AbstractPore-water pressure in soil is caused by three physically distinguishable sources: ambient (environmental) pressure, surface tension–induced capillary pressure, and the soil’s electromagnetic potential–induced adsorptive pressure. The former two form the conventional concept of pore-water pressure, which is considered a constant within a soil-water-air representative elementary volume and can be directly measured by piezometer (under saturated and compressive states) or tensiometer (under unsaturated and tensile states). The third one can be called adsorption-induced pore-water pressure and is localized within a certain distance to the particle surface of soil or intercrystalline surface of swelling clay. The adsorption-induced pore-water pressure is always compressive and dictates the water phase transition in soil by altering water’s freezing point, density, and viscosity, among other physical properties. A framework of quantifying the adsorption-induced pore-water distribution via the measured soil water isotherm is presented for any soil type under any given water content. It is demonstrated that the adsorption-induced pore-water pressure can be up to 1.6 GPa in the first few layers of hydration, but will diminish to zero at a distance equivalent to the gravimetric water content >1% for sandy soil and greater than a few percent for silty soil. In clayey soil, the adsorption-induced pore-water pressure can sustain tens of megapascals even at much farther distance, equivalent to ∼30% water content. In expansive clay, the adsorption-induced pore-water pressure inside the crystalline lamellae can exceed 800 MPa. The soil water density functions of a silty soil and a bentonite clay predicted by the proposed framework matched well with that measured independently from the conventional consolidation testing, validating the framework to determine the spatial distribution of the adsorption-induced pore-water pressure in soil.

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