Determination of diffusion coefficient through laboratory tests and analytically validating it using empirical relations for unsaturated soils



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Texas A&M University


Soil suction is one of the most important physical variables affecting the soil engineering behavior, moisture content. Suction has a major controlling influence on soil shear strength. The moisture diffusivity properties of unsaturated properties of soils exert a critical influence on the depth to which seasonal variations of moisture and suction at the ground surface extend into the soil mass. Hence, a study of moisture diffusion coefficient is pivotal. In this research the drying test originally proposed by Mitchell (1979) has been validated by back calculating the moisture diffusion values using the empirical relation established by Lytton (2003). The non-linear flow through unsaturated soils has been simplified to a linear problem for simplicity in this study. Owing to this simplification, certain refinements have therefore been applied in the determination of diffusion coefficient. Thermocouple psychrometer was used to measure the soil suction along the length of the sample and at different times in the laboratory. Initial suction measurements were done using the filter paper test. Curve fitting procedure established by (Aubeny and Lytton, 2003), has been used for the determination of the diffusion coefficient. Analytical validation of the moisture diffusion coefficient, required coefficient of permeability, ??k??, slope of suction water characteristic curve ??S?? and air entry value ??ho?? as the major input parameters. Mitchell (1979) assumed the value of ??ho?? to be 100 cm. In this research air entry value, ??ho?? has been re-evaluated and it comes out to be higher than the pre estimated value. The value of slope of suction water characteristic curve, ??S?? obtained from pressure plate tests, compares well to the empirical equation of Lytton (2003). The results of moisture diffusion coefficient obtained from the empirical equation come out in the same range as obtained from the refined Mitchell??s (1979) drying test. The refinements includes introduction of constant temperature environment. Owing to the least variation in temperature, more reliable and reproducible data was obtained. The range of moisture diffusion coefficient, ??-values obtained from empirical equation, comes out to be coherent with the laboratory data. Hence, it can be concluded that the research was successful.