Rock and Soil Mechanics ›› 2021, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (6): 1549-1556.doi: 10.16285/j.rsm.2020.6427

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Water retention curve model based on micro-pore filling and capillary condensation theories

LIU Zhang-rong1, YE Wei-min1, 2, CUI Yu-jun3, ZHU He-hua1, 2, WANG Qiong1, 2, CHEN Yong-gui1, 2   

  1. 1. Department of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China 2. Key Laboratory of Geotechnical and Underground Engineering of Ministry of Education, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China 3. Laboratoire Navier, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Paris 77455, France
  • Online:2021-06-11 Published:2021-10-22
  • Contact: YE Wei-min, male, born in 1963, PhD, Professor, Doctoral supervisor, research interests: environmental geology, unsaturated soil mechanics. E-mail: E-mail:
  • About author: LIU Zhang-rong, male, born in 1990, PhD, Postdoctor, mainly engaged in unsaturated soil mechanics and engineering geology research.
  • Supported by:
    the National Key R&D Program of China(2019YFC1509900), the National Natural Science Foundation of China(42002291, 42030714, 41807237) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2020M671217).

Abstract: Water retention curve (WRC) is an important tool to study the hydraulic and mechanical properties of unsaturated soils, such as permeability, strength and deformation properties. Most of the existing WRC models fail to reflect the water retention mechanisms of unsaturated soils or they are complex in form, and these models are hard to give good performance on modelling the bimodal and multimodal WRCs. In this study, based on analyzing the water retention mechanisms of unsaturated soils, the WRC was divided into two domains that are governed by adsorption and capillary mechanisms, respectively. An adsorption water retention curve model (WRCM) was developed based on micro-pore filling theory and Kelvin’s law. A capillary WRCM was established based on the capillary condensation theory and Young-Laplace equation. Then, a new water retention curve model over the full suction range was built by superposing the adsorption and capillary WRCMs. Finally, the new model was validated through modelling the experimentally measured WRCs of six representative unsaturated soils, including Shanghai soft clay, Xi’an loess, Nanyang expansive soil, Guilin lateritic clay, Western Liaoning aeolian soil and Inner Mongolia Gaomiaozi (GMZ) bentonite. Results showed that the proposed model, which was simple in form with definite physical meaning parameters and successfully reflected the adsorption and capillary mechanisms of water retention, was able to simulate WRCs with different shapes for different types of soils under different conditions.

Key words: unsaturated soils, water retention curve (WRC), micro-pore filling, capillary condensation, water retention model