Basic concepts in the mechanics and hydraulics of unsaturated geomaterials

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Unsaturated geomaterials are those geomaterials where the void spaces are
partially filled with liquid and partially filled with gas. The liquid (wetting) phase is
an aqueous solution generically referred to as water whereas the gaseous (nonwetting)
phase is a mixture of air and water vapour generically referred to as air.
The mutual interaction between these two fluid phases and their interaction with
solid phase play a key role in the mechanical and hydraulic response of unsaturated
geomaterials. The basic mechanisms and thermodynamics of the interaction between
the liquid, gaseous, and solid phases are not commonly covered by undergraduate
and graduate courses. As a result, students and engineers with geotechnical
background may find it difficult to approach the mechanics and hydraulics of
unsaturated soils. The purpose of this chapter is to fill this gap and to illustrate the
basic elementary mechanisms behind water retention, water flow, and mechanical
behaviour of unsaturated geomaterials. Special emphasis is given to capillary
mechanisms arising from surface tension at the air-water interface and from the
angle formed by the air-water interface at the solid-liquid-gas junction (contact
angle). Capillary actions play a major role in the response of unsaturated
geomaterials and can conveniently serve as a basis to introduce the most distinctive
features of the hydraulic and mechanical response of unsaturated geomaterials.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMechanics of unsaturated geomaterials
EditorsLyesse Laloui
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2010


  • mechanics
  • unsaturated geomaterials
  • hydraulics
  • oil
  • natural disasters
  • nuclear waste disposal
  • agriculture


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