1 Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark2 Oregon State University3 University of Copenhagen
One of the parameters needed for characterizing soil hydraulic properties is the saturated water content. In the past, different techniques have been employed to obtain an initially fully saturated sample, but it is uncertain how successful the different techniques actually are in achieving full saturation. In this study three techniques often applied in the laboratory have been evaluated for a fine sand sample: (1) venting of the sample with carbon dioxide prior to saturation, (2) applying vacuum to the sample in the beginning of the saturation procedure, and finally (3) the use of degassed water for saturation. Evaluation of the different enhanced saturation techniques was done with Xray computed tomography (CT) and gravimetrically. The use of CT scanning makes it possible to observe the spatial distribution of wetting and non-wetting phases in the porous medium in a non-destructive way. In this case the sample was scanned in 1 mm intervals over the height of the 3.5 cm tall sample, providing detailed information on the performance of the different procedures. Five different combinations of the above mentioned saturation procedures were applied to a disturbed silica sand sample. The sample was drained with pressurized nitrogen between each saturation and allowed to saturate for the same length of time for all the different procedures. Both gravimetric measurements and CT attenuation levels showed that venting the sample with carbon dioxide prior to saturation clearly improved initial saturation whereas the use of degassed water and vacuum did not improve the saturation significantly.