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Measuring Specific Surface Area of

Soils and Soil Minerals by Water


Vapor Adsorption

Yusuf Setiawan
Dr. Christopher Amrheins Lab
Soil Chemistry
Department of Environmental Science

Introduction
Surface area is related to many physical and
chemical properties of soils.

Reactive surfaces in soils vary widely because
of the differences in mineralogical and organic
composition, as well as in particle-size
distribution.
Soil Texture
Sand
Silt
Clay


2 mm - 50 m
50 -2 m
< 2 m



Specific Surface Area

Surface area per unit mass of soil


Expressed as square meter per gram soil
(m
2
g
-1
).

Implications of Surface Area

Cations Exchange Capacity (CEC)

Water retention and movement

Heavy metal and pesticide adsorption

Nutrients and Irrigation management

Traditional Methods
N
2
-gas
Measures only the external surface area
Requires a specialized instrument

EGME (Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether)
Measures total surface area (internal and external)
Limited to a single partial pressure (P/Po) equilibrium
Samples cannot be used multiple times
Time intensive

Water Vapor Adsorption Method

Soils weight and partial pressure can be measured quickly

Saturated salt solutions control relative humidity

Water adsorption forms monolayer surface area calculated

Water potentiameter measures relative vapor pressure (P/P
0
)

Research Objectives
1. Compare surface area measured from water
vapor adsorption compared to the EGME
method.

2. Compare surface area of soils saturated with
different cations.


Soils Involved in the Experiment
Kaolinite (1:1 clay mineral)

Montmorillonite (2:1 clay mineral)

Grangeville

Holland and Merced soils saturated with various cations:
NaCl
KCl
MgCl2
CaCl2
Method
Different soil types placed in a vacuum chamber with salts

Saturated salt control different relative humidity:
NaOH (8%)
LiCl (11%)
CaBr2 (20%)
K-Ac3 (24%)
CaCl2 (32%)
LiNO3 (48%)




Relative Humidity Chamber

Decagon WP4C Dewpoint
Potentiameter

How do we know soils have reached
equilibrium?
Weight of soils does not change.

Water Potential ( ) measurement for soils does not
change


-350
-300
-250
-200
-150
-100
-50
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
M
a
t
r
i
c

P
o
t
e
n
t
i
a
l

(
-
M
P
a
)

Time (days)

Kaolinite Matric Potential

8% Humidity
20% Humidity
32% humidity
Adsorbed Water Weight at
Different Partial Pressure






Surface area is calculated within the partial
pressure (P/Po) of 0.05 to 0.45.
Linearized Surface Area Curve for
Water Vapor Adsorption
y = 334.73x + 12.605
R = 0.8887
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
180
0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4 0.45 0.5
1
/
[
V
a
*
(
P
o
/
P
-
1
)
]


Relative Humidity (P/Po)
Kaolinite
Kaolinite
Linear (Kaolinite)
Comparison of Surface Area
Measurement
Soil Type

Water Vapor
Adsorption
Surface Area
(m
2
g
-1
)

EGME
Surface Area
(m
2
g
-1
)
Kaolinite
8
7
Montmorillonite 348 305
Grangeville 23 16
Merced 163 154
Holland 142 108
Comparison of Surface Area
Measurement
Soil Type Water Vapor
Adsorption
Surface Area
(m
2
g
-1
)
EGME
Surface Area
(m
2
g
-1
)

Na
+
Merced 108 137
K
+
Merced 94 112
Mg
2+
Merced 124 124
Ca
2+
Merced 126 130
Na
+
Holland 210 102
K
+
Holland 96 103
Mg
2+
Holland 86 92
Ca
2+
Holland 57 96
Conclusion
Water vapor adsorption method is
comparable to the EGME method.

Water vapor method is very easy and quick to
determine surface area of soils.

Surface area measurements of the soils
saturated with different cations showed no
trend.
Acknowledgements
Dr. Christopher Amrhein

Myles Davis

Kearney Foundation