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An NMR-Based Analysis of Soil–Water Characteristics

An NMR-Based Analysis of Soil–Water Characteristics


Both direct and indirect methods for determining soil–water characteristic curves rely on determination of some empirical coefficients, which may not necessarily represent real microscopic mechanisms. Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a powerful tool for investigating water content and their interaction with solid particles in porous media. The NMR technique is widely used in food science and petroleum. In the present study, proton NMR spin–spin relaxation time (T2) distribution measurement is integrated with a Tempe apparatus to characterize the hydraulic processes of unsaturated soils, shedding insights into the microscopic mechanisms of pore water distribution and migration in the soil during hydraulic cycles. It is revealed that during a drying process the drainage of pore water occurs sequentially from larger pores to smaller pores, whereas in a wetting process the water invades into the soil sequentially from smaller pores to larger pores. A new procedure is developed which can be used to determine the pore size distribution of the soil based on the NMR T2 distribution measurements; compared to the traditional methods, the new method is rapid and non-destructive. The new procedure is validated by comparing the new result with the measurement of the mercury intrusion porosimetry.

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