Coupled Hydro-Mechanical-Electrical Problems in Unsaturated Soils - Model Development and Laboratory-Scale Validation

Project Details


Characterization of fluid flow in unsaturated soils can rely on direct hydraulic tests such as measurements of water contents or pressures or indirect geophysical methods such as self-potential (SP) measurements. The direct methods directly measure the hydraulic property. However, the availability of the area of a site and resources have limited implementations of such methods for problems with high resolution requirements. The SP method can provide high resolution measurements with relatively low cost. However, the electrical potential requires additional effort on developing the correlation between SP and the hydraulic (i.e., the water content or pressure) and mechanical properties. Under controlled conditions such as those in laboratory sand box, the correlation between SP and the hydraulic and mechanical properties can be systematically obtained and evaluated. Integrations of hydraulic and geophysical observations to characterize flow and mechanical behavior of slope stability in unsaturated soils have been intensively investigated recently. Coupled hydrological-mechanical-electrical (HME) models had not been conducted for unsaturated soils. Based on the concept that the source current in an electrical file is triggered by the unsaturated flow or soil deformation, this study proposes a three-year project, aiming to develop, test, and implement a coupled HME model that enables the quantification of SP coupling coefficients and parameter sensitivity for unsaturated flow and soil deformation. Additionally, the developed model can integrate observations from hydraulic tests and SP signals to estimate hydraulic and mechanical properties. This study will conduct small-scale sand box experiments for model testing and validations. The developed model was expected to cover forward and inverse simulations for the sand box experiments and expected to be implemented to cases with realistic scales and complexities.
Effective start/end date1/08/1631/07/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • unsaturated soil
  • hydraulic test
  • self-potential
  • coupled hydrological-mechanical-electricalmodel
  • SP coupling coefficient


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