A transparent aqueous-saturated sand surrogate for use in physical modeling

Ivan L. Guzman, Magued Iskander, Eduardo Suescun-Florez, Mehdi Omidvar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents the geotechnical properties of a new family of synthetic transparent soils made of fused quartz, saturated with a matched refractive index water-based sucrose solution, suitable for modeling the behavior of sand in small-scale model tests. The dry density ranged between 1,134 and 1,358 kg/m3. The peak angle of friction was found to range from 46° to 57°. The average hydraulic conductivity was 1.7 × 10-5 cm/s. The compressibility index (C c) ranged from 0.34 to 0.57. The main advantage of fused quartz over available sand surrogates made of silica gel is that its solid structure better models the behavior of natural sand. The matching pore fluids are inert and non-toxic, which facilitates their use in educational settings. The availability of a safe and easy-to-use transparent sand permits measurement of three-dimensional deformation patterns and flow characteristics in controlled research experiments. The introduction of an aqueous solution permits the use of two immiscible pore fluids, one made of mineral oil and the other made of a sucrose solution, for modeling multiphase flow problems, as well as coupled flow-deformation problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-206
Number of pages20
JournalActa Geotechnica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Laboratory tests
  • Model tests
  • Sands
  • Soil/structure interaction
  • Transparent soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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