The soil water retention curve (SWRC) and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity (UHC) are crucial indices to assess hydraulic properties of porous media that primarily depend on the particle and pore size distributions. This study aims to present a method based on the discrete element model (DEM) and the typical Arya and Paris model (AP model) to numerically predict SWRC and UHC.
First, the DEM (PFC3D software) is used to construct the pore and particle size distributions in porous media. The number of particles is calculated according to the AP model, which can be applied to evaluate the relationship between the suction head and the moisture of porous media. Subsequently, combining critical path analysis (CPA) and fractal theory, the air entry value is applied to calculate the critical pore radius (CPR) and the critical volume fraction (CVF) for evaluating the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity.
This method is validated against the experimental results of 11 soils from the clay loam to the sand, and then the scaling parameter in the AP model and critical volume fraction value for many types of soils are presented for reference; subsequently, the gradation effect on hydraulic property of soils is analyzed. Furthermore, the calculation for unbound graded aggregate (UGA) material as a special case and a theoretical extension are provided.
The presented study provides an important insight into the relationship between the heterogeneous particle and hydraulic properties by the DEM and sheds light on the directions for future study of a method to investigate the hydraulic properties of porous media.
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (Grant No. 51308554), the Guizhou Transportation Science and Technology Foundation (Grant No. 2013-121-013 2019-122-006) and the Hunan Transportation Science and Technology Foundation (Grant No. 201622).
Dan, H.-C., Zou, Z.-M., Chen, J.-Q. and Peng, A.-P. (2019), "DEM-aided method for predicting the hydraulic properties with particle-size distribution of porous media", Engineering Computations, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 1716-1743. https://doi.org/10.1108/EC-09-2018-0398
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