Critical conditions for the wetting of soils

Neil J. Shirtcliffe, Glen McHale, Michael I. Newton, F. Brian Pyatt, Stefan H. Doerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The wettability of soil is of great importance for plants and soil biota and in determining whether flooding and soil erosion will occur. The analysis used in common measurements of soil hydrophobicity makes the assumption that water always enters soils if the average contact angle between the soil and water is 90 degrees or lower; these tests have been used for decades. The authors show theoretically and experimentally that water cannot enter many soils unless the contact angle is considerably lower than this, down to approximately 50 degrees. This difference generates serious errors in determining and modeling soil wetting behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)094101
Number of pages1
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2006


  • soil
  • water repellent
  • hydrophobic
  • granular
  • wattability
  • porous

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