American Chemical Society
es2038933_si_001.pdf (3.87 MB)

Capillary Forces between Sediment Particles and an Air–Water Interface

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-04-17, 00:00 authored by Nirmalya Chatterjee, Sergey Lapin, Markus Flury
In the vadose zone, air–water interfaces play an important role in particle fate and transport, as particles can attach to the air–water interfaces by action of capillary forces. This attachment can either retard or enhance the movement of particles, depending on whether the air–water interfaces are stationary or mobile. Here we use three standard PTFE particles (sphere, circular cylinder, and tent) and seven natural mineral particles (basalt, granite, hematite, magnetite, mica, milky quartz, and clear quartz) to quantify the capillary forces between an air–water interface and the different particles. Capillary forces were determined experimentally using tensiometry, and theoretically assuming volume-equivalent spherical, ellipsoidal, and circular cylinder shapes. We experimentally distinguished between the maximum capillary force and the snap-off force when the air–water interface detaches from the particle. Theoretical and experimental values of capillary forces were of similar order of magnitude. The sphere gave the smallest theoretical capillary force, and the circular cylinder had the largest force due to pinning of the air–water interface. Pinning was less pronounced for natural particles when compared to the circular cylinder. Ellipsoids gave the best agreement with measured forces, suggesting that this shape can provide a reasonable estimation of capillary forces for many natural particles.