Spontaneous Imbibition and Drainage of Water in a Thin Porous Layer: Experiments and Modeling

Luwen Zhuang*, S. Majid Hassanizadeh, Divesh Bhatt, C. J. van Duijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The typical characteristic of a thin porous layer is that its thickness is much smaller than its in-plane dimensions. This often leads to physical behaviors that are different from three-dimensional porous media. The classical Richards equation is insufficient to simulate many flow conditions in thin porous media. Here, we have provided an alternative approach by accounting for the dynamic capillarity effect. In this study, we have presented a set of one-dimensional in-plane imbibition and subsequent drainage experiments in a thin fibrous layer. The X-ray transmission method was used to measure saturation distributions along the fibrous sample. We simulated the experimental results using Richards equation either with classical capillary equation or with a so-called dynamic capillarity term. We have found that the standard Richards equation was not able to simulate the experimental results, and the dynamic capillarity effect should be taken into account in order to model the spontaneous imbibition. The experimental data presented here may also be used by other researchers to validate their models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-396
Number of pages16
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Dynamic capillarity
  • In plane
  • Thin porous layer
  • Thin porous media
  • Unsaturated flow


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