Year of Publication

2001

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Soil Science

First Advisor

Edmund Perfect

Abstract

Fractals are a relatively recent development in mathematics that show promise as a foundation for models of complex systems like natural porous media. One important issue that has not been thoroughly explored is the affect of different algorithms commonly used to generate random fractal porous media on their properties and processes within them. The heterogeneous method can lead to large, uncontrolled variations in porosity. It is proposed that use of the homogeneous algorithm might lead to more reproducible applications. Computer codes that will make it easier for researchers to experiment with fractal models are provided. In Chapter 2, the application of percolation theory and fractal modeling to porous media are combined to investigate percolation in prefractal porous media. Percolation thresholds are estimated for the pore space of homogeneous random 2-dimensional prefractals as a function of the fractal scale invariance ratio b and iteration level i. Percolation in prefractals occurs through large pores connected by small pores. The thresholds increased beyond the 0.5927 porosity expected in Bernoulli (uncorrelated) networks. The thresholds increase with both b (a finite size effect) and i. The results allow the prediction of the onset of percolation in models of prefractal porous media. Only a limited range of parameters has been explored, but extrapolations allow the critical fractal dimension to be estimated for many b and i values. Extrapolation to infinite iterations suggests there may be a critical fractal dimension of the solid at which the pore space percolates. The extrapolated value is close to 1.89 -- the well-known fractal dimension of percolation clusters in 2-dimensional Bernoulli networks. The results of Chapters 1 and 2 are synthesized in an application to soil water retention in Chapter 3.

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