Volume 29, Issue 3 (May 2006)
Constant Flow Method for Concurrently Measuring Soil-Water Characteristic Curve and Hydraulic Conductivity Function
A constant-flow laboratory testing method (CFM) is presented for concurrently measuring the soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC) and hydraulic conductivity function (HCF) of unsaturated coarse-grained soils. Two computer-automated syringe pumps are employed to control the volumetric water content of a specimen and to periodically impose constant volumetric flow rates through the specimen, respectively. Hydraulic conductivity (k) corresponding to each water content increment is determined from Darcy's law by measuring the steady-state gradient induced by the applied constant flow. Matric suction is maintained by axis translation using elevated pore air pressure and high-air-entry ceramic disks. Diffused air bubbles are removed using unique passive bubble traps. SWCCs and HCFs are obtained for three sandy soil specimens, requiring about 25–35 days to obtain both functions for each soil. The range of the system is demonstrated for k from about 10−4 cm/s to 10−9 cm/s at corresponding matric suction between about 0 kPa (saturated) and 40 kPa. Results are validated by comparison with independent SWCC measurements obtained using Tempe cells and HCFs estimated using a statistical model.