Experimental investigation on the variation of thermal conductivity of soils with effective stress, porosity, and water saturation

  • Lee, So-Jung (Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT)) ;
  • Kim, Kyoung-Yul (Structural and Seismic Technology Group, Power Transmission Laboratory, Korea Electric Power Research Institute (KEPRI)) ;
  • Choi, Jung-Chan (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI)) ;
  • Kwon, Tae-Hyuk (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST))
  • Received : 2015.08.21
  • Accepted : 2016.07.26
  • Published : 2016.12.12


The thermal conductivity of soils is an important property in energy-related geotechnical structures, such as underground heat pumps and underground electric power cable tunnels. This study explores the effects of geotechnical engineering properties on the thermal conductivity of soils. The thermal conductivities of quartz sands and Korean weathered silty sands were documented via a series of laboratory experiments, and its variations with effective stress, porosity, and water saturation were examined. While thermal conductivity was found to increase with an increase in the effective stress and water saturation and with a decrease in porosity, replacing air by water in pores the most predominantly enhanced the thermal conductivity by almost one order of magnitude. In addition, we have suggested an improved model for thermal conductivity prediction, based on water saturation, dry thermal conductivity, saturated thermal conductivity, and a fitting parameter that represents the curvature of the thermal conductivity-water saturation relation.


Supported by : Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT)


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