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Characterization of Miller-similar silica sands for laboratory hydrologic studies

Characterization of Miller-similar silica sands for laboratory hydrologic studies

Soil Science Society of America Journal 60(5): 1331-1339

The use of well-characterized porous media can simplify and improve the efficiency of laboratory subsurface flow and transport experiments. The objective of this study was to present a comprehensive set of hydrologically relevant properties for a unique set of commercially available silica sands. Features of sands selected for characterization included high sphericity, high batch-to-batch consistency, Miller-similarity, and availability in large quantities. Samples of four different sand grades (12/20, 20/30, 30/40, and 40/50 sieve sizes) were characterized for physical properties, chemical composition, water retention, three-phase air-non-aqueous-phase liquid (NAPL)-water saturation-pressure relationships for water and a model NAPL, Soltrol 220, and saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. Properties common to all sand grades included high chemical purity and low organic matter content. Water retention curves featured well-defined air entry pressures and the Miller-similarity of the media was demonstrated for both static and dynamic properties. During water retention measurements, we determined that the common assumption of a uniform vertical water content distribution in retention cells can result in significant errors in uniform porous media. A numerical correction procedure was developed and successfully applied to correct fitted water retention curve parameters, illustrating that potential errors of up to 70% in volumetric water content are made without proper analysis. The characterization data for the four sand grades presented here should facilitate their use in a wide range of laboratory flow and transport studies.

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Accession: 002775203

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DOI: 10.2136/sssaj1996.03615995006000050007x

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