A particle-water based model for water retention hysteresis

Y. Gan, F. Maggi, G. Buscarnera, I. Einav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A particle-water discrete element based approach to describe water movement in partially saturated granular media is presented and tested. Water potential is governed by both capillary bridges, dominant at low saturations, and the pressure of entrapped air, dominant at high saturations. The approach captures the hysteresis of water retention during wetting and drainage by introducing the local evolution of liquid-solid contact angles at the level of pores and grains. Extensive comparisons against experimental data are presented. While these are made without the involvement of any fitting parameters, the method demonstrates relative high success by achieving a correlation coefficient of at least 82%, and mostly above 90%. For the tested materials with relatively mono-disperse grain size, the hysteresis of water retention during cycles of wetting and drainage has been shown to arise from the dynamics of solid-liquid contact angles as a function of local liquid volume changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-161
Number of pages10
JournalGeotechnique Letters
Issue numberOCT/DEC
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Discrete-element modelling
  • Particle-scale behaviour
  • Pore pressures
  • Sands
  • Suction
  • Water flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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