Assessing geotechnical centrifuge modelling in addressing variably saturated flow in soil and fractured rock

B. R Jones, L.B Brouwers, W.D van Tonder and M.A Dippenaar 2017.

Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

The vadose zone typically comprises soil underlain by fractured rock. Often, surface water and groundwater parameters are readily available, but variably saturated flow through soil and rock are oversimplified or estimated as input for hydrological models. In this paper, a series of geotechnical centrifuge experiments are conducted to contribute to the knowledge gaps in: (i) variably saturated flow and dispersion in soil and (ii) variably saturated flow in discrete vertical and horizontal fractures.



Geotechnical centrifuge


Hydraulic Conductivity and    

Flow mechanism

Geotechnical centrifuge modelling has been proven as a viable experimental tool for the modelling of hydrodynamic dispersion as well as the replication of similar flow mechanisms for unsaturated fracture flow, as previously observed in literature. Despite the imminent challenges of modelling variable saturation in the vadose zone, the geotechnical centrifuge offers a powerful experimental tool to physically model and observe variably saturated flow.

Key Words: 

Unsaturated flow, Fracture flow, Dispersion, Hydraulic conductivity, Flow mechanism, Smooth parallel plate model .