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Validity of Darcys Law in Laminar Regime

Alabi, O. O.
Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Osun State University, Osogbo.

It is difficult to predict the exact range of the validity of Darcys law. The best method to ascertain the range is to conduct experiments and determine the actual relationship between the velocity, v, and the hydraulic gradient, i. For Darcys law to be valid, the flow through soils must be laminar, which is true for Reynolds number less than one. However, it has been found that digressions from Darcys law occur, even in the laminar regime, when inertial forces become effective. It was found that Reynolds number increases with increase in characteristics length, D, which represents the geometry of the passage of water in soils and the digression from Darcys law increases with decrease in characteristics length with polynomial equation of second order.


soil-water characteristics curve, reddish brown tropical soils, compaction water content, compactive effort.

The flow of free water through soil is governed by Darcys law. In 1856, Darcy demonstrated experimentally that for laminar flow in a homogenous isotropic porous medium completely saturated with a single fluid, the velocity of flow (v) is proportional to hydraulic gradient, where the constant of proportionality is the coefficient of permeability (or hydraulic conductivity (Bear, 1990; Ehigiator and Anyata, 2008). The seepage of free water in a permeable medium is due to gravitational force (Arora, 2009). Darcys law is valid if the flow through soil is laminar, and this depends in the dimension of interstices, which in turn, depends upon the particle size (Cedergren, 1976, Bell, 1978). In finegrained soils, the dimension of the interstices are very small and the flow is laminar, while the flow may be turbulent in very coarse- grained soils. It has been found that flow through soil is laminar when Reynolds number is less than unity (Arora, 2009). - 27 -

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Previous studies of fluid flow through porous media in laminar regime have shown that the definition of permeability as constant characteristics of porous medium fails at low pressure and/or small pores (Carman, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1948 1950, 1956; Coulson, 1949; Huang and Ramsey, 1968 and Klinkenberg, 1941). Also, it was observed that there is disproportionally for flow velocity versus hydraulic gradient for certain types of porous media consisting of or containing clay. (Swartzendruber, 1962). However, the previous studies considered the theory of gas flow in porous media (flow of Nitrogen gas in Natural Rocks) and the results did not adequately describe the relation to the Reynolds number, which is the measure of the regime of the fluid flow pattern to the digressions of Darcys law. In this present paper, the Reynolds number of different grain sizes of sands will be found at different hydraulic gradients and the validity of the Darcys for these sand samples shall be verified. Thereafter, the relationship between characteristics length of porous media at laminar flow regime and digression from Darcys law will be established.

It was established by Darcy through experiments that the velocity of a fluid through a porous medium varies linearly with the loss of head hf, which indicates that the flow through porous media is laminar. Let us consider a circular pipe of Length L and diameter D completely filled with porous material of grain diameter ds. The flow takes place through the interstices of the porous material. If porosity is , the diameter of the passes through the particles is ds. The loss of head when liquid flows through a porous medium can be determined by using the general expression for head loss in laminar flow. The loss of head for laminar flow through a pipe is given by (Rajput, 2007)

hf =

32 uL wD 2


Similarly, the loss of head for laminar flow through parallel plate is given by (Rajput, 2007)

hf =

12 uL wD 2


Hence, the general expression for laminar flow may be expressed as

hf =

K u L wD 2


h f = the loss of head in length L,

K = a constant, the value of which depends on the shape of the passage,

= dynamic viscosity of the fluid,

u = average velocity of flow,
w = weight density of the fluid, and

D = a characteristic length representing the geometry of the passage

Equation (3) can be used for laminar flow through porous media. The diameter of the passage through particles is given by d = d s Substituting this value of d for D in equation (4), we get hf = u=


K uL
2 2 w d s 2

or ,

w d s K

hf L

(5) (6)


u = ki

K = a constant, called the coefficient of permeability, and

hf i = L

the hydraulic gradient

Equation (6) is well known Darcys equation for flow of water through soil. The equation is applicable for the Reynolds number less than 1 (Rajput, 2007) Osborne Reynolds in 1883, with the help of a simple experiment demonstrated that the existence of the laminar flow and turbulent flow in a closed conduit depends upon the following factors: (Rajput, 2007). (i) (ii) Diameter of the pipe (D), Density of the fluid (p),

(iii) Viscosity of the fluid ( ) , and (iv) Velocity of flow ( )

By combining the above variables, Reynolds determined a non-dimensional parameter (Arora, 2007)

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which is known as Reynolds number (Re). It is the critical parameter that determines when transition from laminar to turbulence flow occurs. In general case D is replaced by L, known as characteristic length and we have Re = It may also be expressed as Re = where v = Kinematic viscosity =




In pipe flow, the transition from laminar to turbulent flow is characterized by well-known values of the Reynolds number which expresses the ratio of inertial to viscous forces. By analogy with pipe flow a Reynolds number has been established in flow through porous media. In which V is the specific discharge, v is the kinematic viscosity of the fluid, and D is a characteristic length. If the flow at low velocities is laminar, it is expected to become turbulent at higher velocities. Turbulent flow, if the analogy with pipe flow has to hold, would require a nonlinear, near quadratic or quadratic relationship between velocity and head loss. Hence, Darcys law would no longer be valid. Experiments conducted by Lindquist (1935), however, have shown that digressions from Darcys law occur, even in the laminar flow regime, when inertial forces become effective. Lindquist defined a special value of the Reynolds number Re* at which digression from Darcys law starts because the inertia forces become important. He found Re* to be the order of 4 in the case of a medium of uniform grain size, with a porosity, , of 38 percent . Darcys law for liquid flow through a horizontal linear bed has been experimentally established to be (Kelvin, 1962) Q= where Q = the volume rate of flow, k = permeability, kA

P1 P2 L


= viscosity,
A = cross-sectional area of the bed, L = length of the bed, and P1 and P2 = pressure at the left hand and right-hand ends of the bed.

However, a differential form of Darcys law is most useful. In fact, Darcys law for linear bed is of very little value, all-important uses today start from the differential from (Kelvin, 1962) For simplicity sake we choose to replace L by the coordinate of the two ends relatively to some arbitrary coordinate system. This gives Q = kA

P1 P2 x 2 x1


Equations (10) and (11) are correct under the assumption that steady-state flow is obtained (that is Q / x = 0, Q / t = 0 ) that the liquid is incompressible and that k, and A are independent of x. since Q/A has the unit of velocity, the equation becomes


k p x


where u may be interpreted as the bulk velocity, a pseudo velocity, which could be maintained by the liquid of there was no rock matrix. As x becomes small, equation (12) becomes

= dx

k dp


which is a differential form of Darcys law. The usual extension to three-dimension is written as (Kelvin, 1962)

The Darcy flux is defined as

( P + g )


where, q = Darcy flux (ms-1), Q = Volumetric flow rate (m3s-1), and A = Cross-sectional area (m2)



The Darcy flux is the volumetric flow rate per unit area. Then q = K dh dl (16)

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The mechanical analysis, known as particle size analysis of the processed samples were done in order to obtain sand of different particle size. The soil is sieved through a set of sieves. Sieves are generally made of spun brass and phosphor bronze ( or stainless steel or sieve cloth.). The sieves consisting of sieve 63, 150, 212, 300 and 425 m). Thereafter, the saturated sample was transferred into permeameter, one after the other. The constant -head reservoir was connected to the drainage and cap. Water is allowed to flow out from the drainage base for sometime till a steady-state is established. The water level in the constant-head chamber in which the sand is placed is kept constant. The head causing flow (h) is equal to the difference in water levels between the constant-head reservoir and the constant-head chamber. The specific discharge q is equal to the volume of water discharge per unit area, per second, while cross-sectional area which is the area permeameter (Eq. 15) Then, Reynolds number was determine for each sample at different hydraulic gradient to verify if they are within the range of laminar regime as proposed by Reynolds. (Eq. 9).


Table 1 presents grain size, porosity and characteristics length. Table 2 presents experimental determined values of volume flux rate Q for samples at various. Table 3 presents Characteristics length, hydraulic gradient, Reynolds number and digression. Table 1: Grain size, porosity and Characteristics length
Sample A B C D E Grain size (m) 63 150 212 300 425 Porosity 0.25 + 0.010 0.333+0.002 0.364 + .001 0.400 + .001 0.420+ 0.010 Characteristics Length (D)(m) 49.950x10-6 49.950x10-6 77.680x10-6 120.000x10-6 178.500x10-6

Figures 1 5 are the plot of volume flux against hydraulic gradient for samples A E. (Table 2) The slope of each indicates the hydraulic conductivity. Figures 1 5 show that volume flux is linearly related to hydraulic gradient with coefficient of relations 0.99, 0.99, 0.99, 1.0 and 0.98 for samples A, B, C, D and E respectively.

Table 2: Experimentally determined values of volume flux rate Q for samples at various Hydraulic Gradient
1.87 3.75 7.5 15.000 30.000

Volume flux rate q* 10-4 (ms-1) A

1.11+ 0.02 1.98+ 0.03 2.60+ 0.07 5.08+ 0.11 14.14+ 0.14

Volume flux rate q* 10-4 (ms-1) B

1.98+ 0.02 3.84+ 0.04 7.44+ 0.03 14.51+ 0.10 31.25+ 0.12

Volume flux rate q* 10-4 (ms-1) C

2.23+ 0.04 4.40+ 0.03 8.18+ 0.05 15.87+ 0.04 34.47+ 0.14

Volume flux rate q* 10-4 (ms-1) D

2.94+ 0.06 6.02+ 0.05 12.20+ 0.12 24.47+ 0.04 49.07+ 0.13

Volume flux rate q* 10-4 (ms-1) E

5.84+ 0.07 11.7+ 0.09 23.64+ 0.06 47.30+ 0.10 94.81+ 0.15

Furthermore, plots of the experimental data show that generally volume flux, q is related to hydraulic gradient, i for all samples (Fig. 1 5) as: q = c1i c 2



q = volume flux i = hydraulic gradient, and c1 and c2 are constants.

The presence of constant c2 could not be taken as experimental error or random error because it followed a definite pattern for all the samples. It was found to be negative for all the samples (Figs. 1 5) in which sample A has the highest value and sample E has the least value. The threshold gradients were obtained by setting v equals zero from equations of the graph of seepage velocity against hydraulic gradient for the samples. That is, d = c 2 c1 (18)

It was found that digression, d increases with decrease in characteristics length, D (Table 3). This is in support of Stearnss results, in which it was found that the increase in percentage of clay in a porous medium decreases the porosity of that medium and this in turn increases the minimum gradient required (that is threshold gradient) before flow can occur in that medium. The plot was prepared between maximum threshold gradient and porosity and found to be related in polynomial of degree two (Fig. 6) with relation d = 15.77 D2 14.78 D + 3.46 with coefficient of correlation 0.9948. This shows that they are not linearly related. Also this relation could be of help in predicting the range of threshold gradient of a medium of a known characteristics length. In addition this relation can be incorporated into Darcys equation for laminar flow for accurate prediction.

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Following the earlier suggestions of Von Engelhardt and Tun [1955]; Low [1961] and Arora [2009], the non- Darcy behaviour of flow of water in fine grained sands was attributed to effect of absorbed water. This fine-grinded soils have a layer of absorbed water strongly attached to their surface, which is not free to move under gravity. It causes an obstruction to flow of water in the pores and hence reduces the permeability of soil. In addition, the hydraulic gradient which is the loss of head or energy of water flowing through the ground is due to the friction resistance of the ground material (Bell, 2007). This friction resistance is greater in fine-grand soils than coarse grained soils. This could be one of the factors that responsible for the non -proportional behaviour of the velocity gradient relationship in fine grained soils. Consequences of non-Darcy behaviour are of potential interest in several disciplines, for example, soil water movement to plant roots and the infiltration of water into soil, are of interest hydrologically, biologically and agriculturally. Thus, the non-proportional behaviour of velocity gradient relationship must be dealt with regardless of the cause.

16 14 volume flux (ms-1) 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 q = 0.458i - 0.347 R = 0.968

hydraulic gradient

Figure 1: Volume flux against hydraulic gradient (sample A)

Table 3: Characteristics length, hydraulic gradient, Reynolds number and digression Characteristic Hydraulic gradient. Length (D)
A 1.6E-05 1.875 3.75 7.5 15 30 B 5.00E-05 1.875 3.75 7.5 15 30 C 7.7E-05 1.875 3.75 7.5 15 30 D 1.20E-04 1.875 3.75 7.5 15 30 2.94 6.02 12.2 24.47 49.07 3.53E-02 7.22E-02 1.46E-01 2.94E-01 5.89E-01 0.03 1.875 3.75 7.5 15 30 5.84 11.77 23.64 47.36 94.81 1.04E-01 2.10E-01 4.22E-01 8.45E-01 1.69E+00 2.23 4.4 8.18 15.87 34.47 1.72E-02 3.40E-02 6.31E-02 1.22E-01 2.66E-01 0.08 1.98 3.84 7.44 14.51 31.25 9.89E-03 1.92E-02 3.72E-02 7.25E-02 1.56E-01 0.20 1.11 1.98 2.6 5.08 14.14 1.75E-03 3.12E-03 4.10E-03 8.00E-03 2.23E-02 0.26 0.76

Vol. Flux (E-04)


Digression (d)


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35 30 25 volume flux (ms-1) 20 15 10 5 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35

q= 1.037i - 0.261 R = 0.998

hydraulic gradient

Figure 2: Volume flux against hydraulic gradient (sample B)

40 35 30 25 volume flux (ms-1) 20 15 10 5 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 q = 1.140i - 0.232 R = 0.997

hydraulic gradient

Figure 3: Volume flux against hydraulic gradient (sample C)

60 50 volume flux (ms-1) 40 30 20 10 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 q = 1.639i - 0.123 R = 1

hydraulic gradient

Figure 4: Volume flux against hydraulic gradient (sample D)

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100 90 80 70 volume flux (ms-1) 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 q = 3.163i - 0.09 R = 1


Hydraulic gradient

Figure 5: Volume flux against hydraulic gradient (sample E)

0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 Digression (d) 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4 0.45 d= 15.77D2 - 14.78D+ 3.46 R = 0.994

Characteristic length (D)

Figure 6: Digression against characteristics length

It has been found experimentally that there is digression or deviation from Darcys law even at Reynolds number less than 1. Thus, it is not completely true to say that Darcys law is obeyed by all samples wherever Reynolds number is less than 1. This is so because the influence of absorbed water and friction resistance is greater in fine-grained sand than in coarse grained sands It was also found that apart from zero-gradient, seepage velocity was also found to be zero at higher gradients. This confirms the existence of threshold gradient range and these threshold gradient range, i, increases with decreasing porosity, ,for extremely fine grained soils.

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Vol. 16 [2011], Bund. A 14. Kelvin, R.J. 1962. On the differential form of Darcys law. Journal of Geophysical Research, 67(2):731


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