Earth Sciences Division Staff: Jiamin Wan
My graduate school education was in geochemistry and hydrology. Since graduation, I have been working in the Earth Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, specializing in aspects of geochemistry and multiphase flow and transport in soils and subsurface porous media. To pursue the DOE’s evolving priorities, I have broadened my capabilities into several areas of environment and energy research over the course of my LBNL career. I have been the lead principal investigator for many projects over the past two decades, obtaining my funding through competitive peer-reviewed processes. My research is motivated by the needs to conduct innovative studies in order to gain new understanding for solving environmental and energy problems.
My research involves four main areas:
Colloidal/surface hydro-geochemistry and multiphase flow. I have been investigating fundamental aspects of inorganic and organic natural colloids and manufactured nanoparticles, including their stability, sorption, partitioning among phases, mobility in subsurface in relation to water films and multiphase fluid flow.
My most significant contributions: (often-cited papers)
(i) Revealed the preferential and irreversible partitioning of colloids onto air-water interfaces, and its impacts on contaminant fate and transport. This work is regarded as the first of its kind in the field (Wan and Wilson WRR 1994 a,b; Wan et al., Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 1994).
(ii) Developed the film straining model to mechanistically predict colloid transport in the vadose zone (Wan and Tokunaga, ES&T 1997).
(iii) Developed a method to directly measure partitioning coefficients of inorganic colloids at air-water interfaces (Wan and Tokunaga, J. Colloid Interface Sci. 2002).
(iv) Developed improvements on micromodel methods for pore-scale multiphase flow and transport studies (Wan et al., WRR 1995).
(v) Identified sedimentation as a basic transport mechanism influencing bacterial distributions in the subsurface, and measured bacterial sedimentation rates (Wan et al., WRR 1995).
Contaminant biogeochemistry and plume remediation. I study fundamental and applied aspects of contaminants in subsurface waste plumes, including reactions, transport, and remediation, of U, Cr, and I129, in the DOE’s Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River Sites. Field, laboratory, and modeling studies were carried out at plume- to nano-scales.
My most significant contributions in this area:
(i) With my research group, we were the first to challenge the then a popular view that uranium (U) bioreduction would become a useful bioremediation technology. Through a long-term laboratory study my group demonstrated that U waste plume remediation through stimulated bioreduction is transient and unsustainable. This work (Wan et al., ES&T, 2005) has had large impact in the field of bioremediation research and development, and helped direct the DOE’s bioremediation effort toward more practical solutions.
(ii) Discovered why U(VI) sorption is very weak in sediments containing calcite. The diminished sorption of U(VI) in calcite-containing sediments was unrecognized until our study that showed how calcareous sediments maintain high levels of aqueous phase Ca(UO2)2(CO3)3, even in the presence of otherwise strongly sorbing surfaces. This work (Zheng et al., ES&T, 2003) has helped explain the limited U sorption-attenuation capacity of calcium carbonate-containing sediments in environments as diverse as Hanford (WA), Oak Ridge (TN), and Rifle (CO).
(iii) A sustainable remediation method was not previously developed, especially for the acidic uranium plumes (common in DOE’s legacy weapons facilities). I discovered that naturally abundant humic substances could be used to immobilize uranium in acidic groundwater plumes very efficiently. This work (Wan et al., ES&T, 2011) has recently received interest by the DOE Environment Management, and a field test of this method is being considered at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This work was funded by the ESD/SFA/EPO.
(iv) At the Savannah River Site’s F-Area, the seepage basins (source of the radionuclide plume) were closed and capped in 1991. When my group was assigned to study the F-Area plume in 2008 under the LBNL/SFA, we identified two important knowledge gaps: (1) the impact of continued discharge from the source zone, and (2) the nature of the plume’s trailing edge. After 3 years’ work, Our SFA team addressed these questions. Our findings provide new understanding needed to help the DOE/EM justify reliance on natural attenuation for managing this site (Wan et al., ES&T, 2012; Tokunaga et al., Vadose Zone J. 2012).
Soil C and N transport and transformations, and their impacts on C cycling: Soil C and N transport and transformations, and their impacts on C cycling: This is a research area I have been gaining experience in, and will be one of my main research areas starting in 2013 under the LBNL/SFA.
Using scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) and near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy, we were able to directly quantify the major mineral elemental compositions (Si, Al, Ca, Fe, K, Ti) simultaneously with C distribution and speciation at the nm to µm scale from small intact soil microaggregates. This work (Wan et al., GCA, 2007) was technically innovative and others are now using our approach to quantify nanoscale chemical correlations.
Geological CO2 sequestration and enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Our recently built laboratory is equipped with novel capabilities for high-P/T microscopy-micromodels, measurements of wettability, interfacial tension, capillary pressure and saturation, and core flooding. Using this lab, I study interfacial phenomena related to CO2 storage, and foams/emulsions in enhanced oil recovery under reservoir-relevant conditions.
(i) We recorded the de-wetting processes of silica surfaces upon reactions with supercritical CO2, including water film thinning, water droplet formation, and contact angle increases within single pores through pore scale visualizations (Kim et al., ES&T, 2012). We measured equilibrium water contact angles on the silica surfaces under wide ranges of pressures and ionic strengths (0 to 5 M NaCl). These data and relationships are not previously available, and can be used to estimate brine contact angles on silica surfaces in GCS reservoirs (Jung and Wan, Energy and Fuels, 2012).
(ii) We’re developing a novel material used to increase the viscosity and control the mobility of supercritical CO2 for enhanced oil recovery and geological carbon sequestration (LBNL Invention Disclosure 2012, a patent application is in preparation). This finding has potential to significantly reduce the cost of CO2-EOR compared to using conventional surfactants.
- Ph.D., Hydrology, 1993, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, NM, USA.
- Ph.D. Candidate in Geochemistry, 1986-89, New Mexico Tech, NM, USA
- M.S., Geochemistry, 1984, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.
- B.S., Chemistry, 1981, Beijing University of Iron and Steel Technology, China.
- 1997- present: Staff scientist, Earth Science Division, LBNL.
- 1995 -1997: Scientist, Earth Science Division, LBNL.
- 1993 -1995: Post-doctoral research fellow, Earth Science Division, LBNL.
- 1984 -1986: Scientist, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.1989-93: Graduate research associate in Hydrology, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, NM
- 1986-89: Graduate research associate and Ph.D. candidate (passed the candidate exams in Geochemistry, then switched my major to Hydrology in 1989)
- 1984 -1986: Research Associate, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Awards and Honors
- “Outstanding Contributions in Geosciences Research” from U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Science, August 1998.
- The Langmuir Award, from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 1995.
- First place as "Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Water Resources” in Environmental and Biological Sciences, The Universities Council of Water Resources, 1993.
- Graduate Student Award, Division of Environmental Chemistry of Am. Chem. Soc. 1993.
- Graduate Student Paper Award, from the American Chemical Society, 1993.
Grant Awards (as lead PI) Through Peer-Reviewed Competitive Proposals
- 2008-2010, DOE – BER: Environmental impacts of engineered nano-materials.
- 2007-2009, DOE – ERSP: Hydrological and geochemical studies of alkaline plumes at the 200 Area the Hanford Site.
- 2004-2006, DOE – EMSP: Development of U waste plumes at the Hanford Site.
- 2004-2006, DOE – BES: Nanoparticles fate and transport in the subsurface.
- 2002-2004, DOE – NABIR: Coupled transport and bioreduction of U(VI) in sediments.
- 2001-2003, DOE – EMSP: Evolution of alkaline-saline waste plumes in the Hanford site
- 2001-2003, DOE – BES: Interfacial properties of colloids and nanoparticles in subsurface.
- 1999-2001, DOE – NABIR: Mesoscale biotransformation dynamics of Cr and U
- 1998-2000, DOE – BES: Unsaturated flow and colloid transport
- 1997-1999, DOE – EMSP: Sorption of organics and metals onto gas-water interfaces: implications on contaminant transport in vadose zone.
- 1995-1997, DOE – BES: Colloid transport in unsaturated porous media.