Mathematician helps engineers cope with pollution

A Dutch mathematician has developed a model which could help engineers work out whether clouds of pollution in groundwater are going to get bigger or smaller.

Phil Ham, from the University of Utrecht, has worked out a way of using mathematical expressions to calculate the size of a plume of polluted water and whether it is likely to disperse on its own given its surroundings.

He told edie how the modelling system improved on the calculations that engineers usually use. “Existing methods used a superposition method to form solutions, but the new solution gives one explicit formula for predicting plume lengths and concentrations at a given point.

Better still, in most practical cases a simple algebraic expression can be used to obtain maximum plume lengths, which most engineers are interested in. This is very quick to use.”

The model has been tested on a plume of BTEX, or benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xzylene pollution in Perth, Australia.

Mr Ham said that while he was able to make accurate predictions using his system, the site was “straightforward”.

But engineers wishing to take advantage of his work may have a long wait. He said: “There are no plans to make the model commercially available.

“There are many commercial and non-commercial packages already out there, but care needs to be taken by those who use them that they know what those models do.”

Jess McCabe

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