The relative contributions of four mechanisms of oxygen transport in multilayer composite (MLC) caps placed over oxygen-consuming mine waste were evaluated using numerical and analytical methods. MLC caps are defined here as caps consisting of earthen and geosynthetic (polymeric) components where a composite barrier layer consisting of a geomembrane (1-2 mm thick polymeric sheet) overlying a clay layer is the primary barrier to transport. The transport mechanisms that were considered are gas-phase advective transport, gas-phase diffusive transport, liquid-phase advective transport via infiltrating precipitation and liquid-phase diffusive transport. A numerical model was developed to simulate gas-phase advective-diffusive transport of oxygen through a multilayer cap containing seven layers. This model was also used to simulate oxygen diffusion in the liquid phase. An approximate analytical method was used to compute the advective flux of oxygen in the liquid phase. The numerical model was verified for limiting cases using an analytical solution. Comparisons were also made between model predictions and field data for earthen caps reported by others. Results of the analysis show that the dominant mechanism for oxygen transport through MLC caps is gas-phase diffusion. For the cases that were considered, the gas-phase diffusive flux typically comprises at least 99% of the total oxygen flux. Thus, designers of MLC caps should focus on design elements and features that will limit diffusion of gas-phase oxygen. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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