Experimental investigation of hysteretic dynamic capillarity effect in unsaturated flow

Luwen Zhuang, S. Majid Hassanizadeh, Chao Zhong Qin, Arjen de Waal

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26 Citations (Scopus)
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The difference between average pressures of two immiscible fluids is commonly assumed to be the same as macroscopic capillary pressure, which is considered to be a function of saturation only. However, under transient conditions, a dependence of this pressure difference on the time rate of saturation change has been observed by many researchers. This is commonly referred to as dynamic capillarity effect. As a first-order approximation, the dynamic term is assumed to be linearly dependent on the time rate of change of saturation, through a material coefficient denoted by τ. In this study, a series of laboratory experiments were carried out to quantify the dynamic capillarity effect in an unsaturated sandy soil. Primary, main, and scanning drainage experiments, under both static and dynamic conditions, were performed on a sandy soil in a small cell. The value of the dynamic capillarity coefficient τ was calculated from the air-water pressure differences and average saturation values during static and dynamic drainage experiments. We found a dependence of τ on saturation, which showed a similar trend for all drainage conditions. However, at any given saturation, the value of τ for primary drainage was larger than the value for main drainage and that was in turn larger than the value for scanning drainage. Each data set was fit a simple log-linear equation, with different values of fitting parameters. This nonuniqueness of the relationship between τ and saturation and possible causes is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9078-9088
Number of pages11
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • capillary pressure
  • dynamic capillarity
  • hysteresis


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