Detailed characterization of partially saturated porous media is important for understanding and predicting vadose zone transport processes. While basic properties (e.g., particle- and pore-size distributions and soil-water retention) are, in general, essential prerequisites for characterizing most porous media transport properties, key transport parameters such as thermal conductivity and gas diffusivity are particularly important to describe temperature-induced heat transport and diffusion-controlled gas transport processes, respectively. Despite many experimental and numerical studies focusing on a specific porous media characteristic, a single study presenting a wide range of important characteristics, together with the best-performing functional relationships, can seldom be found. This study characterized five differently textured sand grades (Accusand no. 12/20, 20/30, 30/40, 40/50, and 50/70) in relation to physical properties, water retention, hydraulic conductivity, thermal conductivity, and gas diffusivity. We used measured basic properties and transport data to accurately parameterize the characteristic functions (particle- and pore-size distributions and water retention) and descriptive transport models (thermal conductivity, saturated hydraulic conductivity, and gas diffusivity). An existing thermal conductivity model was improved to describe the distinct three-region behavior in observed thermal conductivity–water saturation relations. Applying widely used parametric models for saturated hydraulic conductivity and soil-gas diffusivity, we characterized porous media tortuosity in relation to grain size. Strong relations among average particle diameter, characteristic pore diameter from soil-water retention measurements, and saturated hydraulic conductivity were found. Thus, the results of this work are useful toward better describing, linking, and predicting mass transfer and pore network properties in variably saturated porous media.

You do not currently have access to this article.