Evaluation of theoretical and empirical water vapor sorption isotherm models for soils

Emmanuel Arthur, Markus Tuller, Per Moldrup, Lis W. De Jonge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The mathematical characterization of water vapor sorption isotherms of soils is crucial for modeling processes such as volatilization of pesticides and diffusive and convective water vapor transport. Although numerous physically based and empirical models were previously proposed to describe sorption isotherms of building materials, food, and other industrial products, knowledge about the applicability of these functions for soils is noticeably lacking. We present an evaluation of nine models for characterizing adsorption/desorption isotherms for a water activity range from 0.03 to 0.93 based on measured data of 207 soils with widely varying textures, organic carbon contents, and clay mineralogy. In addition, the potential applicability of the models for prediction of sorption isotherms from known clay content was investigated. While in general, all investigated models described measured adsorption and desorption isotherms reasonably well, distinct differences were observed between physical and empirical models and due to the different degrees of freedom of the model equations. There were also considerable differences in model performance for adsorption and desorption data. While regression analysis relating model parameters and clay content and subsequent model application for prediction of measured isotherms showed promise for the majority of investigated soils, for soils with distinct kaolinitic and smectitic clay mineralogy predicted isotherms did not closely match the measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-205
Number of pages16
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • GAB
  • adsorption
  • clay content
  • desorption
  • hysteresis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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