in porous and fractured media. Mixing and (bio-)chemical reactions are relevant in many environmental (transport of nutrients, remediation of polluted sites, CO2 storage) and industrial (enhanced oil recovery, geothermal energy, filtration) applications.

Connectivity and stochastic hydrology

Stochastic hydrology traditionally takes only two-point statistics into account, which results in repetitive patterns lacking preferential structures. However, natural geological media exhibit such structures, which lead to preferential flow and transport pathways. We investigate how to parametrize these connected structures and how to quantify their influence on flow and transport processes.

The impact of climate change on groundwater resources

Recent projections based on coupled atmosphere–ocean General Circulation Models (GCMs) for future climate change forecast an increase of temperature and decrease of precipitation. Climate change projections also indicate an increased likelihood of drought and variability of extreme events, which may reduce available water resources. We study the expected impact of modification in the boundary conditions on the subsurface compartment of the hydrological cycle, including the unsaturated zone and aquifers.

Applied energy

Many subsurface flow and transport applications are related to energy production, like CO2 storage, nuclear waste disposal, enhanced oil recovery, hydraulic fracturing, or geothermal energy. These engineering operations take place deep in the subsurface where only limited direct information can be obtained, increasing the need for a better mechanistic understanding of the controlling processes. We investigate these processes, both experimentally and numerically, by upscaling medium heterogeneity in order to provide predictions at the scale of each application.

Laboratory and field scale experiments

Analogical experiments at different scales are essential to gain a full understanding of processes, and for the validation of hypotheses from numerical and theoretical models. Laboratory experiments include microfluidics and 3D imaging (confocal microscopy, X-ray tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging). We also conduct experiments at the field scale, employing hydraulic, flowmeter, and tracer tests.


Dr. Joaquin Jimenez-MartinezSubsurface Environmental Processes GroupTel. +41 58 765 5475Send Mail
Dr. Sandra PoolTel. +41 58 765 5324Send Mail
Dorothee KurzTel. +41 58 765 6804Send Mail
Ishaan Hari MarkaleTel. +41 58 765 6802Send Mail
Alon NissanTel. +41 58 765 5606Send Mail
Corinne BerensTel. +41 58 765 5354Send Mail