Hydraulic Flow Through Saturated Clays

Harold W. Olsen1
Soil Engineering Division, Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
1 Present address, U.S. Geol. Survey, Ground Water Branch, Washington 25, D.C.

Abstract: The factors: (1) possible violations of Darey's law, (2) electrokinetic coupling, (3) high viscosity, (4) tortuous flow paths, and (5) unequal pore sizes have been suggested as possible explanations for the differences between hydraulic flow rates in liquid-saturated clays and sands. The effects of these factors on hydraulic flow rates through saturated clays were investigated.

Hydraulic flow rates, electrical conductivities, and streaming potentials were measured on natural, sodium, and calcium samples of kaolinite, illite and Boston blue clay. Data were taken after increments of one-dimensional consolidation and rebound over the pressure range from one-sixteenth to 256 atm.

The influences of electrokinetic coupling on the hydraulic flow rates were calculated from irreversible thermodynamic relationships together with the hydraulic and electrical data. The other factors were studied by examining the extent to which each factor explains the discrepancies between measured flow rates and those predicted from Darcy's law and the Kozeny-Carman equation.

The results show that: (1) the possible violations of Darcy's law and electrokinetic coupling are insignificant, (2) high viscosity and/or tortuous flow paths fail completely to account for the discrepancies between measured and predicted flow rates in clays, and (3) unequal pore sizes can explain all the discrepancies.

Clays and Clay Minerals; 1960 v. 9; no. 1; p. 131-161; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1960.0090108
© 1960, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)