ASTM International

Temperature Dependence of Soil Water Potential

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Courtesy of ASTM International

To understand the process of coupled heat and water transport, the relationship between temperature and soil water potential must be known. Two clays, Avonlea bentonite and Lake Agassiz clay, are being considered as the clay-based sealing materials for the Canadian nuclear fuel waste disposal vault. Avonlea bentonite is distinguished from Lake Agassiz clay by its high sealing potential in water. A series of experiments was performed in which the two clays were mixed with equal amounts of sand and were compacted to a dry density of 1.67 Mg/m3 under various moisture contents and temperatures. A psychrometer was placed within the compacted clay-sand to measure the soil water potential based on the electromotive force measured by the psychrometer. The results indicate that the soil water potential at a particular temperature is higher for both clay-sand mixtures than predicted by the change in the surface tension of water; this effect is much more prominent in the Avonlea bentonite and at low moisture contents. The paper presents empirical equations relating the soil water potential with the moisture content and temperature of the two clay-sand mixtures.

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