This paper describes the application of an innovative procedure that allows the estimation of longitudinal and transverse dispersivities in an experimental plume devised in a laboratory sandbox. The phenomenon of transport in porous media is studied using sodium fluorescein as tracer. The fluorescent excitation was achieved by using blue light and the concentration data were obtained through the processing of side wall images collected with a high resolution color digital camera. After a calibration process, the relationship between the luminosity of the emitted fluorescence and the fluorescein concentration was determined at each point of the sandbox. The relationships were used to describe the evolution of the transport process quantitatively throughout the entire domain. Some check tests were performed in order to verify the reliability of the experimental device. Numerical flow and transport models of the sandbox were developed and calibrated comparing computed and observed flow rates and breakthrough curves. The estimation of the dispersivity coefficients was carried out by analyzing the concentration field deduced from the images collected during the experiments; the dispersivity coefficients were evaluated in the domain zones where the tracer affected the porous medium under the hypothesis that the transport phenomenon is described by advection-dispersion equation (ADE) and by computing the differential components of the concentration by means of a numerical leap-frog scheme. The values determined agree with the ones referred in literature for similar media and with the coefficients obtained by calibrating the numerical model. Very interesting considerations have been made from the analysis of the performance of the methodology at different locations in the flow domain and phases of the plume evolution.
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