Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 739–752 | Cite as

A new generalized soil thermal conductivity model for sand–kaolin clay mixtures using thermo-time domain reflectometry probe test

  • Nan Zhang
  • Xinbao YuEmail author
  • Asheesh Pradhan
  • Anand J. Puppala
Research Paper


As the demand of exploitation and utilization of geothermal energy increases, more geothermal-related earth structures occur recently. The design of the structures depends upon an accurate prediction of soil thermal conductivity. The existing soil thermal conductivity models were mostly developed by empirical fits to datasets of soil thermal conductivity measurements. Due to the gaps in measured thermal conductivities between any two tested natural soils, the models may not provide accurate prediction for other soils, and the predicted thermal conductivity might not be continuous over the entire range of soil type. In this research, a generalized soil thermal conductivity model was proposed based on a series of laboratory experiments on sand, kaolin clay and sand–kaolin clay mixtures using a newly designed thermo-time domain reflectometry probe. The model was then validated with respect to k dryn (thermal conductivity of dry soils and porosity) and k rS r (normalized thermal conductivity and degree of saturation) relationships by comparing with previous experimental studies. The predicted thermal conductivities were found to be in a good agreement with the experimental data collected from both this study and the other literatures with at least 85% confidence interval. It is concluded that the proposed model accounts for the effects of both environmental factors (i.e., moisture content and dry density) and compositional factors (i.e., quartz content and soil type) on soil thermal conductivity, and it has a great potential in predicting soil thermal conductivity more accurately for geothermal applications.


Sand–kaolin clay mixtures Thermal conductivity model Thermo-TDR probe 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Group Delta Consultants, Inc.IrvineUSA

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