Cation exchange capacity and soil pore system play key roles in water vapour sorption

Xue Song, Chong Chen, Emmanuel Arthur, Markus Tuller, Hu Zhou, Jianying Shang, Tusheng Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Understanding the controlling factors of soil water vapour sorption at different water activities (aw) is essential for accurate estimation of soil properties, such as cation exchange capacity (CEC) and specific surface area (SSA). The objective of this study was to identify the role of CEC and soil pore system in water vapour sorption and sorption hysteresis over a range of aw values. The CEC, SSA, pore volume, and water and nitrogen adsorption/desorption isotherms for eight soils with different clay contents and mineralogies were measured. Irrespective of aw and sorption direction, there was a significant correlation between water content and CEC, and the correlation varied with aw. The water content change was mainly related to CEC and SSAH2O for aw < ∼0.6, and to SSAN2 and pore volume for aw > ∼0.6. Similar to the forced closure phenomenon of the soil nitrogen desorption branch at a relative pressure (P/P0) of ∼ 0.45, the soil water vapour desorption branch also exhibited a sudden drop in the range of 0.2 < aw < 0.4. The water vapour sorption hysteresis for aw < ∼0.75 was mainly due to the difference in cation hydration during the adsorption and desorption process, and the hysteresis phenomena for aw > ∼0.75 was attributed to the different sizes of narrow pore necks and the connected pores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116017
StatePublished - Oct 15 2022


  • Cation hydration
  • Condensation
  • Dry region soil water retention
  • Hysteresis
  • Pore volume
  • Soil specific surface area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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