Measurements of permeability of saturated and unsaturated soils

P Pandy, K Lynch, V Sivakumar, B Solan, S Tripathy, S Nanda

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The management and engineering assessments of geotechnical assets within the national transportation inventory require an appropriate knowledge of permeability of saturated and unsaturated soils. Determination of the permeability of saturated soils can be carried out using direct measurements, whereas that of unsaturated soils is often made using indirect methods based on Soil Water Retention Curve (SWRC). In this study an attempt was made to develop a novel approach for measuring the saturated and unsaturated permeability of soils. The tests were conducted on 100mm diameter reconstituted and compacted samples of glacial till. Suctions were generated by circulating low humidity air through a slender sand column located at the centre of the samples. Measurements of suction were made by two tensiometers located radially at the base of the samples. The drying process was terminated when the observed suctions reached or approached the limiting capacity of the tensiometers (1500 kPa). Combinations of suction measurements and volumetric strains during the drying process were used to determine the permeability by adopting analytical solutions as applicable to a radial flow condition.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date24 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sep 2019


  • permeability
  • clays
  • compaction
  • partial saturation
  • pore pressures
  • suction

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