Laboratory measurement of hydraulic conductivity functions of two unsaturated sandy soils during drying and wetting processes

Chaminda Pathma Kumara Gallage, Jayantha Kumarasiri Kodikara, Taro Uchimura

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98 Citations (Scopus)


The importance of applying unsaturated soil mechanics to geotechnical engineering design has been well understood. However, the consumption of time and the necessity for a specific laboratory testing apparatus when measuring unsaturated soil properties have limited the application of unsaturated soil mechanics theories in practice. Although methods for predicting unsaturated soil properties have been developed, the verification of these methods for a wide range of soil types is required in order to increase the confidence of practicing engineers in using these methods. In this study, a new permeameter was developed to measure the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils using the steady-state method and directly measured suction (negative pore-water pressure) values. The apparatus is instrumented with two tensiometers for the direct measurement of suction during the tests. The apparatus can be used to obtain the hydraulic conductivity function of sandy soil over a low suction range (0-10 kPa). Firstly, the repeatability of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity measurement, using the new permeameter, was verified by conducting tests on two identical sandy soil specimens and obtaining similar results. The hydraulic conductivity functions of the two sandy soils were then measured during the drying and wetting processes of the soils. A significant hysteresis was observed when the hydraulic conductivity was plotted against the suction. However, the hysteresis effects were not apparent when the conductivity was plotted against the volumetric water content. Furthermore, the measured unsaturated hydraulic conductivity functions were compared with predictions using three different predictive methods that are widely incorporated into numerical software. The results suggest that these predictive methods are capable of capturing the measured behavior with reasonable agreement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417 - 430
Number of pages14
JournalSoils and Foundations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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