You are on page 1of 26


discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at:

Suction and storage characteristics of

unsaturated soils
Conference Paper March 2002




4 authors, including:
Sai K. Vanapalli
University of Ottawa

Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Characterization of the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide Input Parameters for

the Resilient Modulus of Ontario Subgrade Soils View project
Design of pile foundations in expansive soils /Design of Pavements View project

All in-text references underlined in blue are linked to publications on ResearchGate,

letting you access and read them immediately.

Available from: Sai K. Vanapalli

Retrieved on: 08 November 2016

Suction and storage characteristics of unsaturated soils

S.K. Vanapalli
Civil Engineering Department, University of Ottawa, Canada

L.M. Salinas & D. Avila

Laboratorio de Geotecnia, Universidad Mayor de San Simn, Bolivia

D. Karube
Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Kobe University, Japan

ABSTRACT: In recent years, significant advancements were made in the geotechnical and geoenvironmental fields towards the implementation of the principles of unsaturated soil mechanics into engineering practice. Some of the key advances can be attributed to the developments achieved in our present understanding with respect to the soil water storage characteristics and the measurement of soil suction. Info rmation related to the water storage characteristics of unsaturated soils can be derived from the soil- water
characteristic curve (SWCC). This paper provides a brief summary of the SWCC and the various parameters
that influence the SWCC behavior. Details about the commonly used direct and indirect methods for the
measurement of suction both in the laboratory and field and the recent developments in this area are also presented. Finally, case study details of in situ matric suction measurements are presented and discussed.
The focus of the paper is to highlight the key research findings and advances presented on the topic related
to suction and storage characteristics of unsaturated soils in the 3rd International Conference of Unsaturated
Soils held in Recife, Brazil, 2002.

The engineering properties of unsaturated soils such
as the shear strength, the coefficient of permeability,
and the volume change behavior are significantly influenced by the storage characteristics of soils. The
storage characteristics (i.e., water holding capacity)
of soils provide valuable information related to the
stability of slopes, the bearing capacity of highways
and airport runways, the performance of soil covers
and liners, flow through mechanism in tailings and
waste rock, residual soils behaviour, groundwater
flow and movement of contaminants in soils in unsaturated cond itions.
As an example, the influence of storage characteristics of soils on the engineering performance of
soil slopes is presented. Landslides are common in
many parts of the world and most of them occur in
the wet season triggered by heavy rainstorms. The
influence of rainfall on the slope stability has been
widely recognized by several investigators (for exa mple , Brand 1984). Many slopes with a factor of safety
value less than one, determined using the conve ntional methods of stability analyzes extending the
principles of saturated soil mechanics, do not fail.
The stability of such slopes is mainly attributed to
the role of suction, which contributes to the increase

in the shear strength of the soil. Due to this reason,

the stability of slopes that are in a state of unsaturated condition should be analyzed using the principles of unsaturated soil mechanics. A rational approach to understand the stability of slopes is
possible with the aid of saturated- unsaturated seepage models through the use of water-storage capacity functions (Lam and Fredlund, 1984). Several investigators have extended this approach to better
understand the slope stability behavior in saturated
and unsaturated conditions ( Rahardjo et al. 2001, Ferreira
et al. 2001, Toll 2001, Tsaparas et al. 2002, Avila et al. 2003a )
The soil- water characteristic curve can be described as storage capacity (i.e., a measure of water
holding capacity) of the soil as the water content
changes when subjected to various values of suction.
More conventionally, the soil- water characteristic
curve (SWCC) defines the relationship between the
soil suction and gravimetric water content, w, or the
volumetric water content, , or the degree of saturation, S.
Several investigators have provided frameworks
to interpret the engineering behavior of unsaturated
soils using suction as a key stress state variable
based on experimental studies (Bishop 1959, Blight
1967, Fredlund & Morgenstern 1977, Karube & Kato 1989,
Alonso et al. 1990, Wheeler & Sivakumar 1995). Experi-

mental studies related to the determination of unsaturated soil properties requires elaborate testing
equipment and highly qualified technical personnel.
Due to these reasons, there is a growing interest towards the prediction of engineering properties of unsaturated soils using the SWCC and the saturated
properties of the soil, as it is simple and less expensive (Fredlund et al. 1994, Aubertin et al. 1995, Vanapalli et
al. 1996, Oberg & Sallfors 1997, Leong & Rahardjo 1997,
Barbour 1998, Khallili & Khabbaz 1998, Bao et al. 1998).

This paper provides a brief summary of the

SWCC and the various parameters that influence the
SWCC behavior. Details about the commonly used
direct and indirect methods for the measurement of
suction both in the laboratory and field and the recent developments in this area are also presented.
Finally, some case study details of in situ matric suction measurements are presented and discussed.
The focus of this paper is to summarize the research presented in the Third International Conference of Unsaturated Soils, Brazil 2002, on the research topic of experimental studies related to
suction and storage characteristics of unsaturated
soils. A total of 19 papers were presented, of which
12 were oral presentation papers and the remainder
were poster presentation papers.

Degree of saturation, S (%)

Regina Clay

Botking Silt


partial vapor pressure of the soil water ( Richards

The total suction of a soil, , is made up of two
components, namely, matric suction, (u a u w ) and
osmotic suction, (Eq. 1).
= (u a u w ) +


The changes in suction due to the movement of

the water in the liquid phase is termed as matric suction, (u a u w ) , while the osmotic suction, , is related to the changes in water content that arises due
to movement of water in the vapor phase. More
comprehensive details of these definitions are available in Fredlund & Rahardjo (1993) and Ridley &
Wray (1995).
From a practical perspective, the changes in water
content that arises in unsaturated soils with higher
suction values can be associated predominantly with
total suction. In other words, at high suctions (i.e.
typically greater than 1,500 kPa), the changes in water content due to matric suction can be neglected
(Krahn & Fredlund 1972). There also appears to be a
common total suction value, which is equal to
1,000,000 kPa for all soils when the water content,
w, or the degree of saturation, S, approaches a value
which is equal to or close to zero (Fig. 1). A soil is
dry or close to dry conditions at suction value of
1,000,000 kPa. More details related to the experimental determination of the SWCC for the ent ire
range of suction of 0 to 1,000,000 kPa (i.e., from a
fully saturated cond ition to a total dry condition) are
available in a later section.

Indian Head Till

2.2 Physical representation of the matric suction





Soil suction, (kPa)

Figure 1. Typical soil water characteristic curves for a sand,

silt, till and clay (from Vanapalli et al. 1999).


Figure 1 presents SWCC as the variation of degree
of saturation versus suction for four different types
of soils commonly encountered in engineering practice: sand, silt, till and clay (with increasing percentage of fines respectively). At any given value of suction, the soil with a higher percentage of fines has a
higher water storage capacity. In other words,
coarser soils such as sand, desaturates at a faster rate
in comparison to other finer soils (namely: silt, till
and clay).

The structure of an unsaturated soil is formed by

several pores which could be filled with air and water. Inside the soil pore structure, at air-water interface, a meniscus is formed in a similar manner to
water in a capillary tube.
Consider a small glass tube inserted into water
under atmospheric conditions ( Fig. 2). The water
rises up as a result of the surface tension and the
tendency of water to wet the surface of the glass
tube (i.e., hygroscopic properties).




Glass tube


2.1 Definition of suction

The soil suction is defined as the free energy of the
soil water, which can be measured in terms of the

r = Radius of
the tube

Figure 2. Capillary phenomenon.

R s = cos

Figure 2 presents a sketch of the capillary phenomenon. The downward forces must be equal to the
upward forces at the air-water interface to achieve
equilibrium conditions. A mathematical relationship
that satisfies the criteria is given below:
2 r Ts cos = r 2 hc w g


where r = radius of the capillary tube; Ts = surface

tension of water; = contact angle; hc = capillary
height; w = density of water and g = acceleration
due to gravity.
Equation 2 can be rearranged to determine the
maximum height of water in the capillary tube:

hc =

w g Rs

a) Boundary effect stage. In this stage, the soil is in

a fully saturated condition. However, due to the action of capillary forces, the pore-water pressure is in
tension. The water menisci in contact with the soil
particles are continuous in this stage (Fig. 4(a)). The
limit of this stage, named air-entry value, (u a u w ) b ,
is one of the key features of the SWCC. It identifies
the point at which air enters the largest pores of the
Soil particles

a) Bounday stage effect

where Rs = radius of curvature of meniscus (i.e.,

r / cos ).
The air pressure is atmospheric at the air-water
interface (i.e., ua = 0) and the water pressure is negative (i.e., - w g hc ). Equation 4 shows that the matric suction is a function of the surface tension and
the capillary tube (i.e., soil pore radius).

(u a u w ) =


where ua = pore-air pressure; uw = pore-water pressure; and Rs = radius of curvature of meniscus.


Air-entry value, b
Saturated water content, s



effect stage


Residual suction
Residual water content,r




Residual stage of unsaturation



c) Secondary transition stage



Soil suction (kPa)

10 000

100 000 1 000 000

Figure 3. Soil-water characteristic curve illustrating the regions

of desaturation.

2.3 Various stages in the SWCC

A typical SWCC exhibits three identifiable stages of
desaturation ( Vanapalli et al. 1996): the boundary effect
stage or capillary saturation zone, the trans ition
stage or desaturation zone (i.e., primary and secondary transition stage), and the residual stage of unsaturation. Figure 3 shows these distinct stages.

b) Primary transition stage


d) Residual stage of unsaturation

Figure 4. Probable variation of water area in different stages of

a soil-water characteristic curve (from Vanapalli 1996).

b) Transition stage or desaturation zone. The soil

starts to desaturate in this stage (i.e., beyond airentry value). There are two sub-stages called primary transition stage and secondary transition stage.
The water content reduces significantly with increasing suction values and the water menisci in contact
with the soil particles are not continuous (Fig. 4(c)).
The transition stages ends at the residual water content, r which is the boundary of the transition stage
and the residual stage of unsaturation (Fig. 3 ).
c) Residual stage. Large increases in suction lead to
a relatively small change in water content in this
stage. The residual stage ends at a water content
value equal to zero. The movement of water in this
stage is predominantly in the vapor phase. The suction value at a water content equal to zero corresponds to a soil suction of approximately 1,000,000
kPa (Croney & Coleman 1961, Fredlund 1964, Wilson et al.
1994, Vanapalli et al. 1998 ). This value is also supported
by thermodynamic considerations (Richards 1965).
As the soil moves from a saturated state to drier
conditions (i.e., as the stages change as described
above), the distribution of soil, water, and air phases
changes due to the stress state changes (Fig. 3). The
relationships between these phases take on different
forms and influence the engineering behaviour of
unsaturated soils. For example, in some cases the
behaviour may be primarily related to the volume of
the separate phases (e.g., water content), or the continuity and tortuosity of the liquid phase (e.g., coef-

ficient of permeability, molecular diffusion) or the

air phase (e.g., coefficient of vapor or oxygen diffusion). In other cases, it is the nature of the interphase
contact area controlling stress transfers (e.g., shear
strength, volume change) or interphase mass transfers (e.g., chemical adsorption, volatilization) which
controls the behaviour (Barbour 1998).
The air-entry value, (u a u w ) b , and the residual
water content, r, can be determined by a procedure
presented by Vanapalli et al. (1998).

urement system starts to cavitate. This is one of the

major problems associated with some of the suction
measurement devices.

2.4 Estimation of air-entry value and the residual

water content.

Table 1. Different techniques for measuring suction (modified

Ridley & Wray 1995)

1) Determine the point of maximum slope on the

best fit-curve of the SWCC and draw a tangent
line through that point (i.e., transition line).
2) Draw a horizontal line through the maximum
volumetric water content. The intersection between the tangent line and the horizontal line
indicates the air-entry values (Fig. 3).
3) Determine the point of maximum change of
slope (i.e., inflection point) between the point of
maximum slope and 1,000,000 kPa and move it
one logarithmic cycle through the best-fit curve.
4) Draw a line between the last point determined
and the point corresponding to 1,000,000 kPa of
suction (i.e., residual line). The intersection between the residual line and the transition line
indicates the residual state condition (i.e., residual water content and residual suction of the
soil) (Fig. 3).
From a conventional engineering practice point of
view geotechnical and geo-environmental engineers
are interested with the performance of soil structures
in the relative low suction range, which is typically
in the range of 0 to 500 k Pa.
Two different types of suction measurement devices
are available: direct and indirect. In the direct measurement devices, the pore-water energy is determined. In the indirect measurement devices, suction
is measured using correlation techniques with other
properties or parameters (for example, suction is estimated based on measured relative humidity values
using psychrometers).
The soil suction measuring devices can be used to
determine either absolute or gauge pressure, depending on the calibration technique. However, it is
common to measure the suction as gauge pressure
(i.e., assuming atmospheric pressure is equal to
zero). Therefore, the pore-water pressure in the soil
will be under tension only when the suction values
are higher than the atmo spheric pressure (i.e., 101.3
kPa) (Marinho 1997). At this value, water in the meas-

3.1 Instruments for Suction Measurement

Table 1 presents some of the instruments often used
in the field or in the laboratory for the measurement
of suction. This table is a modification of Ridley &
Wray (1995) including the recent advances in research studies.


Suction Principal Range

Thermocouple Total
100-7500 Minutes psychrometer
100-84000 Minutes
Filter paper
Matric Lab
30-30000 7 days (in
Filter paper
400-30000 7 to 14 days
(not in contact)
Matric Field
Weeks conductivity
Pressure plate Matric Lab
Matric Field
Minutes tensiometer
Matric Field
Hours tensiometer
High capacity Matric Lab and 0-1200

3.2 Psychrometers
Psychrometers can be used to measure the total suction of the soil by measuring the relative humidity in
the air phase of the soil pores or the region near the
soil when the equilibrium cond itions are attained.
The psychrometers operate on the basis of temperature difference measurement between a nonevaporating surface (i.e., dry bulb) and an evaporating surface (i.e., wet bulb).
The total suction is related to relative humidity in
accordance with the thermodynamics relationship
presented in the Equation 5 for 20C of temperature
(Richards 1965).
= 135022 ln( RH )


where = total suction, and RH = relative humidity.

Equilibrium at relative humidity approaching
100% values is difficult to measure due to condensation of water vapor that may arise due to small
changes in temperature (Fredlund & Rahardjo 1988). A
controlled temperature environment of 0.001 C is
required in order to measure total suction to an accuracy of 10 kPa ( Edil & Motan 1984 ).

Two types of psychrometers, namely, the thermocouple psychrometer and the transistor psychrometer
are available. While the thermocouple psychrometers are commonly used to measure suction in the
range of 100-7,500 kPa, the transistor psychrometers
are capable of measuring a larger range of soil suctions (i.e., 100-71,500 kPa) ( Ridley & Wray 1995).
Mata et al. (2002) performed a careful calibration of
a transis tor psychrometer, using three different salts
(i.e., NaCl, NaNO2 and Mg(NO3 )2 6H2 O) and measured suction values in the range of 500 and 84,000
kPa (Fig. 5 ).

men having a specific value of suction by water exchange between the soil and the filter paper in a liquid or vapor form.
Filter paper
(non contact)
Brass cylinder


Measured values

Output (mV)

Paper towel

42.1 r= 0.998

Filter paper
20 Min



Figure 7. Contact and non-contact filter paper method for

measuring matric suction and total suction (modified after AlKhafaf & Hanks 1974)

30 Min
60 Min





Total suction (MPa)



Figure 5. Calibration of the transistor psychrometer for the total

suction value from 0 to 84, 000 kPa. (Mata et al. 2002)

Figure 6 shows the details of the thermocouple

Copper +
Copper -

(0.025 mm)
Stainless steel



Log (Suction )=5,056-0,0688


(0.025 mm)

Figure 6 Thermocouple psychrometer details (modified after

Fredlund & Rahardjo 1988).

Polymer capacitance sensors can be used to

measure very high suctions in environments with
relatively low soil gas relative humidities (Albrecht et
al. 2003 ). Measurement of high suctions (>8,000 kPa)
is necessary when monitoring hazardous and radioactive waste containment facilities, alternative covers for waste containment (Stormant et al. 1998, Albrecht
& Benson 2002). This instrument is useful to measure
high suction values rapidly and reliably (Gee et al.

3.3 Filter paper

The filter paper method can be used to measure either the total or matric suction of a soil. The method
is based on the assumption that the filter paper can
come to equilibrium with the unsaturated soil speci-

Suction (kPa)

Log (Suction )=1,882-0,0102


Water Content of Filter Paper, %


Figure 8. A typical calibration curve for filter paper (from

McQueen & Miller 1968)

The soil suction is determined by placing the filter paper in contact (i.e., in order to measure the matric suction) or not in contact (i.e., in order to measure the total suction) with the soil sample (Fig. 7).
When the equilibrium is attained, the water content
of the filter paper is measured using a typical calibration curve to determine the soil suction (Fig. 8).
Filter paper technique is a convenient and economical method to measure the soil suction both in the
laboratory and in the field with a reasonable degree
of accuracy.
The non-contact procedure is a reliable technique to measure total suction. However, the direct
contact procedure may measure either total or matric suction, depending on the degree of contact between the soil and the filter paper (Fredlund & Rahardjo
Melgarejo et al. (2002) introduced some modifications to the conventional filter paper technique for
the measurement of suction. The method allows recording water content, soil suction and volume simultaneously. However, there are limitations in the

Thermal conductivity sensors are useful to continuously measure in situ suction with the aid of data acquisition systems. The sensor consists of a porous
ceramic block containing a temperature sensing element and a miniature heater (Fig. 9). The change in
the temperature at the centre of the ceramic block is
closely related to the change in matric suction of the
surrounding soil.

4 Lead wires

Epoxy cap
Plastic jacket


Heater resistor

Ceramic porous

Figure 9. Cross-section diagram of the AGWA-II thermal conductivity sensor.

The thermal conductivity of the porous block va ries

in accordance with the water content of the porous
block, which is dependent on the matric suction of
the soil that surrounds the porous block. Therefore,
the thermal conductivity of the porous block should
be calibrated with respect to different values of matric suction before using for measurement of suction
values ( Fredlund 1992 ).
Thermal conductivity measurements are taken by
measuring heat dissipation within the porous block.
The heater at the center generates a controlled
amount of heat and the amount of heat dissipated
through the block is controlled by the presence of
water within the porous block. The change in the
thermal conductivity of the sensor is directly related
to the change in the water content. Therefore, more

V23 C =

0.0014 t + 0.5743


where t = the soil temperature; V23C = the output

voltage at 23C; and Vt = the output voltage at
temperature, t.
Figure 10 shows the output voltage with and
without temperature correction technique over a
wide range of temperature.
Shuai et al. (2002) studies also show that thermal
conductivity values drop rapidly when the temperature is below zero degrees centigrade. However,
with an increase in temperature values, the output
voltages from the sensor increase rapidly and attain
their original readings. Therefore, the quality and the
calibration properties of the sensor do not appear to
be affected by freeze-thaw cycles.
Temp. (degree)

3.4 Thermal conductivity sensors

heat will be dissipated as the water content in the

block increases.
The measurement of the soil suction using thermal conductivity sensors could be performed in one
of two ways: using either an initially dry sensor or
an initially saturated sensor. Studies show that a
sensor which is in an initially saturated condition
measures a lower matric suction value in comparison
to an initially dry sensor using identical soil
specimens or testing conditions in-situ (Fred lund &
Rahardjo 1993). Studies show that sensors which are
initially dry measure close to the actual matric suction values.
The influence of environmental changes associated with temperature fluctuation, pH value changes,
freeze-thaw cycles and wetting-drying cycles are of
interest to the practicing engineers to understand the
limitations of using the sensors in the field. Shuai et
al. (2002) observed that changes in the temperature
have a significant influence on the measurement of
matric suction values. In order to eliminate the effect
of thermal influence, a temperature correction was
suggested as follows:


V out (mV)

measurement of water content as only a very small

quantity of water is removed from the sample. Several measurements are necessary in order to recognize errors associated with the proposed technique
and to reliably measure matric suction va lues.
Wang & Lao (2002) studies show that the suction
values measured using filter paper method were
typically lower than the suction values measured using other suction measurement devices. This is
attributed to the removal of soil particles on the wet
filter paper during the process of filter paper drying
to measure the water content.
Most of the researchers who presented papers in
the Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference
on Unsaturated Soils are in agreement with the reproducibility and reliability of results using the filter
paper method in the measurement of suction. Ho wever, these measurements must be performed with
great care.


Without temperature correction

With temperature correction




Time (h)





Figure 10. The output voltage with and without temperature

correction s (from Shuai et al. 2002).

Shuai et al. (2002) also performed a study to

evaluate the influence of the pH values and found
that it has a negligible influence.
Thermal conductivity sensors appear to be promising devices for measuring matric suction both in

the laboratory and field in the suction range of 0 to

400 kPa. However, proper calibration is necessary
for each sensor prior to its use to measure reliable
matric suction values.
3.5 Null pressure plate
Null pressure plate apparatus can be used to measure
the matric suction of an unsaturated soil specimen
directly using the axis translation technique. The
axis-translation technique allows the pore-water
pressure, uw, in an unsaturated soil to be measured
(or controlled) using a ceramic disk with fine pores
(i.e., a high air-entry disk). These disks are used in
unsaturated soil testing in place of conventional porous disks used in saturated soil testing. The high
air-entry disk acts as a semi-permeable membrane
that separates the air and water phases. The separation of the water and air phases can be achieved only
when the air-entry value of the disk is greater than
the matric suction of the soil. The air-entry value refers to the maximum matric suction to which the
high air-entry disk can be subjected before free air
passes through the disk.
Line to air ressure supply
Sealing bolts


High air entry

ceramic disk


A typical null- type pressure plate assembly is

shown below in Fig. 11(a) and the set up of null-type
pressure plate device for measuring matric suction is
shown in Fig. 11(b).
The matric suction value in unsaturated soil
specimens is the difference between pore-air pressure, ua , and the pore-water pressure, uw. Typically,
in an unsaturated soil, the pore-air pressure is atmospheric (i.e., ua = 0) and the pore water pressure
is negative with respect to atmospheric pressure. The
axis-translation technique is used to avoid problems
associated with cavitation (Hilf 1956 ). This technique
translates the origin of reference for the pore-water
pressure from standard atmospheric conditions to the
final air pressure in the chamber.
The soil specimen is placed in the stainless pressure chamber (Fig. 11(a)) on top of the high-air entry
disk, which is previously saturated. Several techniques are discussed with respect to the procedures
that can be used for saturating the high-air entry disk
(Fredlund & Rahardjo 1993, Fredlund & Vanapalli 2002). A
good contact should be assured between the soil and
the high-air entry disk. As soon as the soil specimen
is placed on the high-air entry disk, the water in the
tube goes into tension, which is measured using a
pressure gauge ( Fig. 11(b)). The tendency of the water
to go into tension is resisted by increasing the air
pressure in the chamber. A condition of equilibrium
is attained when water in the specimen does not go
into tension (i.e., attains null condition). The applied pore-air pressure, ua , is the matric suction as
the pore-water pressure, uw, is zero (i.e., open to atmospheric pressure conditions). However, the
equilibration time is dependent of the type of soil,
size of specimen and air-entry value of the disk. In
many cases, the equilibration occurs in 3 to 6 hours
in 20 mm thick compacted specimens.

Flushing Port


3.6 Standard tensiometer

Line to
water supply

Pressure transducer

Figure 11(a). Null-type pressure plate apparatus (University of

Saskatchewan design) (modified after Fredlund and Rahardjo,

Figure 11(b). Set up of null-type pressure plate device for

measuring matric suction.

The standard tensiometers are devices commonly

used to determine the in-situ matric suction of the
soil. This instrument is useful to measure the negative pore-water pressure of the soil in the range of 0
to 90 kPa. The standard tensiometer consists of a 1
bar (i.e., 101.3 kPa) high-air entry porous ceramic
cup connected to a vacuum gauge through a small
bore tube. The mechanism of Jet-Fill tensiometer is
similar to that of a va cuum pump (Fig. 12).
The tube and the ceramic cup of the standard tensiometer are filled with de-aired distilled water prior
to its placement in the soil. A good contact between
the ceramic cup and soil is important in order to allow free flow of water. Once equilibrium conditions
are attained between the soil and the measuring system, the water in the tensiometer will have the same
negative pressure (i.e., matric suction value with respect to atmospheric conditions). The reading registered on the vacuum gauge of the tensiometer after

with the osmotic tensiometers inability to maintain a

constant reference pressure with time as the internal
reference pressure changes with respect to the ambient temperature (Peck & Rabbidge 1969, Bocking & Fredlund 1979).

15 cm
15 cm


Figure 12. Jet-Fill Tensiometer.

3.7 Osmotic tensiometer

Peck & Rabbidge (1969) developed a tensiometer
based on the axis-translation technique in order to
alleviate the problems associated with the cavitation
for measuring suction values greater than 90 kPa.
The osmotic tensiometer uses an aqueous solution
that has been internally prestressed to produce a
positive gauge pressure. The positive water pressure
of the aqueous solution is then reduced by the negative pore water pressure in an unsaturated soil when
the osmotic tensiometer comes to equilibrium. This
reduction is measured by a pressure transducer to
determine the negative pore-water pressure.
The proposed technique is useful to avoid cavitation effects. However, major difficulties were observed with the use of osmotic tensiometers in engineering practice. These difficulties are associated



15 cm
15 cm


29-4-01 7:00:00

15-4-01 7:00:00

1-4-01 7:00:00


18-3-01 7:00:00


4-3-01 7:00:00

equilibrium conditions are attained is the matric suction value of the soil.
From a theoretical stand point, a standard tensiometer should be capable of measuring suction
value equal to atmospheric pressure (i.e., 101.3 kPa).
At this value of suction, the pore-water pressure is
equal to the atmospheric pressure and hence cavitation should initiate. However, several investigators
noticed cavitation effects at suction va lues of lower
than atmospheric pressure (i.e., around 90 kPa) ( Fredlund & Rahardjo 1993).
Bertolino et al. (2002) compared the matric suction values measured using granular matrix sensor
(GMS) and tensiometer readings and suggested both
instruments have a similar response up to suction
value of 70 kPa (Fig. 13 ). However, tensiometer values differ from GMS values for suction values
greater than 70 kPa. This variation may be associated with the cavitation effects. More studies are
necessary to understand the reliability of using standard tensiometers in the suction range of 70 to 100
kPa to improve its performance.

Time (d-m-y h:m:s)

Figure 13. Matric suction response to rainfall events measured

using tensiometers and granular matrix sensors (GMS) (from
Bertolino et al. 2002).

3.8 High capacity tensiometer (HCT)

A High Capacity Tensiometer (HCT) capable of
measuring suction of 1,200 kPa was developed by
the Imperial College (Ridley 1993, Ridley & Burland
1993). Guan & Fredlund (1997) and Meilani et al.
(2002) extended similar techniques and designed
suction probes to measure matric suction. The design focus of these instruments was to avoid cavitation and measure high suction values rapidly. These
instruments consist of a pressure transducer with a
high-air entry ceramic disk mounted at the tip of the
transducer. The device is designed such that a small
reservoir constituting of a very small volume is provided between the ceramic disk and diaphragm and
is filled with water to give a continuous water phase.
The principle of suction measurements is based on
achieving equilibrium cond itions between the porewater pressure in the soil and pore-water pressure in
the water compartment.

Ridley & Burland (1995) studies show HCT

needs a time period of 3 hours for reaching the full
equilibrium cond itions to measure the suction.
However, the device is capable of measuring 95% of
suction value within a few minutes.

tent measurement second only to gravimetric




strain gauge



Figure 15. TDR unit with a cable tester for determining the
moisture dielectric constant and estimating the moisture content (from Triches and Pedroso, 2002).





Figure 14. Schematic layout of the tensiometer (drawing is not

to scale) (from Tarantino & Mongiov 2002).

Tarantino & Mongiov (2002) designed, constructed and tested a high capacity tensiometer
which is similar to the Imperial College HCT with
some modifications ( Fig. 14). Preliminary studies
show that the instrument performance is satisfa ctory
and precision performance of suction measurement
is similar to Imperial College HCT. Besides, this
new instrument was able to measure a water tension
of 1,000 kPa for more than 16 days and attain a
maximum sustainable tension of 2,000 kPa.
Mahler et al. (2002) also developed a new tensiometer tha t costs $ 300 (US) to measure soil suction extending the design concepts of Imperial College HCT. Test results show that suction values of
350 kPa can be measured using this new tensiometer. There is good comparison between the results
measured using the new tensiometer and other
commercial tensiometers.
3.9 Measurement of water content
Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR) technique is
used to determine the moisture content based on the
dielectric constant values. TDR unit with a cable
tester is shown below (Fig. 15 ). The dielectric constant values vary between 2.5 to 7 in dry soils. Ho wever, in water dielectric constant value reaches up to
80. A calibration curve, which is the variation of
moisture content and dielectric constant, is developed prior to the use of TDR unit in the field. The
in situ moisture content is estimated from the measurement of dielectric constant value, using the
calibration curve. Over the past 30 years TDR has
been used to measure water content at many scales
and under a broad range of cond itions (Topp & Reynolds 1998). It has become a standard method of water
content measurement second only to gravimetric

Sphere of


(Source and

Figure 16. Schematic of a neutron gauge (from Li et al. 2002).

The neutron method of measuring soil water content uses the principle of neutron thermalization. The
neutron probe has proven to be an effective means
for long-term monitoring of in situ moisture contents
(Li et al. 2002).

A neutron probe moisture gauge consists of a

probe containing a source of fast, high energy ne utrons that move radially outward from the source
and a thermal neutron detector, together with the associated electronic equipment necessary to supply
power and to count ne utrons (Fig. 16 ).
3.10 Field instrumentation and case studies
In the last 10 years, several investigators used devices discussed in the earlier section to measure or
monitor suctions and water content in the field. The
field performance data provides a better understanding of the advantages and the limitations of the
above equipment. There are several field studies reported in the literature which discuss the results using some of the above equipment (for example, Yanful
et al. 1993, Woyshner et al. 1995, Aubertin et al. 1995, OKane
et al. 1998, Khire et al. 2000, Swanson et al. 2003).


The SWCC is measured using several methods that
include pressure plate apparatus, centrifuge methods,
filter paper technique. This section provides a summary of different methods used for determining the
4.1 Conventional Procedure (Determination for
SWCC using pressure plate apparatus and
osmotic desiccators)
The SWCC are conventionally measured using a
pressure plate, typically in the suction range of 0 to
1,500 kPa for fine- grained soils and 0 to 500 kPa or
lower for coarse-grained soils. The suction change
occurs in the initially saturated soil specimens fo llowing a drying path due to the movement of water
in the liquid phase. Soil specimens of 50 to 75 mm
diameter and 20 mm thickness are commonly used
to determine the soil- water characteristics.

Figure 17(a). Pressure plate apparatus set up (Courtesy SoilMoisture Corporation)


entry disk



Figure 17(b). A cross section of the pressure plate apparatus

showing the details (from Ct et al. 2002)

Figures 17 (a) and (b) show the pressure plate test

set up and the cross section of apparatus. Soil-water
characteristics of several specimens can be measured
simultaneously using this set up. A saturated soil
specimen(s) is placed on the saturated high-air entry
disk in the pressure chamber. The air pressure in the
chamber is raised to a prescribed value above at-

mospheric pressure (i.e., above zero gauge pressure).

The pore-water pressure connection at the bottom of
the cell is open to atmosphere (i.e., pore-water pressure, uw = 0). The matric suction of the soil is equal
to the the gauge air pressure in the chamber since the
pore-water pressure is maintained at atmospheric
conditions. At equilibrium conditions, the soil
specimen(s) has a water content that corresponds to
a specific matric suction value applied. The mass of
the soil specimen(s) is determined after the equilibration. Approximately, 1 or 2 days of time is required to achieve equilibration conditions for coarse
grained soil specimens and 3 to 7 days of time for
fine-grained soil specimens. Equilibration condition
is assumed when no water is discharged from the
pressure plate. The equilibration time is dependent
on the type of soil, thickness of soil specimen, applied suction and the coefficient of permeability of
the soil specimen and the high-air entry disk.
Several values of matric suction that are increasing from low to high values are applied to obtain the
SWCC relationship. Typically, 6 to 8 data points are
collected such that the key features of the SWCC
(i.e., the air-entry value and the different zones of
unsaturation) are determined. The gravimetric water
content of the soil specimen(s) is determined at the
end of the test (i.e., highest suction range tested).
The information related to the other data points of
the SWCC are determined from back calculations
based on the vo lume- mass properties of the soil. The
SWCC is plotted as the variation of water content, w
or volumetric water content, , or degree of saturation, S, with respect to suction.
There are other equipment such as Tempe cell for
measuring the SWCC using a single soil specimen.
The procedure for determining the SWCC using this
apparatus is similar to the pressure plate apparatus.
The operating and testing instructions for using this
equipment are available in manuals supplied by Soil
Moisture Equipment Corporation, Santa Barbara,
California. More details of measuring the SWCC are
available in Fredlund and Rahardjo (1993), ASTM
D 2325 (2003).
Osmotic desiccators with different salt solutions
can be used to measure the SWCC portion of the soil
specimen for suction va lues greater than 1,500 kPa.
A small sub-specimen, which is taken from the pressure plate apparatus (after the completion of the test
in the pressure plate apparatus, which is 4 to 6 g
mass) is placed in the glass desiccators. The salt solutions with different concentrations used in desiccators relate to different relative humidity environments. The corresponding values of total suction in
relation to the relative humidity conditions in the
osmotic desiccators can be determined based on the
salt concentration (CRC Handbook of Chemistry 2003).
Table 2 provides a summary of five different salt solutions used in a study to determine the SWCC portion in the high suction range (Vanapalli et al. 1999).

Table 2. Summary of salt solutions, humidities and equivalent

suction values

total suction
Lithium chloride
LiCl.H2 O
Magnesium chloride
MgCl2 .6H2 O
Magnesium nitrate
Mg(NO3 )2.6H2 O
Sodium Chloride
Potassium sulphate
K2 SO4

Figure 18 shows a schematic drawing of an osmotic desiccator. Typically, five or six desiccators
with different salt solutions relate to varying relative
humidity conditions which translate to total suction
values in the range of 3,500 to 300,000 are used.
Several investigators used this technique to determine the SWCC portion in the high suction range

Some investigators expressed concerns about determining the SWCC defined over the entire range
of suctions based on pressure plate and desiccator
tests, since these techniques are based on different
modes of water movement (i.e., liquid flow in pressure plate versus vapour migration in osmotic desiccators) (Luckner et al. 1991). However, if the SWCC is
viewed from a phenomenological point of view, the
total suctio n represents the total energy deficiency in
the water phase. Whether equilibrium with the applied energy state is obtained by liquid flow or by
equilibrium with the vapour phase is not of concern
for the definition of the SWCC (Vanapalli et al. 1999).
4.2 Hysteresis of the SWCC
Conventionally, the SWCC is measured following
the drying path. However, SWCC can also be measured following wetting path. The SWCC in drying
and wetting paths can be significantly different (Fig.
19 ). The non-uniform pore-size distrib ution in a soil
can result in hysteresis in the measurement of
SWCC in the drying and wetting paths.

specimens to attain equilibrium conditions with respect to the relative humidity conditions in the desiccators (i.e., to attain a constant mass). Other instruments such as polymer activity sensors meter can
also be used to measured high total suction values
( Gee et al. 1992, Albrecht et al. 2003 ). The SWCC portion
in the high suction range can be measured in a relatively short time using this instrument.



Volumetric watre content,

(Vanapalli et al 1999, Agus et al. 2001, Leong & Rahardjo

2002). Several weeks may be necessary for the soil

Drying curve

Wetting curve


10 000 100 000 1 000 000
Matric suction, (ua - u w) [kPa]

Figure 19. Effect of the hysteresis on the soil-water characteristic curve.



Salt solution

Figure 18. Osmotic desiccator (Leong & Rahardjo 2002).

While the pressure plate apparatus measures matric

suction only, the osmotic desiccator or polymer activity sensors measure total suction. Since the osmotic component of suction should only be weakly
dependent on water content, and since the matric
suction component increases exponentially with decreasing water content, the difference between total
suction and matric suction should become increasingly small ( Vanapalli et al. 1999 ). The data of pressure
plate and osmotic desiccator apparatus can be combined to determine the entire SWCC (i.e., covering a
suction range of 0 to 1,000,000 kPa).

In order to determine hysteresis of the soil, first

the drying portion of the SWCC is determined. In
the drying process, low matric suction is applied to a
previously saturated soil and then the suction is increased until the soil- water characteristic is determined up to a desired suction value. In the wetting
process, the soil specimen is initially dry due to a
high suction applied in the drying procedure for determining the SWCC. The matric suction is progressively decreased during the wetting process until
suction value is equal to zero. It is possible to have
an infinite number of intermediate SWCC or scanning curves between the boundaries of drying and
wetting curves. Dane & Hopmans (2002) provide
comprehensive details with respect to SWCC hysterisis behavior.
In most routine engineering and agric ulture application only the drying SWCC curve is used (Fredlund
et al. 2003). However, SWCC hysterisis should be
taken into account in the design of several soil struc-

tures. For example, wetting SWCC information is

necessary to study or model the effects of rainfall on
the stability of slopes.
4.3 Centrifuge technique
Several investigators have used centrifuge techniques to measure the SWCC of both coarse-grained
soils and fine-grained soils (Gardner 1937, Russell &
Richards 1938, Croney et al. 1952, Skibinsky 1996 ). Kha nzode et al. (2002) used a commercially available,
small-scale medical centrifuge to measure the soilwater characteristics of fine-grained soils in the suction range of 0 to 600 kPa.
A high gravity field is applied to an initially saturated soil specimen in the centrifuge. The soil
specimen is supported on a saturated, porous ceramic column. The base of the ceramic stone rests in
a water reservoir that is at atmospheric cond itions.
The water content profile in the soil specimen after
attaining equilibrium is similar to water draining under in situ conditions to a groundwater table where
gravity is increased several times.
Center of rotation



achieve different suction values to the soil specimens placed in the medical centrifuge at a single
speed of rotation. Higher values of soil suction can
be subsequently induced into the soil specimens by
increasing the test speed (i.e., angular velocity, ).
Suction values in the range of 0 to 2,000 kPa can be
achieved using small-scale medical centrifuge.

Figure 21. J6-HC small-scale medical centrifuge.

Figure 21 shows a J6-HC small-scale medical

centrifuge with JS-4.2 rotor assembly, which consists of six swinging type buckets capable of holding
six test specimens in one test run. Khanzode et al.
(2002) used this centrifuge and measured SWCC for
three different types of fine-grained soils. The
SWCC of these three soils were measured in 0.5, 1,
and 2 days respectively using the medical centrifuge
in comparison to 2, 4-6 and 16 weeks for the same
soils using a conventional pressure plate apparatus.
4.4 Other methods for determining the SWCC

Specimen holder
Soil specimen


The SWCC were measured by several investigators using different techniques and reported in this
conference. In these methods, the suction is measured using instruments such as sensors, tensiometers
or filter papers and the water content or volumetric
water content was measured using instruments such
as the TDR or neutron probe.

Water table

Figure 20. Suction measurement principle of the centrifuge

(Khanzode et al. 2002).






Figure 20 demonstrates the above principle used

in the centrifuge method for measuring the soil suction. The suction in a soil specimen can be calc ulated using the following equation proposed by
Gardner (1937):

where = suction in the soil specimen; = density

of the pore fluid; = angular velocity; and r1 = radial distance to the midpoint of the specimen; r2 =
radial distance to the free water surface.
Different values of suction can be induced in a
soil specimen by varying the radial distance to the
midpoint of the soil specimen, r1 . In other words, ceramic cylinders of different heights can be used to


= 0.22



ab =

= 1.2


Tensiometer - TDR
Pressure plate





Matriz suction, (ua -uw) [kPa]

Figure 22. Soil-water characteristic curve measured with tensiometers-TDR and the pressure plate apparatus (from Ct et
al. 2002)

Ct et al. (2002) determined the SWCC of some

coarse-grained soils (i.e., granular materials) using
tensiometer and Time Deflection Reflectometry

(TDR) probes on soil. While tensiometers provided

suction measurement data, TDR probes were used
for measuring volumetric water contents (Fig.15).
The soil- water characteristics measured using the
tensiometer and TDR are compared with the SWCC
measured using the conventional pressure plate.
There is good comparison between the SWCC
measured using both methods (Fig. 22). The time required for the measurement of SWCC by pressure
plate was 30 days. However, with the aid of TDR
and tensiometers the SWCC was measured in 14
Melgarejo et al. (2002) measured SWCC for a
large suction range with the aid of filter paper technique on reconsitituted and undisturbed samples of
collivium from Rio de Janerio. This method is easy
to conduct and also economical; however, several
months are required for measuring the SWCC. The
authors suggest a technique to shorten the time required for measuring the SWCC by allowing the
specimen to dry between each phase.
Vertammatti & Araujo (2002) measured SWCC
using Richards Suction chamber, which uses ceramic porous plates and membranes of cellulose using drying path in the suction range of 0 to 500 kPa.
This equipment is a proprietary product of Soil
Moisture Corporation (1985). More details about the
procedure for measuring the SWCC using this technique are available in Soil Moisture Corporation

Gravimetric water content (%)


Bicalho et al. (2002) provide data for SWCC in

quasi-saturated soils. Quasi-saturated soil is defined
as the soil with entrapped air which is discontinuous
at high degrees of saturation. The SWCC for this
suction range is measured using a modified triaxial
cell connected to flow pump.
Mata et al. (2002) used transistor psychrometers
(at a temperature of 22o C (+/-1o C and relative humidity of 47%) and determined SWCC for different
bentonite-sand mixtures
Villar & de Campos (2002) measured SWCC for
highly compressible waste (red mud: mixture of
caustic soda and sulphuric acid) using four different
techniques that include filter paper method, tensiometers, suction probe and osmotic desiccators
(Fig. 23). The focus of this work was to study the advantages and disadvantages of measuring SWCC of
compressible materials. The researchers suggest that
the combined use of all the data (obtained from different techniques) is valuable for rational interpretation of the SWCC of a highly compressible waste
with a pore fluid other than water.
There are also other methods of estimating the
SWCC using mercury intrusion methods. More details of these methods are available in other sources
(Prapaharan et al 1985 and Bartoli et al. 1991).
Several mathematical models are available in the literature to fit the SWCC data. Sillers et al. (2001)
provided a comprehensive summary of the different
models available to fit the SWCC data. Of the many
formulations available in the literature, Brooks and
Corey (1964), van Genuc hten (1980) and Fredlund
and Xing (1994) equations are commonly used to fit
the SWCC data. The models used are described in
the following sections.





5.1 Brooks & Corey (1964) model







Total and matric suction (kPa)

tensiometers and measured moisture content
filter paper in contact with the soil
suction probe
tensiometers and calculated moisture content
filter paper not in contact with the soil
osmotic desiccators
points considered as total suction
points considered as matric suction

Figure 23. Suction and gravimetric water content relationship

from the different techniques used. (Villar & de Ca mpos 2002)

The model proposed by Brooks & Corey (1964) is

one of the early equations proposed for fitting the
SWCC. For suction values less than the air-entry
value, the normalized water content, is equal to 1.
The SWCC function exponentially decreases for
suction values greater than the air-entry value (Eq.8).

= b


where: = normalized water content (i.e.,

= ( r ) /( s r ) ); = volumetric water content; s = saturated volumetric water content; r =
residual volumetric water content; = soil suction;
b = air-entry value; and = pore size index.

This model has two fitting parameters: b related

with the air-entry value and related with the pore
size index.
The Brooks & Corey (1964) model does not provide a continuous mathematical function for the
tested suction range of the SWCC. The abrupt
change in the curve at the air-entry value can give a
rise to numerical instability when modeling unsaturated soil behavior. This equation is useful to fit the
SWCC data of coarse-grained soils such as sand and
gravel, which typically have low air-entry values.

disadvantage of the Maulem (1976) two-parameter

model is its flexibility restriction with respect to fitting the SWCC of different shapes.

5.2 van Genuchten (1980) model

= C ( )

The van Genuchten (1980) equation can be used to

model the SWCC behavior of soils in the suction
range of 0 to 1,500 kPa (Eq. 9). This equation is
widely used by investigators in various fields such
as agriculture, soil science including geotechnical
and geo-environmental engineering fields.

1 + ( a )


where a, m and n are three different fitting parameters.

The parameter a is related with the inverse of the
air-entry value; the n parameter is related with the
pore-size distribution of the soil and the m parameter
is related with the asymmetry of the model.
van Genuchten (1980) model is a closed form
equation which is flexible and fits the SWCC data of
a variety of soil types. Besides, model parameters
have physical meaning and the effect of one soil parameter can be distinguished from the effect of the
other two parameters. However, the magnitude of
the n and m best-fit values may vary somewhat depending on the convergence procedure.
5.3 Maulem (1976) model
The Maulem (1976) soil- water characteristic model
is of a similar character to the van Genuc hten (1980)
one. It reduces the number of fitting parameters
through a relationship between the parameter n and
m, given by Equation 10.
m =1


5.4 Fredlund & Xing (1994)

Fredlund & Xing (1994) proposed an equation that
can be used to fit the SWCC laboratory data over the
entire soil suction range (i.e., 0 to 1,000,000 kPa). It
has the form of an integrated frequency distrib ution
curve and is determined an equation with three fitting parameters, a, n, and m:
ln e +


The correction factor, C() is:

ln 1 +

C ( ) = 1
ln 1 +


where C ( ) = correction function (Eq. 13) and a, m

and n are the three different fitting parameters.
The correction function, C ( ) , is useful to force
the limited experimental data in the low suction region to tend to zero at a suction value equal to
1,000,000 kPa.
The Fredlund & Xing (1994) model provides a
rational approach to fit the SWCC data based on
pore-size distribution of the soil.
5.5 Gardner (1956) model
Gardner (1956) originally proposed the first two parameter model to fit the SWCC data (Eq. 14). It is a
simple, flexible and continuous function that uses
two fitting parameters, namely a and n. The parameter a is related to the inverse of the air-entry value,
and the n parameter is related to the pore-size

1 + a n


van Genuchten
Fredlund & Xing

The Maulem (1976) model can be mathematically

represented as below:

1 + ( a )



This model provides a reasonably accurate representation of data for a variety of soils. The effect of
one parameter can be distinguished from the effect
of the other parameter (Sillers et al. 2001 ). The main


Test Number



Figure 24. Computed errors from three selected equations

(from Gerscovich & Sayo 2002).

5.6 Comparison of different SWCC models

Gerscovich & Sayo (2002) performed an evaluation
of fitting the SWCC data of several soils from Brazil, and concluded that Gardner (1956), van Genuc hten (1980) and Fredlund & Xing (1994) equations fit
well. The computed error associated with the fitting
of SWCC data is minimal using Gardner (1956)
model for the Brazilian soils (Fig. 24). This is a simpler model in comparison to other two or three parameter models.
5.7 New equations for fitting SWCC data
Ct et al. (2002) presented an equation for SWCC
by relating the slope of the SWCC and specific surface of fine-fraction. The key objective of this research study was to rapidly characterize the drainage
capacity of the pavement materials using the proposed equation. Mata et al. (2002) proposed an
equation to determine osmotic suction value in active clays. The proposed equation provides better estimates of osmotic suction in active clays in comparison to vant Hoffs equation. Bicalho et al. 2002
also presented a closed form mathematical equation
for SWCC for quasi-saturated soils extending
Schuurman (1966) theory.
5.8 Some comments on the SWCC models
Models based on SWCC that were developed for
limited range of suction may not be suitable for the
prediction of unsaturated flow properties at low water contents and high suctions. For example, in the
prediction of the performance of soil covers for
waste disposal sites, estimates of actual evaporation
are required. These predictions require SWCC be
defined at suction values exceeding 3,000 kPa.
While the matric suction component largely governs
the engineering behavior of unsaturated soils which
are in excess of a meter or so below the ground surface, the surface phenomenon of evaporation is controlled by total suction (Wilson et al. 1994).
Leong and Rahardjo (1997) studies have shown
that the Fredlund and Xing (1994) equation provides
better simulation of experimental data of various
soils. This equation is useful to model SWCC data
of a variety of soils including coarse and finegrained soils for the entire suction range of 0 to
1,000,000 kPa.

Gupta & Larson (1979) suggested a method

which uses statistical regression to estimate the
SWCC between 4 and 1,500 kPa suction ranges
based on percent sand, silt, clay, organic matter and
bulk density.
Arya & Paris (1981) presented a PTF to estimate
the SWCC us ing the grain-size distribution, void ratio and total density of the soil. Tyler & Wheatcraft
(1989) presented an analysis to correlate the fitting
parameter, , originally proposed in the Arya &
Paris (1981) method to physical properties of the
soil such as the fractal dimension of the pore trace to
provide better estimates of the SWCC.
Rawls & Brakensiek (1985) suggested a method
which uses a multiple linear regression to estimate
the parameters of the Brooks & Corey (1964) equation. This equation is based on the information derived from the grain size analysis data using sand
and clay fraction and the porosity of the soil.
Vereecken et al. (1989) and Scheinost et al.
(1996) presented methods to estimate the SWCC
based on the van Genuchten (1980) model.
Vereecken et al. (1989) PTF uses a multiple linear
regression to estimate the parameters of van
Genuc hten (1980) equation. Scheinost et al. (1996)
PTF assumes a relationship between the parameters
of van Genuchten function and the parameters of
particle-size distribution.
Fredlund et al. (2002) presented a method of estimating the SWCC from the grain-size distrib ution
curve and volume- mass properties using the Fredlund and Xing (1994) equation formulation. The
grain-size distribution is divided into small groups of
uniformly- size particles. A packing porosity and
SWCC are then assumed for each group of particles.
The incremental SWCC is then summed to produce
a final SWCC.
Prediction of SWCC from grain-size distribution
provides an inexpensive and encouraging tool to implement the principles of unsaturated soil mechanics
into engineering practice. SoilVision Ltd (2001)
provides different algorithms for estimation of the
SWCC through the methods previously presented.


Many studies are reported in the literature that discuss the influence of soil structure or fabric on the
engineering properties of unsaturated soils (Alonso et



al. 1987, Delage & Graham 1995, Al-Mukhtar et al. 1996,

Leroueil et al. 2000, Blatz et al. 2002). The parameters that

There are several simple techniques for estimating

the SWCC using the grain size distribution data.
Such estimation procedures are termed PedoTransfer Functions (PTF) by the soil science community.

influence the engineering behavior of unsaturated

soils also influence the SWCC beha vior. In recent
years, several studies are reported in the literature to
understand the influence of various parameters that
influence the SWCC behavior (Vanapalli et al. 1999, Ng
& Pang 2000, Leong & Rahardjo 2002 ). The distinguishing

pacted clayey specimens with initial water contents,

which are dry of optimum.
Degree of Saturation, S, (%)

features of SWCC such as the air-entry value and

different zo nes or stages of the SWCC that include
residual conditions depend on several factors. Some
of these factors include initial moulding water content used for compaction, soil structure, void ratio,
type of soil, texture, stress history, mineralogy and
method of compaction. Of the factors stated above,
the soil structure and stress history have the most influence on the SWCC behavior of fine- grained soils.


Equivalent pressure = 0 kPa
Initial void ratio, e = 0.60
(Air-entry value = 3.5 kPa)


25 kPa
e = 0.59
(6 kPa)

Degree of Saturation, S, (%)


e = 0.52
w = 16.3 %


Wet of optimum
Void ratio, e = 0.545
Initial water content, w = 19.2 %
Dry of optimum
e = 0.6, w = 13%








100 kPa
e = 0.543
(15 kPa)



Suction (kPa)



Figure 26. Soil-water characteristic curves for specimens compacted dry of optimum water content (from Vanapalli et al.


Pressure plate tests

200 kPa, e = 0.438

(36 kPa)



Suction (kPa)

Figure 25. Soil-water characteristic curves for specimens compacted at different initial water content (from Vanapalli et al.

Soil- water characteristics of a glacial till compacted with different initial water contents and densities are shown in Figure 25. The SWCCs of the
same soil can vary significantly in the suction range
of 0 to 1,500 kPa when the soil is compacted at different initial water contents representing dry of optimum, optimum and wet of optimum cond itions
( Vanapalli et al. 1999). Fine-grained soils, such as this
glacial till, typically have two levels of structure: a
macro- level structure and micro-level structure. The
soil microstructure is described as the elementary
particle associations within the soil, whereas the arrangement of the soil aggregates is referred to as
macrostructure (Mitchell 1976). Typically, both the
macro- and micro- levels of structure are present in
natural and compacted clayey soils. The resulting
macrostructure of specimens prepared at different
initial water contents is different in spite of their
identical mineralogy, texture and method of preparation. The resistance to water discharge (i.e., desaturation) is relatively low in the dry of optimum
specimens in comparison to optimum and wet of optimum specimens (Fig. 26 and 27).
The specimens with initial water content equal to
dry of optimum contain relatively large pore spaces
which are located between the clods of soil as compared to the pore spaces within the clods. The relatively low suction values associated with removing
water from the large pores are significantly different
from the large suctions required to remove water
from the microscopic pore spaces between soil particles within the clods of clay. As a result, the macrostructure controls the initial desaturation of com-

The pore spaces in a clayey soil compacted at an

initial water content wet of optimum are not generally interconnected or are in an occluded state.
These soils are more homogeneous and have a
higher storage capacity due to their different structure. They have no visible interclod pores and offer
more resistance to desaturation under an applied suction in comparison to those specimens compacted
dry of optimum. In contrast to the specimens compacted dry of optimum, the micro-structure in the
specimens compacted wet of optimum controls and
resists the desaturation (drying) characteristics of the
soil. Hence, the slope of the SWCC is relatively flatter for the wet of optimum specimen in comparison
to the dry of optimum initial water content specimen
in the lower suction range, where the desaturation
was attained by the liquid-phase drainage (i.e., 0 to
1,500 kPa). The boundary between occluded pore
space and the open pore conditions occurs at water
contents approximately equal to the optimum water
content (Marshall, 1979 ), and hence, the specimen prepared at optimum water content condition lies between these two.
The SWCC developed for the specimens compacted dry of optimum and with equivalent pressures
of 0, 25, 100, and 200 kPa are shown in Figure 26.
Equivalent pressures were achieved in the specimens
by loading and unloading the specimens in a conventional consolidation testing apparatus. More details of the procedure used for attaining different
equivalent pressures in the soil specimens are discussed in Vanapalli et al. (1999). It is apparent that
the air-entry value of the specimens increases with
increasing equivalent pressure. In general, beyond
the air-entry value of the suction, the specimens subjected to higher equivalent pressures have higher degrees of saturation. The macrostructure appears to
dominate the SWCC features of the specimens prepared dry of optimum in spite of the increase in the
equivalent pressure.

Figure 27 shows the SWCC of wet of optimum

specimens subjected to different equivalent pressures. In spite of the different, equivalent pressures,
the SWCC of wet of optimum initial water content
conditions appear to be the same (i.e., the soil-water
characteristics appear to be independent of stress
history). The SWCC compacted at optimum water
content condition lies between those of specimens
tested with dry and wet of optimum initial cond itions.

7.1 Influence of the fine fraction

Ct et al. (2002) present a comprehensive experimental study to provide a simple relationship between the air entry value, b , and the overall porosity of the soil ( Fig. 28). The study suggests the
maximum pore size (i.e., which is related to matric
suction) is controlled by the fine rather than the
coarse fraction of the material.
7.2 Influence of the genetic component



Figure 27. Soil-water characteristic curves for specimens

compacted wet of optimum water content (from Vanapalli et al.



Air entry value, b [kPa ]


Granite c. r. (G)

12 to 13%







Suction (kPa)

Figure 29. Representative angles of the soil-water characteristic

curve (from Vertamatti & Arajo 2002).

Factor D




3 composition
Transitional soils

Non - Lateriticsoils

Figure 30. Factor D affected by the genesis of the samples

(from Ve rtamatti & Arajo 2002).

Schist c. g. (S)
Limestone c. r. (La)
Limestone c. r. (Lb)


Figure 30 shows that differential factor, D, is very

low for Lateritic soil and very high for Non-Lateritic
and clayey soils.



Fine fraction
F.C. =

. . . 5


Vanapalli et al. (1999) studies show for all initial

conditions of water content (i.e., dry of optimum,
optimum and wet of optimum) and stresss history,
the SWCC behaviour appears to be similar at higher
suctions (i.e., 20,000 to 300,000). In other words, the
inter-aggregate structure appears to be the same for
the specimens at these higher suctions. Presumably,
the water films at these suctions are so thin that all
the water is within the range of influence of the osmotic and adsorptive fields.
There are several research papers presented at the
3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils
that discuss the factors affecting the SWCC. Some
of the key findings of these papers are summarized
in this section.





Suction (kPa)









100 kPa, e = 0.47

(90 kPa)



200 kPa, e = 0.43

(100 kPa)



Vertamatti & Arajo (2002) presented a methodology to differentiate lateritic, transitional and nonlateritic soils using a parameter called differential
factor, D, which is derived from the SWCC. The differential factor D, is defined as the product of the
angles formed between the horizontal axis and the
secant line of five varying suction intervals (Fig. 29).


Equivalent pressure = 0 kPa

Initial void ratio, e = 0.545
(Air-entry value = 80 kPa)

Moisture Content (%)

Degree of Saturation, S, ( %)



7.3 Free and linked water








Porosity, n
Figure 28. Influence of the overall porosity, n, and fine content
on the air entry value, b (from Ct et al. 2002).

Guillot et al. (2002) present details of Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA), a technique to measure the
water content of a fine-grained clay in the high suction range (i.e., between 0.2 and 155 MPa). Figure
31 presents the water loss weight measured using
TGA. The results of this study demo nstrate that the
free water is expelled between room temperature and

tion effort is not very distinct. Second, as the compaction effort increases, there is a general increase in
the air-entry value. Third, the band of the SWCC
tends to narrow as compaction effort increases.

Standard Proctor
Enhanced Proctor

Dry Density (Mg/m 3)

150 C, whereas the linked water release occurs at

temperatures between 150 and 600 C.
A comparison between TGA (i.e., device with a
non-constant temperature) and kinetic experiments
(i.e., at a constant temperature of 105 C) was performed (Fig. 32). The test results demonstrate that
the kinetic test allows release of only the free water,
whereas the TGA test releases not only the free water but also the linked water. Therefore, subjecting
the soil samples to a temperature of 105 C to measure the water content of the soil may be not satisfactory practice due to the presence of linked water in
the soil.

Modified Proctor


S = 100%
S = 89%





FoCa clay powder




Figure 33. Compaction curves of Jurong formation mudstone

residual soil (from Leong & Rahardjo 2002).



Temperature (C)



Figure 31. TGA measurements of a FoCa clay powder (from

Guillot et al. 2002).
suction of 79,4 MPa






loss weight (g/g of dry



Water Content

Volumetric water content,

calcined clay)

loss weight (g/100g of













Suction (kPa)


(a) Standard Proctor compacted soil specimens



Time (min)

Figure 32. Comparison between TGA and kinetics tests for a

powder compacted clay (from Gillot et al. 2002).

7.4 Compaction effort

Leong & Rahardjo (2002) studied the influence of
compaction effort on the SWCC of a mudstone residual soil. Three different energies were applied to
the soil samples: Standard Proctor effort (i.e., 598
kJ/m3 ), Modified Proctor effort (i.e., 2693 kJ/m3 )
and a variation of Modified Proctor, termed as Enhanced Proctor effort (i.e., 1619 kJ/m3 ) (Fig. 33).
Typically, the soil pore size decreases with an increase in the compaction effort for fine-grained
soils. Due to this reason, it is likely there will be
some differences in the storage characteristics (i.e.,
SWCC) of the same soil when it is compacted with
different ene rgies.
The SWCC of the compacted mudstone residual
soil specimens at different compacted efforts are
shown in Figure 34. Several observations can be
made from this study. First, the difference between
the SWCC of compacted soils at the same compac-










Suction (kPa)

(b) Enhanced Proctor compacted soil specimens



Volumetric water content,



Volumetric water content,










Suction (kPa)

(c) Modified Proctor compacted soil specimens

Figure 34. Soil-water characteristic curves of soil specimens
compacted at different compaction efforts (from Leong & Rahardjo 2002).

In a different study, Sugii et al. (2003) presented

the influence of compaction effort on the SWCC behavior of a sandy soil. Figure 35 shows the SWCC is
unique for the different compaction energies beyond
the transition stage for the tested sandy soil (i.e., 2
kPa suction value in Fig. 35).

7.5 Specimen height and saturation techniques

Barbosa et al. (2002) studied the influence of soil
specimen height and saturation techniques on the
SWCC behavior of a Brazilian soil. The two different techniques used for saturating the compacted soil
specimen were: (i) vacuum application followed by
submersion and (ii) submersion fo llowed by vacuum
application. The water content of specimens was
higher in specimens which were saturated by vacuum application after immersion (Fig. 36). Also,
these specimens desaturated at a faster rate in the
low suction range in comparison to specimens that
were submerged followed by vacuum application.
Similar desaturation characteristics were observed at
higher suction range (greater than 50 kPa) irrespective of saturation technique. However, similar soilwater characteristics were observed for specimens of
different heights (20 to 40 mm).

Water content (%)

vacumm after


Imersion after




Suction (kPa)

Figure 36. Effect of saturation technique on soil-water characteristic curve behavior of a compacted soil (from Barbosa et al.

7.6 Shear strength and hysteresis effects

The results presented by Leong & Rahardjo

(2002) and Sugii et al. (2003) are interesting and
valuable. It should be noted that the resulting pore
size distribution in a fine- grained soil is significantly
influenced by the compaction energy and the initial
water content used for compacting fine-grained
soils. The SWCC behavior of fine-grained soils is
sensitive to those parameters and others such as the
stress history and clay mineralogy. However, the
pore-size distribution in a coarse-grained soil is not
predominantly influenced by all the above parameters. Due to this reason, it is likely coarse-grained
soils exhibit a relatively unique SWCC. Several
investigators have used this characteristic behavior
of coarse-grained soils to predict the SWCC using
the grain-size analysis data.

Compressive strength kPa

Figure 35. Compaction curve and soil-water characteristic

curve (from Sugii et al. 2003).

Nishimura & Fredlund (2002) studied the changes

on the shear strength due to the drying and wetting
process of compacted kaolin subjected to a high total
suction. The relationship between unconfined compressive strength and total suction for the kaolin is
presented in Figure 37. The results show that the
compressive strength during wetting process is
slightly less than that during the drying process.











Total suction kPa

Figure 37. Relationship between compressive strength and total

suction for a kaolin (from Nishimura & Fredlund 2002).


Jan 5, 02
Jan 6, 02
Jan 9, 02
Jan 12, 02
Jan 15, 02
Jan 18, 02
Jan 20, 02



Pore water pressure (kPa)

Figure 39. Profiles of pore water pressure of a clayey gravel in

Bolivia (from Avila et al. 2003b).



Matric suction (kPa)

60 50 40 30 20


Canvas over grass


Equilibrium with water table







Depth (m)

Ground level

Depth (m)

The in-situ soil moisture and soil suction are dependent on several environmental factors that include: wet-dry and freeze-thaw cycles, temperatures,
solar radiation, wind, evaporation, and evapotranspiration. The storage characteristics of a soil also have
a predominant influence on the in-situ suction profile.
Figure 38 shows the variation of the suction profile with respect to depth. The two zones; namely,
vadose zone and saturated or phreatic zone are separated by the water table. The soil in the vadose zone
is mainly in a state of unsaturated condition with
negative pore-water pressures, while the zone below
is in a state of saturated condition with positive water pressures. The water table is the boundary between these two zones. The pore-water pressure at
this point is equal to zero (i.e., under atmospheric

Flooding of
desiccated soil

Grassed surface

Water table



Depth (m)



The pore water pressure distribution with respect

to depth can take on a wide variety of shapes as a result of the influence of environmental factors (Fig.
38 ) (Fredlund & Rahardjo 1993). Typically, three states
are possible (i) equilibrium conditions with respect
to water table (i.e., hydrostatic condi tion), (ii) excessive evaporation, and (iii) flooding of desiccated



Depth (m)

Figure 38. Extreme states of the pore water pressure distribution with depth (from Fredlund & Rahardjo 1993).

Bare surface

27 Jan

1 Feb
6 Feb

4 Feb
18 Feb

Rainfall (mm)





Figure 40. Changes of in-situ matric suction profiles in re sponse to rainfall under three different conditions from (from
Lim et al. 1996).

Results from some earlier published case studies

are summarized in this section. Figure 39 summarizes case study results from Bolivia (Avila at al.
2003b ). The suction values were measured in the
field using tensiometers placed at 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5m
of depth. The natural ground water level was situ-


Depth (m)

15 samples


Sm = 91%

Exponential trendline








a w





1 suction peak
exponential trendline


2 suction peak

mean:13 kPa

Figure 42. Inferred suction profile for the Sedilis colluvial

slope using the soil-water characteristic curve (from Paronuzzi
et al. 2002).

This paper provides background information on the
SWCC behavior and provides details about some
common devices used in engineering practice for the
measurement of suction. The research findings and
advances presented in the Parallel Session 2.1 of the
3rd Internatio nal Conference of Unsaturated Soils,
Brazil: Experimental Unsaturated Soil Mechanics
are summarized. The key research topics presented
in this session were related to the SWCC behavior
and measurement of suction.
In the last 50 years several investigators have
contributed to our present understanding of unsaturated soils (Bishop 1959, Blight 1967, Matyas & Radhakrishna 1968, Fredlund & Morgenstern 1977, Karube &
Kato 1989, Alonso et al. 1990, Toll 1990, Kohgo et al. 1993,
Cui et al. 1995, Wheeler & Sivakumar 1995, Maatouk et al.
1995, Wheeler & Karube 1996, Barbour 1998, Fredlund 2000,
Tang & Graham 2002). However, some limitations in


Soil suction (ua -u w) [kPa]


Depth (m)

ated at a depth of 5 m below ground level. The aim

of the study was to measure the resulting suction
changes in a residual soil slope in a clayey gravel
deposit. The results show that rainfall events produced different matric suction changes in the soil
profile. It is of interest to note that the matric suction
profile can pass from the excessive evaporation condition to the flooding of desiccated soil condition.
Lim et al. (1996) studied the variation of suction
with respect to depth using different covers on the
natural ground surface and compared the results with
bare surface (Fig. 40). The studies show that the matric suction variation was significant in the top 0.5 m
depth in the grass-covered area. However, significant variations in matric suction were observed in
the top 1 m of depth of soil layer with bare surface.
The matric suction profile is less significant under
canvas-covered area.
Paronuzzi et al. (2002) determined water content
profile of unsaturated colluvial slopes in alpine regions (Fig. 41 ). The variation of the suction profile
with respect to depth was estimated from the SWCC
data. In other words, the field suction values were
not measured but estimated from the SWCC and
plotted against the water content values determined
in the field (Fig. 42). This is a simple technique for
estimating the variation of suction with respect to
depth. The study suggests to determine the volumetric water contents along with in-situ water contents
at several depths to reestablish suction profile.




Saturation degree (%)

Figure 41. Saturation profile recorded on 26 May 2000 at the

colluvial cover of the Sedilis slope (from Paronuzzi et al.

extending our present understanding of the principles of unsaturated soil mechanics into engineering
practice can be attributed to difficulties associated
with the measurement of suction. There are several
devices available for the measurement of suction
both in the laboratory and in the field. These devices have one or more following problems: bulky
construction, long time to reach equilibration suction
values, slow responses to changes in suction, low to
high sensitivity to temperature, and inability to produce continuous output that can reliably measured
using data acquisition systems in all environments
(Muraleetharan and Granger, 1999).

In the last 10 years several investigators have

used SWCC as a tool in the prediction of engineering properties of unsaturated soils. These studies are
simple and encouraging to practicing engineers (Fredlund et al. 1994, Aubertin et al. 1995, Vanapalli et al. 1996,
Oberg & Sallfors 1997, Khallili & Khabbaz 1998, Leong &
Rahardjo 1997, Bao et al. 1998).

Researchers and practitioners dealing with unsaturated soils however need to recognize and acknowledge that we are still in the learning process of
measuring both the soil suction and the SWCC with
precision both in the laboratory and field (Zapata et al.
Research advancements in recent years have
shown considerable promise with respect to alleviating some of the major problems associated with the
measurement of suction. Several recent research
studies and those presented in this conference to understand the influence of various parameters on the
SWCC are of value. These studies are useful as they
better our present understanding of the SWCC and
its use in the prediction of engineering properties of
unsaturated soils.
Many studies have proposed alternative techniques for the measurement or estimation of the
SWCC (for example, Fourie et al. 1995, Aubertin et al. 1998,
Khanzode et al. 2002, Fredlund et al. 2002, Ct et al. 2002,
Simms & Yanful, 2002). These alternative techniques

will be helpful in providing simple and economical

tools for the implementation of the principles of unsaturated soil mechanics in to engineering practice.

The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of
Kenton Power in the preparation of some of the figures and providing comments on the paper

Agus, S.S., Leong, E.C. & Rahardjo, H. 2001. Soil-water characteristic curve of Singapore residual soil. In Geotechnical
and Geological Engineering 19: 285-309. Netherlands:
Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Albrecht, B. & Benson, C. 2002. Predicting airflow rates in the
coarse layer of passive dry barrier, J. of Geotech. and
Geoenvironmental Engg, 128(4):338-346.
Albrecht, B.A., Benson, C.H., & Beurmann. 2003. Polymer capacitance sensors for measuring soil gas humidity in drier
soils. Geotechnical Testing Journal, 26(1):1-9.
Al-Khafaf, S. & Hanks, R.J. 1974. Evaluation of the filter paper method for estimating soil water potential. In Soil Science 114(4): 194-199.
Al-Mukhtar, M., Belanteur, N., Tessier, D., & Vanapalli, S.K.
1996. The fabric of clay soil under controlled mechanical
and hydraulic stresses. Applied Clay Science, 11:185-197.
Alonso, E.E., Gens, A. & Hight, D.W. 1987. Special problem
soils. General Report, Proc. 9th European Conf. Soil Mech.
Found. Engg. Dublin, 3: 1087-1146.
Alonso, E.E., Gens, A., & Josa, A.1990. A constitutive mole
for partially saturated soils. Geotechnique. 40(3):5045-430.
ASTM. 2003. American Society for Testing and Materials
2003. D 2325-68 Standard test method for capillarymoisture relationship for coarse- and medium-texture soils
by porous-plate apparatus. Annual book of ASTM standards
2003, vol. 04.08.
Arya, L.M. & Paris, J.F. 1981. A physicoempirical model to
predict the soil moisture characteristic from particle -size

distribution and bulk density data. In Soil Science Society

American Journal, 45:1023-1030.
Aubertin, M., Ricard, J.-F., & Chappius, R.P. 1995. A study of
capillary properties of mine tailings: measurement and
modelling. In Proceedings of the 48th Canadian Geotechnical Conference: 17-24.
Aubertin, M., Ricard, F.-F., and Chapius, R.P.1998. A predictive model for the water retention curve: application to tailings from hard-rock mines. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 35:55-69.
Avila, D., Rojas, J.C. & Salinas, L.M. 2003a. Effect of the
rainfall on the stability of slope. In Proc. 2nd Asian Conference on Unsaturated Soils: 475-480. Osaka, Japan.
Avila, D., Rojas, J.C. & Salinas, L.M. 2003b. Matric suction
interpretation as a function of rainfall precipitation. In Proc.
2 nd Asian Conference on Unsaturated Soils: 123-126.
Osaka, Japan.
Barbour, S.L. 1998. Nineteenth Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium; the soil-water characteristic curve; a historical perspective. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 35(5): 873-894.
Barbosa. P.S.A., Silva, C.H.C., de Lima D.C., de Lima, L.C. &
Paiva, J.A.C. 2002. A study of some factors influencing the
soil-water retention curve. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils: Recife: Balkema.
Bao, C.G., Gong, B. & Zhan, L. 1998. Properties of unsaturated soils and slope stability of expansive soil. Keynote
Lecture. UNSAT 98, 2 nd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils, Beijing.
Bartoli, F., Phillippy, R., Doirisse, M., Niquet, S., & Dubuit,
M. 1991. Structure and self-similarity in silty and sandy
soils: The fractal approach. J. Soil Science. 42:167-185.
Bertolino, A.V.F.A., Souza, A.P., Fernandes, N.F., Rangel,
A.M., de Campos, T.M.P. & Shock, C.C. 2002. Monitoring
the filed soil matrix potential using mercury tesiometer and
granular matrix sensors. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 335-338. Recife: Balkema.
Bicalho, K.V., Znidarcic, & Ko, U.-Y. 2002 Soil water characteristic curve of a quasi-saturated compacted soil. In
Proc. 3rd Intern ational Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1:
277-281. Recife: Balkema.
Bishop, A.W. 1959. The principle of effective stress. Teknisk
Ukeblad, 106(39): 859-863.
Blatz, J.A., Graham, J. & Chandler, N.A. 2002. Influence of
suction on the strength and stiffness of compacted sandbentonite. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 39(5):10051015.
Blight, G.E. 1967. Effective stress evaluation for unsaturated
soils. ASCE J. Soil Mech. Found. Engg. Div. 93:125-148.
Bocking, K.A. & Fredlund, D.G. 1979. Use of the osmotic tensiometer to measure negative pore water pressure. In Geotech. Testing. J., GTJODJ, 2(1):3-10.
Brand, E.W. 1984 Relationship between rainfall and landslides
in Hong Kong. In Proc. 4th International Symposium on
Landslides, Toronto, Canada, 1: 377- 384.
Brooks, R. & Corey, A. 1964. Hydraulic properties of porous
media. In Hydrology paper No. 3. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
Camapum de Carvalho, J., Cabral, R. & Feitosa, J.H. 2002
Coubes de retention deau dun profil dalteration. In Proc.
3 rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 289294. Recife: Balkema
Ct J., Konrad, J.-M. & Roy M. 2002. Influence of grain size
distribution and mineralogy of unbound aggregates on soilwater characteristic curves. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 255-260. Recife: Balkema.
CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. 1998. Section 150
Practical laboratory data. 78th edn. (ed) D. Lide. CRC Press
New York.

Croney, D. & Coleman, J.D. 1961. Pore Pressure and Suction

in Soils. In Proceeding of the Conference of Pressure and
Suction in Soils: 31-37. London: Butterworths.
Croney, D., Coleman, J.D.& Bridge, P.M. 1952. The suction of
moisture held in soil and other porous materials. In Road
Research Technical Paper no. 24. London.
Cui, Y.J., Delage, P. & Sultan, N. 1995. An elasto-plastic
model for compacted soils. In Proc. 1st Int. Conf. Unsaturated Soils. Balkema. 2:703-709.
Dane, J.H. & Hopmans, J.W. 2002. Water retention and storage, Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 4-Physical methods,
Soil Science Society of America, Book Series 5, ed. Dane
J.H. and Topp, G.C:671-717.
Delage, P., & Graham, J. 1995. Understanding the behavior of
unsaturated soils requires reliable conceptual model. State
of the art report. In Proceedings of the 1st International
Conference on Unsaturated Soils, Paris, Edied by E.E.
Alonso and P. Delage. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam. 12331256.
Edil, T.B. & Motan, E.S. 1984. Laboratory evaluation of soil
suction components. In Geot. Test. J., Vol. 7, No. 4: 173181.
Ferreira, N.J., Blatz, J.A., Graham, J., & Kenyon, R.M. 2001.
Examination of instability in an unsaturated highway cut.
The International Association of Hydrogeologists, The Canadian Geotechnical Society, pp 894-901.
Fourie, A.B., Papageorgiou, G. & Blight, G.E. 1995. The rapid
determination of the moisture retention curve. Geotechnical
Testing Journal, GTJODJ, 18(2): 276-285.
Fredlund, D.G. & Morgenstern, N.R. 1977. Stress state variables for unsaturated soils . J. Geotech. Engg. ASCE,
103(GT5): 447-466.
Fredlund, D.G. & Rahardjo, H. 1988. State-of-development in
the measurement soil suction. In Proceeding of the International Conference on Engineering Problems of Regional
Soils: 582-588.
Fredlund, D.G. 1992. Background, theory, and research related
to the use of thermal conductivity sensors for matric suction
measurement. In Advances in Measurement of Soil Physical
Properties: Bringing Theory into Practice. SSSA special
publication No.3, Soil Science Society of America: 249626.
Fredlund, D.G. & Rahardjo H. 1993. Soil Mechanics for Unsaturated Soils. New York: A Wiley-Interscience Publication.
Fredlund, D.G. & Xing, A. 1994. Equation for the soil-water
characteristic curve. In Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
31(3): 521-532.
Fredlund, D.G., Xing, A., & Huang, S. 1994. Predicting the
permeability function for unsaturated sols using the soilwater characteristic. In Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
31(3): 533-546.
Fredlund, D.G. 2000. The 1999 R.M. Hardy Lecture: The implementation of unsaturated soil mechanics into geotechnical engineering. Can. Geotech. J. 37: 963-986.
Fredlund, D.G. & Vanapalli, S.K. 2002. Shear strength of unsaturated soils. Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 4-Physical
methods, Soil Science Society of America, Book Series 5,
ed. Dane J.H. and Topp, G.C:324-360.
Fredlund, D.G., Barbour, S.L. & Phan, H.Q. 2003. Evaluation
of hysteresis models for predicting the boundary wetting. In
Proceeding of the 2nd Asian Conference on Unsaturated
Soils: 407-412. Osaka, Japan.
Fredllund, M.D., Wilson, G.W., & Fredlund. 2002. Use of the
grain-size distribution for estimation of the soil-water characteristic curve. Canadian Geotechnical Journal.
Gardner, R. A. 1937. The method of measuring the capillary
tension of soil moisture over a wide moisture range. In Soil.
Science 43: 277-283.

Gardner, W. 1956. Mathematics of isothermal water conduction in unsaturated soils. In Highway Research Board Special Report 40, International Symposium on PhysicoChemical Phenomenon in soils:78-87.
Gee, G., Campbell, M., Campbell, G. & Campbell, J. 1992.
Rapid Measurement of low soil potentials using a water activity meter. Soil Science Society of America Journal,
Gerscovich, D.M.S. & Sayo, A.S.F.J. 2002. Evaluation of the
soil- water characteristic curve equations for soils from
Brazil. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 295-300. Recife: Balkema.
Guan, Y., & Fredlund, D.G. 1997. Use of the tensile strength
of water for the direct measurement of high soil suction.
Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 34:604-614.
Gupta, S.C. & Larson, W.E. 1979. A model for predicting
packing density of soils using particle size distribution. Soil
Sci. Soc. Am. J. 43:738-764.
Guillot, X., Fleureau, J.-M., Al-Mukhtar, M. & Bergaya, F.
2002. Free and linked water in compacted clay using thermogravimetric analysis. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 265-268. Recife: Balkema.
Hilf, J.W. 1956. An investigation of pore-water pressure in
compacted cohesive soils. Ph.D. dissertation, Tech. Memo.
No. 654, U.D. Dep. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation,
Design and Construction Div. Denver, CO.
Karube, D. and Kato,S. 1989. Yield functions of unsaturated
soils. In 12 th Int. Conf. Soil Mech. Found Engg, 1:615-618.
Khallili, N. & Khabbaz, M.H. 1998. A unique relationship for
the determination of the shear strength of unsaturated soils.
Geotechnique, 48(5); 681-687.
Khanzode, R.M., Vanapalli, S.K. &Fredlund, D.G. 2002.
Measurement of soil-water characteristic curves using
small-scale centrifuge. In Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
3(5): 1209-1217.
Khire, M.V., Benson, C.H., and Boscher, P.J. 2000. Field data
from a capillary barrier and model predictions with UNSAT-H. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenviro nmental
Engineering. 125: 518-527.
Kohgo, Y., Nakano, M. and Miyazaki, T. 1993. Theoretical aspects of constitutive modeling for unsaturated soils. Soils
and Foundations, 33(4):49-63.
Krahn, J. & Fredlund, D.G. 1972. On total, matric and suction.
In Soil Science 114(5): 339-348.
Lam, L. & Fredlund, D.G. 1984. Saturated-unsaturated transient finite element seepage model for geotechnical engineering. In Adv. Water Resources, 7: 132-136.
Lim, T.T., Rahardjo, H., Chang, H. & Fredlund, D.G. 1996. Effect of rainfall on matrix suction in a residual soil slope. In
A geotechnical engineering approach. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 24(4): 565-580.
Leong, E.C. & Rahadjo, H. 1997. A review of soil-water characteristic curve equation. In Journal of Geotechnical and
Geoenvironmental Engineering, 123(12):1106-1117.
Leong, E.C. & Rahardjo, H. Permeability functions for unsaturated soils. In Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 123(12):1118-1126.
Leong, E.C. & Rahardjo, H. 2002. Soil-water characteristic
curve of compacted residual soils. In Proc. 3 rd International
Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 271-276. Recife:
Leroueil, S. & de A Barbosa, P.S. Combined effect of fabric,
bonding and partical saturation on yielding of soils. In Proceedings of the Asian Conference on Unsaturated Soils,
UNSAT-Asia 2000. editors. Rahardjo et al., Balkema, 527532.
Li, J., Smith, D.W., Fityus, S.F. & Sheng, D.C. 2002. Quantitative analysis of moisture content determination in expansive
soils using neutron probes. Presented at the Proc. 3rd Inter-

national Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 363-368. Recife: Balkema.

Luckner, L., van Gnuchten, M.Th., & Nielson, D.R. 1991. Reply to Nimmo, J.R. Comment on the treatment of residual
water content in A consistent set of parametric models for
the two-phase flow of immiscible fluids in the subsurface.
Water Resources: 661-622.
Maatouk. A., Leroueil, S. & La Rochelle, P. 1995. Yielding
and critical state of a collapsible unsaturated silty soil. Geotechnique, 45(3): 465-477.
Mahler, C.F., Mendes, C.A.R., Souza, A.P., & Fernandes.
(2002). Measuring the matric potential of water in the soil
through instrumentation installed in mini-lysimeters. In
Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1:
331-334. Recife: Balkema.
Mahler, C.F., Pacheco, A.C., & Goncalves. (2002). Development of an automatic tensiometer in laboratory using a
mini-lysimeter. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on
Unsaturated Soils 1: -. Recife: Balkema.
Marinho, F.A.M. 1997. Medio de suco em solos. In Anais
do 3 Simpsio Brasileiro de Solos Nao Saturados 2: 373397. Rio de Janeiro: Freitas Bastos Editora.
Marshall, R.J. 1979. Analysis of fundamentals of compacted
soils. General Report, Main Session, IV. In Proc. Sixth
Pan-American Conf. Soil Mech. Found. Engg. Lima, Peru,
3, 328-438.
Mata, C., Romero, E. & Ledesma, A. 2002. Hydro-chemical
effects on water retention in bentonite-sand mixtures. In
Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1:
283-288. Recife: Balkema.
Maulem, Y. 1976. A new model for predicting the hydraulic
conductivity of unsaturated porous media. In Water Resource Research, 12:593-622.
Matyas, E.L. & Radhakrishna, H.S. 1968. Volume change
characteristics of patically saturated soils. Geotechnique.
McQueen, I.S. & Miller, R.F. 1968. Calibration and evaluation
of a wide range method of measuring moisture stress. In
Journal of Science Soil, 106(3): 225-231.
Melgarejo, M.L., Ridley, A.M. & Dineen, K. 2002. A comparison of the soil water characteristic curves for reconstituted
and undisturbed samples of a colluvium from Rio de Janeiro. In Proc. 3 rd International Conference on Unsaturated
Soils 1: 313-316. Recife: Balkema.
Meilani, I., Rahardjo, H., Leong, E-C., & Fredlund, D.G. 2002.
Mini suction probe for matric measurements. Canadian
Geotechnical Journal. 39(6):1427-1432.
Mitchell, J.K. 1976. Fundamentals of soil behaviour. New
York: Wiley
Muraleetharan, K.K. & Granger, K.K. 1999. The use of miniature pore-pressure transducer in measuring matric suction in
unsaturated soils. Geotechnical Testing Journa, GTJODJ,
Ng, C.W.W. & Pang, Y.W. 2000. Influence of stress state on
soil-water characteristics and slope stability, Journal of
Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Engineering,
ASCE. , 126(2):157-166
Nishimura, T. & Fredlund, D.G. 2002. Hysteresis effects resulting from drying and wetting under relatively dry conditions. In Proc. 3 rd International Conference on Unsaturated
Soils 1: 301-305. Recife: Balkema.
Oberg, A. & Sallfors, G. 1997 Determination of shear strength
parameters of unsaturated silts and sands based on the water
retention curve, Geotechnical Testing Journal, GTJODJ,
20(1): 40-48.
OKane, M., Wilson, G.W., & Barbour, S.L. 1998. Instrumentation and monitoring of an engineered soil cover system
for mine waste rock. Canadian Geotechnical Journal,

Peck, A.J. & Rabbidge, R.M. 1969. Design and performance of

an osmotic tensiometer foe measuring capillarity potential.
In Proc. Soil. Sci. Soc. Amer., 33(2):169-202.
Paronuzzi, P., Del Fabbro, M. & Maddaleni, P. 2002. Soil
moisture profiles of unsaturated colluvial slopes in alpine
regions North-Eastern Italy. In Proc. 3rd International
Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 307-312. Recife:
Phani Kumar, B.R., Sharma, R.S., & Garg, S. 2002. A review
of in situ properties unsaturated soils with reference to suction. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated
Soils 1: 351-355. Recife: Balkema.
Prapharan, S., Altschaeffl, A.G. & Dempsey, B.J. 1985. Moisture curve of compacted clay: Mercury instrusion method.
J. of Geotech. Engg., 111(9): 1139-1142.
Rahardjo, H., Li, X.W., Toll, D.G. & Leong, E.C. 2001. The
effect of the rainfall on slope stability. In Geotechnical and
Geological Engineering 19: 371-399. Kluwer Academic
Rawls, W.J. & Brakensiek, D.L. 1985. Prediction of soil water
properties for hydrologic modelling. In Jones, E.B. &
Ward, T.J. (Eds.) watershed Management in the Eighties.
Proc. of Symp. Sponsored by Comm. on Watershed Management, I & D Division, ASCE: 293-299.
Richards, B.G. 1965. Measurement of the free energy of soil
moisture by the psychrometric technique using thermistors.
In G.D. Aitchison (ed) Moisture equilibria and moisture
changes in soils beneath covered areas: 39-46. Sydney:
Butterworth & Co. Ltd.
Ridley, A.M.1993. The measurement of the soil moisture suction. In Ph.D. Thesis, University of London Imperial College Civil Engineering Department.
Ridley, A.M. & Burland, J.B. 1993. A new instrument for
measurement soil moisture suctions. In Technical note
Geotechnique, 43(2):321-324.
Ridley, A.M. & Burland, J.B. 1995. A pore pressure probe for
the in-situ measurement of the soil suction. In Proceeding
of the Conference on Advanced in Site Investigation Practice:510-520.
Ridley, A.M. & Wray, W.K. 1995. Suction measurement: a review of current theory and practice. In Proceeding of the 1st
International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 3: 12931322.
Russell, M.B. & Richards, L.A. 1938. The determination of
soil moisture energy relations by centrifugation. In Soil Sci.
Soc. America. Proceedings, 3: 65-69.
Scheinost, A.C., Sinowski, W. & Auerswald, K. 1996. Regionalization of soil water retention curves in a highly variable
soilscape, I. Developing a new pedo-transfer function. In
Geoderma 78: 129-143.
Schuurman, E. 1966. The compressibility of an air/water mixture. Geotechnique, 16(4):449-477.
Shuai, F., Clements, C., Ryland, L. & Fredlund, D.G. 2002.
Some factors that influence soil suction measurements using thermal conductivity sensor. In Proc. 3rd International
Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 325-329. Recife:
Sillers, W.S., Fredlund, D.G., & Zakerzadeh, N. 2001. Mathematical attributes of some soil-water characteristic curve
models. In Geotechnical and Geological Engineering 19:
243-245. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publisher.
Simms, P.H., & Yanful, E.K. 2002. Predicting soil-water characteristic curves of compacted plastic soils from measured
pore-size distributions. Geotechnique. 52(4): 269-278.
Skibinsky, D.N. 1996. A centrifuge method to obtain the soilwater characteristic curve. M.Sc. thesis, University of Saskatchewan.
Soil Moisture Equipment Corporation. 1985. A full range of
soil moisture extractors. Santa Barbara. U.S.A.

SoilVision, 2001. Software Package for Modelling the Engineering Behavior of Unsaturated Soils. Version, 2.04. Soil
Vision Systems Ltd.
Sugii, T., Yamada, K. & Condou, H. 2003. Evaluation of soil
water characteristic curve of sandy soil using compaction
energy. In Proc. 2nd Asian Conference on Unsaturated
Soils: 445-450. Osaka, Japan.
Stormant, J., Ankeny, M. & Kelsey, J. 1998. Airflow as Monitoring Technique for Landfill Liners. Journal of Environmental Engineering: 539-544.
Swanson, D.A., Barbour, S.L., Wilson, G.W. & OKane, M.O.
2003. Soil-atmosphere modeling of an engineering soil
cover for acid generating mine waste in a humid, alpine
climate. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 40(2):276-292.
Tang, G.X. & Graham, J. 2002. A possible elastic-plastic
framework for unsaturated soils with high plasticity. Can.
Geotech. J. 39:894-907.
Tarantino, A. & Mongiov, L. 2002. Design and construction of
a tensiometer for direct measurement of matric suction. In
Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1:
319-324. Recife: Balkema.
Toll, D.G. 1990. A framework for unsaturated soil behaviour.
Geotechnique. 40(1): 31-44.
Toll, D.G. 2001. Rainfall-induced landslides in Singapore. In
Proceeding of the Institutions of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, 149: 211-216.
Toll, D.G. & Tsaparas, I. 2001. The influence of rainfall on the
negative pore-water pressur within slopes. Proc. Of 15th Int.
Conf. on Soil Mech. & Geotechnical Eng:1269-1272.
Topp, G.C. & Reynolds. 1998. Time domain Reflectometry: A
seminal technique for measuring mass and energy in soil.
Soil Tillage Research. 47:125-132.
Trichs, G. & Pedroso. 2002. Using the time domain reflectometry to determine moisute contents in unsaturated soils.
Resented at the Proc. 3 rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils. Recife: Balkema.
Tsaparas, I. Rahardjo, H. Toll, D.G. & Leong, E.C. 2002. Controlling parameters for rainfall-induced landslides. In Computers and Geotechnics 29: 1-27. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Tyler, S.W. & Wheatcraft, S.W. 1989. Application of fractal
mathematics to soil water retention estimation. In Soil Science Society American Journal, 53(4):987-996.
van Genuchten, M. Th. 1980. A closed form equation predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. In Soil
Science Society of American Journal, 44: 892-898.
Vanapalli, S.K., Fredlund, D.G., Pufahl, D.E. & Clifton, A.W.
1996. Model for the prediction of shear strength with respect to soil suction. In Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
33(3): 379-392.
Vanapalli, S.K., Sillers, W.S & Fredlund, M.D. 1998. The
meaning and relevance of residual state to unsaturated soils.
In 51 st Canadian Geotechnical Conference. Alberta.
Vanapalli, S.K., Fredlund, D.G. & Pufahl, D.E., 1999. Influence of soil structure and stress history on the soil-water
characteristics of a compacted till. Geotechnique, 49: 2, pp.
Vereecken, H., Maes, J., Feyen, J. & Darius, P. 1989. Estimating the soil moisture retention characteristic from texture,
bulk density, and carbon content. In Soil Science, 148(6).
Vertamatti, E. & Arajo, F.A.R. 2002. Association of soilwater characteristic curve with genesis and grain-size composition of tropical soils. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 261-264. Recife: Balkema.
Villar, L.F.S & de Campos, T.M.P. 2002. Obtaining the soil
moisture characteristic curve of a highly compressible
waste submitted to drying. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 339-345. Recife: Balkema.
Wang, Z. & Lao, Y.D. 2002. Measurement of matric suction of
loess in Shanxi Province. In Proc. 3rd International Conference on Unsaturated Soils 1: 347-350. Recife: Balkema.

Wheeler, S.J. & Sivakumar, V. 1995. An elaso-pastic critical

state framework for unsaturated soils. Geotechnique.
Wheeler, S.J. & Karube, D. 1996. Constitutive modeling. Unsaturated Soils. In Proc. 1st Int. Conf. on Unsaturated Soils.
(eds) E.E. Alonso & P. Delage, P. Balkema. 1323-1356.
Wilson, G.W., Fredlund, D.G. & Barbour, S.L. 1994. Coupled
soil-atmosphere modeling for soil evaporation. In Canadian
Geotechnical Journal, 31: 151-161.
Woyshner, M.R. & Yanful. E.K. 1995. Modelling and field
measurements of water percolation through an experimental
soil cover on mine tailings. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 32: 601-609.
Yanful. E.K., Bell, A.V., & Woyshner, M.R. 1993. Construction and monitoring of a composite soil cover on an experimental waste-rock pile near Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 30:588599.
Zapata, C.E., Houston, W.N., Houston, S.L., & Walsh, K.D.
2000. Soil-water characteristic variability. Advances in
Unsaturated Geotechnics, ed. C.D. Shackelford et al. ASCE
Geotechnical Special Publication. Advances in Unsaturated
Geotechnics, 99:84:124.