The distribution of saturated clusters in wetted granular materials
1 School of Civil Engineering, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
2 Institute for Materials Science and Technology, TU Berlin, Berlin, Germany
* Corresponding author: email@example.com
Published online: 30 June 2017
The hydro-mechanical behaviour of partially saturated granular materials is greatly influenced by the spatial and temporal distribution of liquid within the media. The aim of this paper is to characterise the distribution of saturated clusters in granular materials using an optical imaging method under different water drainage conditions. A saturated cluster is formed when a liquid phase fully occupies the pore space between solid grains in a localized region. The samples considered here were prepared by vibrating mono-sized glass beads to form closely packed assemblies in a rectangular container. A range of drainage conditions were applied to the specimen by tilting the container and employing different flow rates, and the liquid pressure was recorded at different positions in the experimental cell. The formation of saturated clusters during the liquid withdrawal processes is governed by three competing mechanisms arising from viscous, capillary, and gravitational forces. When the flow rate is sufficiently large and the gravity component is sufficiently small, the viscous force tends to destabilize the liquid front leading to the formation of narrow fingers of saturated material. As the water channels along these liquid fingers break, saturated clusters are formed inside the specimen. Subsequently, a spatial and temporal distribution of saturated clusters can be observed. We investigated the resulting saturated cluster distribution as a function of flow rate and gravity to achieve a fundamental understanding of the formation and evolution of such clusters in partially saturated granular materials. This study serves as a bridge between pore-scale behavior and the overall hydro-mechanical characteristics in partially saturated soils.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2017
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