Dielectric Relaxation of Bound Water versus Soil Matric Pressure

M.A. Hilhorst, C. Dirksen, F.W.H. Kampers, R.A. Feddes

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53 Citations (Scopus)


The electrical permittivity of soil is a function of the water content, which facilitates water content measurements. The permittivity of soil is also a function of the frequency of the applied electric field. This frequency dependence can be described by the relationship between the dielectric relaxation frequency and the activation enthalpy of the water, which in turn is related to the soil matric pressure. The activahas tion enthalpy or soil matrix pressure is a measure of the binding forces acting on a water molecule in the soil matrix. Each water molecule is differently bound, varying from tightly bound to free water. The permittivity of the bulk soil results from the contribution of all the water molecules in the soil matrix. Therefore, the permittivity of soil as a function of frequency is related to the soil matrix pressure. It is realistic to consider hygroscopic water as ice like. A relatively sharp transition can be observed from free to hygroscopic water at matric pressure – 100 MPa corresponding to relaxation frequency ƒr » 8 GHz. Therefore, for the interpretation of dielectric data using a dielectric mixture equation, the water content of soil can be split conveniently in “free” water and “hygroscopic” water.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-3
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • soil water content
  • measurement


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