A Review of Experimental and Prediction Methods for Assessing the Freezing Characteristic Curve of GCLs

  • G. G. Carnero-GuzmanEmail author
  • A. Bouazza
  • W. P. Gates
  • R. K. Rowe
Conference paper
Part of the Environmental Science and Engineering book series (ESE)


Geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) are an important part of composite hydraulic barriers in environmental projects, with recent applications in harsh conditions such as in Antarctica. To assure an adequate hydraulic performance of the GCL, the bentonite of the GCL needs to be well-hydrated. However, the sub-zero temperatures attained in Antarctica freeze the water inside the bentonite, and as a result, the hydration process stops with potential consequences on the hydraulic performance of the GCL. To predict the impact of freezing on GCL performance, it is essential to obtain the unsaturated freeze property functions (UFPFs) for the bentonite. The freezing characteristic curve (FCC), which relates the unfrozen water content with freezing temperatures, is the first of the UFPFs, and can be obtained experimentally or by prediction methods. This paper reviews the concepts leading to the determination of the FCC, its relationship with the other UFPFs and its importance for predicting GCL performance in cold regions.


Geosynthetic clay liners Unsaturated behavior Unsaturated freezing property functions Cold regions engineering 



This research was supported under the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (project number LP140100516). The first author thanks the Peruvian National Program of Scholarships and Student Loans (PRONABEC) for funding his Ph.D. studies. The authors also acknowledge the funding provided to this project by Geofabrics Australasia Pty. Ltd.


  1. 1.
    Bouazza A (2002) Geosynthetic clay liners. Geotext Geomembr 20(1):3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bouazza A, Singh RM, Rowe RK, Gassner F (2014) Heat and moisture migration in a geomembrane–GCL composite liner subjected to high temperatures and low vertical stresses. Geotext Geomembr 42(5):555–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    McWatters RS, Rowe RK, Wilkins D, Spedding T, Jones D, Wise L, Mets J, Terry D, Hince G, Gates WP, Di Battista V, Shoaib M, Bouazza A, Snape I (2016) Geosynthetics in Antarctica: performance of a composite barrier system to contain hydrocarbon-contaminated soil after three years in the field. Geotext Geomembr 44(5):673–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hosney MS, Rowe RK (2014) Performance of GCL after 10 years in service in the Arctic. J Geotech Geoenvironmental Eng 140(10):04014056CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kurylyk BL, Watanabe K (2013) The mathematical representation of freezing and thawing processes in variably-saturated, non-deformable soils. Adv Water Resour 60:160–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Harlan RL (1973) Analysis of coupled heat-fluid transport in partially frozen soil. Water Resour Res 9(5):1314–1323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Guymon GL, Luthin JN (1974) A coupled heat and moisture transport model for Arctic soils. Water Resour Res 10(5):995–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Newman GP, Wilson GW (1997) Heat and mass transfer in unsaturated soils during freezing. Can Geotech J 34(1):63–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    McKenzie JM, Voss CI, Siegel DI (2007) Groundwater flow with energy transport and water–ice phase change: numerical simulations, benchmarks, and application to freezing in peat bogs. Adv Water Resour 30(4):966–983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zhao Y, Si B, He H, Xu J, Peth S, Horn R (2016) Modeling of coupled water and heat transfer in freezing and thawing soils, Inner Mongolia. Water 8(10):424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Stähli M, Jansson P-E, Lundin L-C (1999) Soil moisture redistribution and infiltration in frozen sandy soils. Water Resour Res 35(1):95–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Wen Z, Ma W, Feng W, Deng Y, Wang D, Fan Z, Zhou C (2012) Experimental study on unfrozen water content and soil matric potential of Qinghai-Tibetan silty clay. Environ Earth Sci 66(5):1467–1476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Spaans EJA, Baker JM (1996) The soil freezing characteristic: its measurement and similarity to the soil moisture characteristic. Soil Sci Soc Am J 60(1):13–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kruse AM, Darrow MM (2017) Adsorbed cation effects on unfrozen water in fine-grained frozen soil measured using pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance. Cold Reg Sci Technol 142:42–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Anderson D, Tice A (1971) Low-temperature phases of interfacial water in clay-water systems. Proc Soil Sci Soc Am 35:47–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kozlowski T (2012) Modulated differential scanning calorimetry (MDSC) studies on low-temperature freezing of water adsorbed on clays, apparent specific heat of soil water and specific heat of dry soil. Cold Reg Sci Technol 78:89–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Everett DH (1959) An introduction to the study of chemical thermodynamics. Longmans, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Konrad JM, Duquennoi C (1993) A model for water transport and ice lensing in freezing soils. Water Resour Res 29(9):3109–3124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Zhang L, Ma W, Yang C, Yuan C (2014) Investigation of the pore water pressures of coarse-grained sandy soil during open-system step-freezing and thawing tests. Eng Geol 181:233–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Tice AR, Anderson DM, Sterrett KF (1981) Unfrozen water contents of submarine permafrost determined by nuclear magnetic resonance. Eng Geol 18(1):135–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kozlowski T (2016) A simple method of obtaining the soil freezing point depression, the unfrozen water content and the pore size distribution curves from the DSC peak maximum temperature. Cold Reg Sci Technol 122:18–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kozlowski T (2003) A comprehensive method of determining the soil unfrozen water curves: 1. Application of the term of convolution. Cold Reg Sci Technol 36(1):71–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kozlowski T (2003) A comprehensive method of determining the soil unfrozen water curves: 2. Stages of the phase change process in frozen soil–water system. Cold Reg Sci Technol 36(1):81–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Zhou X, Zhou J, Kinzelbach W, Stauffer F (2014) Simultaneous measurement of unfrozen water content and ice content in frozen soil using gamma ray attenuation and TDR. Water Resour Res 50(12):9630–9655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Watanabe K, Wake T (2009) Measurement of unfrozen water content and relative permittivity of frozen unsaturated soil using NMR and TDR. Cold Reg Sci Technol 59:34–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Christ M, Park J-B (2009) Ultrasonic technique as tool for determining physical and mechanical properties of frozen soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 58(3):136–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Watanabe K, Takeuchi M, Osada Y, Ibata K (2012) Micro-chilled-mirror hygrometer for measuring water potential in relatively dry and partially frozen soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76(6):1938–1945CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kozlowski T, Nartowska E (2013) Unfrozen water content in representative bentonites of different origin subjected to cyclic freezing and thawing. Vadose Zone J 12(1)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Huang X, Li D, Ming F, Bing H, Peng W (2015) Experimental study on acoustic characteristics and physico-mechanical properties of frozen silty clay. Yanshilixue Yu Gongcheng Xuebao/Chin J Rock Mech Eng 34(7):1489–1496Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Bai R, Lai Y, Zhang M, Yu F (2018) Theory and application of a novel soil freezing characteristic curve. Appl Therm Eng 129:1106–1114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kozlowski T (2007) A semi-empirical model for phase composition of water in clay–water systems. Cold Reg Sci Technol 49(3):226–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Brooks RH, Corey AT (1964) Hydraulic properties of porous media. Colorado State University, Fort CollinsGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Sheshukov AY, Nieber JL (2011) One-dimensional freezing of nonheaving unsaturated soils: model formulation and similarity solution. Water Resour Res 47(11)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    van Genuchten MT (1980) A closed-form equation for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 44(5):892–898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Dall’Amico M (2010) Coupled water and heat transfer in permafrost modeling. Doctoral thesis, University of Trento, p 175Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Fredlund DG, Xing A (1994) Equations for the soil-water characteristic curve. Can Geotech J 31(4):521–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Azmatch T, Sego DC, Arenson LU, Biggar KW (2012) Using soil freezing characteristic curve to estimate the hydraulic conductivity function of partially frozen soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 83–84:103–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ren J, Vanapalli SK, Han Z (2017) Soil freezing process and different expressions for the soil-freezing characteristic curve. Sci Cold Arid Reg 9(3):221–228Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Koopmans RWR, Miller RD (1966) Soil freezing and soil water characteristic curves. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 30:680–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Miller RD (1980) Freezing phenomena in soils. In: Hillel D (ed) Applications of soil physics. Academic Press, New York, pp 254–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Johansen O (1975) Thermal conductivity of soils. (CRREL Draft Translation 637, 1977), Trondheim, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Watanabe K, Osada Y (2017) Simultaneous measurement of unfrozen water content and hydraulic conductivity of partially frozen soil near 0 °C. Cold Reg Sci Technol 142:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. G. Carnero-Guzman
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Bouazza
    • 1
  • W. P. Gates
    • 2
  • R. K. Rowe
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Frontier MaterialsDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  3. 3.Geoengineering Centre at Queen’s-RMC, Department of Civil EngineeringQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

Personalised recommendations