• Open Access

Unified water isotherms for clayey porous materials


  • A. Revil,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, USA
    2. ISTerre, CNRS, UMR 5559, Université de Savoie, France
    • Corresponding author: A. Revil, Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geophysics, Green Center, 1500 Illinois St., Golden, CO 80401, USA. (arevil@mines.edu)

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  • N. Lu

    1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, USA
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[1] We provide a unified model for the soil-water retention function, including the effect of bound and capillary waters for all types of soils, including clayey media. The model combines a CEC-normalized isotherm describing the sorption of the bound water (and the filling of the trapped porosity) and the van Genuchten model to describe the capillary water sorption retention but ignore capillary condensation. For the CEC-normalized isotherm, we tested both the BET and Freundlich isotherms, and we found that the Freundlich is more suitable than the BET isotherm in fitting the data. It is also easier to combine the Freundlich isotherm with the van Genuchten model. The new model accounts for (1) the different types of clay minerals, (2) the different types of ions sorbed in the Stern layer and on the basal planes of 2:1 clays, and (3) the pore size distribution. The model is validated with different data sets, including mixtures of kaolinite and bentonite. The model parameters include two exponents (the pore size exponent of the van Genuchten model and the exponent of the Freundlich isotherm), the capillary entry pressure, and two critical water contents. The first critical water content is the water content at saturation (porosity), and the second is the maximum water content associated with adsorption forces, including the trapped nonbound water.