Articles | Volume 15, issue 6
Research article
09 Jun 2011
Research article |  | 09 Jun 2011

Impact of changes in grain size and pore space on the hydraulic conductivity and spectral induced polarization response of sand

K. Koch, A. Kemna, J. Irving, and K. Holliger

Abstract. Understanding the influence of pore space characteristics on the hydraulic conductivity and spectral induced polarization (SIP) response is critical for establishing relationships between the electrical and hydrological properties of surficial unconsolidated sedimentary deposits, which host the bulk of the world's readily accessible groundwater resources. Here, we present the results of laboratory SIP measurements on industrial-grade, saturated quartz samples with granulometric characteristics ranging from fine sand to fine gravel. We altered the pore space characteristics by changing (i) the grain size spectra, (ii) the degree of compaction, and (iii) the level of sorting. We then examined how these changes affect the SIP response, the hydraulic conductivity, and the specific surface area of the considered samples. In general, the results indicate a clear connection between the SIP response and the granulometric as well as pore space characteristics. In particular, we observe a systematic correlation between the hydraulic conductivity and the relaxation time of the Cole-Cole model describing the observed SIP effect for the entire range of considered grain sizes. The results do, however, also indicate that the detailed nature of these relations depends strongly on variations in the pore space characteristics, such as, for example, the degree of compaction. This underlines the complexity of the origin of the SIP signal as well as the difficulty to relate it to a single structural factor of a studied sample, and hence raises some fundamental questions with regard to the practical use of SIP measurements as site- and/or sample-independent predictors of the hydraulic conductivity.