• Thermal and hydraulic properties of sandy soils during drying and wetting cycles

      Ali, Alexis; Mohamed, Mostafa H.A.; Aal, M.; Schellart, A.; Tait, Simon J. (2014)
      There is an increasing interest in the use of Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) as a source of renewable energy in temperate countries. GSHPs coupled with buried heat collectors can harness the thermal energy from near-surface soils to provide the heating required for domestic properties. The performance of a GSHP system depends greatly on the thermal conductivity of the surrounding soils. Near-surface soils undergo cycles of drying and wetting due to, for example, the infiltration of rain water and/or fluctuations of the ground water table. Several parameters - including the properties of soil, suction head and saturation history - affect the thermal properties as well as the retention and flow of water. This paper presents results from a comprehensive laboratory investigation on sand samples with markedly different grain size distribution. Simultaneous measurements of thermal and hydraulic properties of the sands were taken under incremental increase/decrease in the suction head values to simulate cycles of drying and wetting. The results clearly suggest that the thermal conductivity is better expressed as a function of the matric suction head so as to reflect the saturation history. There has been almost five-fold increase in the measured value of thermal conductivity when the soil was wetted to a residual degree of saturation from being dry.