An Experimental Study on Soil Water Characteristics and Hydraulic Conductivity of Compacted Soils

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Virginia Tech

The importance of applying unsaturated soil mechanics concepts to geotechnical engineering design has been widely recognized. Soil water characteristic curve (SWCC) and hydraulic conductivity function (HCF) are vital soil properties that govern engineering behavior of unsaturated soils. In this study, a transient water release and imbibitions method (TRIM) is used to measure the SWCC and HCF under drying and wetting states, which accommodates integrated experimental and modeling techniques. The results of saturated hydraulic conductivity tests through flexible wall method are then used as input parameters for simulating experimental data. In general, the model provides a satisfactory fit to experimental data.

Soil water characteristic curves (SWCCs) and hydraulic conductivity functions (HCFs) are presented for a variety of soils that were prepared at different molding water contents and compactive efforts. The influences of dry density, molding water content, and hysteresis have been investigated. Dry density affects soil-water characteristic in terms of its air-entry value (AEV), rate of drying, and size of the hysteresis loop. The test results indicate that the SWCC and HCF obtained in terms of volumetric water content is more sensitive to the changes in dry density than molding water content. Based on cohesive soil results, some statistical relations are proposed to estimate wetting-path SWCC and HCF parameters from more easily measured drying curves. Changes in the van Genuchten's fitting parameters and residual volumetric water content are investigated for both drying and wetting conditions, with changes in the kaolin clay content.

compacted soils, unsaturated soil mechanics, soil-water characteristic curve, hydraulic conductivity function, transient analysis, hysteresis