A Study on Measuring Electrical Capacitance to Access the Volumetric Water Content of Simulated Soil

  • Rial, W.S. (Dept. of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Clemson University) ;
  • Han, Y.J. (Dept. of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Clemson University)
  • Published : 2000.06.01

Abstract

Wet porous media representing agronomic soil that contains variable water content with variable electrolyte concentration was measured to study the shape of the curves of the electric double layer capacitance versus frequency (from 10 KHz to 10 MHz. This was done in an attempt to find the lowest practical operating frequency for developing low cost dielectric constant soil moisture probes. Cellulose sponge was used as the porous media. A high frequency electronic bridge circuit was developed for measuring the equivalent network parallel resistance and capacitance of porous media. It appears that the effects of the electric double layer component of the total parallel network capacitance essentially disappear at operating frequencies greater than approximately 25 MHz at low electrolyte concentrations but are still important at 50 MHz at higher concentrations. At these frequencies, the double layer capacitance masks the diffusion region capacitance where true water content capacitance values reside. The general shape of the curve of volumetric water content versus porous media dielectric constant is presented, with an empirical equation representing data for this type of curve. It was concluded that the lowest frequency where dielectric constant values which represent true water content information will most likely be found is between 30 and 50 MHz at low electrolyte concentrations but may be above 50 MHz when the total electrolyte concentration is near the upper level required for most mesophyte plant nutrition.