Thermal Conductivity of Sand–Silt Mixtures

Shahrzad Roshankhah, Adrian Garcia, Carlos Santamarina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Heat flow controls the design and operation of a wide range of engineered geosystems. This study uses transient thermal probe measurements to determine the evolution of the thermal conductivity of air-dry and water-saturated sand–silt mixtures as a function of effective stress. Results confirm that the thermal conductivity of soils varies with state of stress, dry mass density, mineralogy, and pore fluid properties and highlight the effect of thermal contact resistance on the thermal conductivity of granular materials. Thermal conductivity follows a linear relationship with the logarithm of effective stress as a consequence of fabric compaction, increased coordination number, contact deformation, and reduced thermal contact resistance. The bulk thermal conductivity of water-saturated soils is more than seven times that of air-dry soils for the same fines content (FC) and effective stress. Pore-filling fines contribute conduction paths and interparticle coordination; the peak in thermal conductivity takes place at FC≈0.4; this mixture range corresponds to the transition from fines-controlled to coarse-controlled mechanical response (i.e., both fines and coarse grains are load bearing), in agreement with the revised soil classification system.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)06020031
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 12 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-12-19
Acknowledgements: Support for this research was provided by the Goizueta Foundation at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the KAUST endowment
at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. The authors’ gratitude extends to Gabrielle E. Abelskamp, who edited the manuscript.


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