Department of Physics Papers

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Journal Article

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Physical Review Applied





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We visualize the formation of fingered flow in dry model sandy soils under different rain conditions using a quasi-2D experimental setup and systematically determine the impact of the soil grain diameter and surface wetting properties on the water channeling phenomenon. The model sandy soils we use are random closely packed glass beads with varied diameters and surface treatments. For hydrophilic sandy soils, our experiments show that rain water infiltrates a shallow top layer of soil and creates a horizontal water wetting front that grows downward homogeneously until instabilities occur to form fingered flows. For hydrophobic sandy soils, in contrast, we observe that rain water ponds on the top of the soil surface until the hydraulic pressure is strong enough to overcome the capillary repellency of soil and create narrow water channels that penetrate the soil packing. Varying the raindrop impinging speed has little influence on water channel formation. However, varying the rain rate causes significant changes in the water infiltration depth, water channel width, and water channel separation. At a fixed rain condition, we combine the effects of the grain diameter and surface hydrophobicity into a single parameter and determine its influence on the water infiltration depth, water channel width, and water channel separation. We also demonstrate the efficiency of several soil water improvement methods that relate to the rain water channeling phenomenon, including prewetting sandy soils at different levels before rainfall, modifying soil surface flatness, and applying superabsorbent hydrogel particles as soil modifiers.

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Date Posted: 13 October 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.