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Outline Capillary Rise in Sands and Silts

By Rachel Salim and Duane Hampton Dept. of Geosciences, Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Michigan USA SSSA annual meeting, Cincinnati, OH, Oct. 23, 2012 Session 263--4
Introduction to capillary rise The problem that motivated this research Our research goal Packing and wetting the columns Testing methods for sand and silt Problems we saw and how we corrected them Measured data Scaled Data Conclusions

Introduction to capillary rise

The capillary fringe is the area above the water table occupied by water rising under tension against gravity. The tensionsaturated capillary fringe is that part of the capillary fringe which is nearly saturated with a wetting fluid. The wetting fluid rises to partially wet a much larger area.
Main factors that affect capillary rise - Grain size/pore size - Surface tension of liquid - Wetting angle - Density of sand/silt

The Problem
Wide Most

range of conflicting data in the literature equations not intended for use in soils
Sediment Grain Diameter (cm) 0.0008 0.0025 0.0075 0.015 0.03 0.05 0.2 0.5 Pore Radius (cm) 0.002 0.005 0.0015 0.003 0.006 0.01 0.04 0.1 Capillary Rise (cm) 750 300 100 50 25 15 4 1.5

Table 6.1 from Fetter 3rd Edition Height of Capillary Rise in Sediments, 1994

Red = bogus values

Fine silt Coarse silt

Material Rise (cm) Coarse Sand 12.5 Medium Sand 25 Fine Sand 40 Silt 100
Basic Ground-Water Hydrology, Ralph Heath, 1982

Very fine sand Fine sand Medium sand Coarse sand Very coarse sand Fine gravel

Equations for capillary rise

Most textbooks, including Fetter 3rd ed., use the following equation for capillary rise:

Research Goal
Our research goal is to measure capillary rise while wetting sand and silt, and then identify believable literature values and equations for sands, silts and clays.

This equation works OK for coarse sands, but for finer soils it greatly exaggerates capillary rise. Polubarinova-Kochina (1952) suggested: hc = 0.45 ((1 n) / n)/ d10 , with hc and d10 in cm Where d10 is the effective particle diameter


Packing the test columns

We used 5 cm ID glass columns 122 cm high with 61 122 cm extensions Air-dry silt and/or sand was poured into the columns through a funnel and attached tube

Wetting the dry columns

A valve near the bottom of each column was opened to let liquid into the column
The columns were set in plexiglas boxes filled with 15 to 30 cm of the wetting liquid (water or kerosene).

Testing methods For medium sand

Uniform sand grains 0.45-0.55 mm in diameter were carefully packed into columns. Capillary rise in sand was tested with water and kerosene separately. Sand was also sprayed with water repellent to make it hydrophobic. When water was added to hydrophobic sand, we measured capillary depression.
Measuring Capillary Rise

Testing methods for silt

Ground silica mostly (88%) smaller than 45 microns and passing 325 sieve was mixed with an equal volume of medium sand Poured into columns 183 to 244 cm tall Dry bulk density was calculated from measured weights A 50/50 silt sand mixture was used to aid in packing and prevent settling cracks we saw in pure silt.

Measuring Capillary Depression

Problems we saw
Packing the columns with silt has been difficult Settling of silt often leaves gaps in silt columns filled with water. Capillary rise will not occur across large open gaps Mold or algae grew in silt during weeks of testing Hard to see the lines between saturated and partially-saturated silt, and between wet and dry silt Difficult to clean tubes and plexiglas boxes between tests
Hard to see lines Cracking in wet silt

How problems were corrected

Equal volumes of silt & medium sand were mixed and used to test capillary rise in silts Purified water was used to solve the algae problem A black light, spotlight, dye, or feeling the material was used to help determine the line between wet & dry silt or sand. Bottle cleaners were used to clean columns after testing. For tests using kerosene or hydrophobic sand, ethanol was used to clean the tubes. We used capillary rise values with kerosene to project what capillary rise with water should have been.


Measured Data
Sediment type Medium sand Silt Medium sand Silt Liquid used Average tensionAverage total Average saturated capillary height of damp density rise (cm) sediment (cm) (g/cm3) 7.9 unknown 3.8 71.1 Unknown 19.5 At least 147.3 11.5 133.5 -5.75 (depression) 1.61 1.56 1.58 1.63 1.57

Scaling from kerosene to water

Surface tensions were measured with this tensiometer Kerosene was 25.7 26.1 dynes/cm Pure water was 72.4 68.8 dynes/cm Water from our experiments: 54.8 50.6 Measured kerosene density was 0.803 g/ml Ratio of water capillary rise to kerosene capillary rise = 54.8 / 25.7 / 0.8 = 1.71

water water kerosene kerosene

Hydrophobic Sand water

Measured Data
Sediment type Average total Predicted height height of of damp damp Liquid Scaled total sediment (cm) used sediment height of damp by Polubarinova sediment (cm) Kochina (1952) (cm) 19.5 19.6 228 11.43 24 240 14 140

According to our data, the numbers from Fetters Applied Hydrogeology, 3rd ed., appear to be too high for fine-grained soils. In Fetter, the finer the soil, the more unbelievable the number for capillary rise (e.g., compare with Heath). We hope to measure a capillary rise of water in a silt column closer to the scaled kerosene value of 228 cm. We hope to identify an equation for calculating capillary rise that comes close to data values we believe. So far Polubarinova-Kochina looks good.

Medium sand water Silt

water At least 147.3 11.5 133.5 -5.75 (depression)

Medium sand kerosene Silt Hydrophobic Sand kerosene water

Fringe height depends on wetting history