Water-repellent soil and its relationship to granularity, surface roughness and hydrophobicity: a materials science view

McHale, G., Newton, M.I. ORCID: 0000-0003-4231-1002 and Shirtcliffe, N.J., 2005. Water-repellent soil and its relationship to granularity, surface roughness and hydrophobicity: a materials science view. European Journal of Soil Science, 56 (4), pp. 445-452. ISSN 1351-0754


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Considerable soil water repellency has been observed at a wide range of locations worldwide. The soil exhibiting water repellency is found within the upper part of the soil profile. The reduced rate of water infiltration into these soils leads to severe run-off erosion, and reduction of plant growth. Soil water repellency is promoted by drying of soil, and can be induced by fire or intense heating of soil containing hydrophobic organic matter. Recent studies outside of soil science have shown how enhancement of the natural water repellency of materials, both porous and granular, by surface texture (i.e. surface roughness, pattern and morphology) into super-hydrophobicity is possible. The similarities between these super-hydrophobic materials and observed properties of water-repellent soil are discussed from a non-soil scientist materials-based perspective. A simple model is developed for a hydrophobic granular surface and it is shown that this can provide a mechanism for enhancement of soil water repellency through the relative size and spacing of grains and pores. The model provides a possible explanation for why soil water repellency should be more prevalent under dry conditions than wet. Consequences for water run-off, raindrop splash and soil erosion are discussed.

Item Type: Journal article
Description: The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Publication Title: European Journal of Soil Science
Creators: McHale, G., Newton, M.I. and Shirtcliffe, N.J.
Publisher: Blackwell
Place of Publication: Oxford
Date: 2005
Volume: 56
Number: 4
ISSN: 1351-0754
Rights: Copyright ©2004 British Society of Soil Science.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:15
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:23
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10161

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