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6 PARTICLE SIZE DISTRIBUTION (MECHANICAL ANALYSIS) This classification test determines the range of sizes of particles in the soil and the percentage of particles in each of these size ranges. This is also called ‘grain-size distribution’; ‘mechanical analysis’ means the separation of a soil into its different size fractions. The particle-size distribution is found in two stages: (i) Sieve analysis, for the coarse fraction. (ii) Sedimentation analysis or wet analysis, for the fine fraction. ‘Sieving’ is the most direct method for determining particle sizes, but there are practical lower limits to sieve openings that can be used for soils. This lower limit is approximately at the smallest size attributed to sand particles (75 or 0.075 mm). Sieving is a screening process in which coarser fractions of soil are separated by means of a series of graded mesh. Mechanical analysis is one of the oldest test methods for soils. 1. USDA (United States – Department of Agriculture)

Particle size diameter

Where mr = mass of soil retained mr = cumulative mass retained on any sieve m = total soil mass r = sum of percentages retained on all coarser sieves

Sand 2.0 0.05

Silt 0.002

Clay Figure 3.1 Different types of Particle-Size distribution Curves A particle-size distribution curve can be used to determine the following four parameters for a given soil: 1. Effective Size (D10): This parameter is the diameter in the particle-size distribution curve corresponding to 10% finer. The effective size is a good measure to estimate the hydraulic conductivity and drainage through soil. 2. Uniformity coefficient (Cu): This parameter is defined as

mm

**2. ASTM D422 or D653 (American Society for Testing and Materials)
**

Sand Boulder 300 Cobble 75 Gravel Coarse 4.75 2.0 Medium 0.425 Fine 0.075 0.005 0.001 Silt Clay Colloids

**3. USCS (Unified Soil Classification System)
**

Gravel Boulder 300 Cobble Coarse 75 19 Fine 4.75 Coarse 2.0 Medium 0.425 Fine 0.075 Sand Fines (Silt, clay)

3.

Where D60 = diameter corresponding to 60% finer. Coefficient of gradation (Cc): This parameter is defined as

**4. AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) 4.
**

Sand Boulder 75 Gravel Coarse 2.0 0.425 Fine 0.075 0.005 0.001 Silt Clay Colloids

Where D30 = diameter corresponding to 30% finer. Sorting Coefficient (So): This parameter is another measure of uniformity and is generally encountered in geologic works expressed as √ Where D75 = diameter corresponding to 75% finer D25 = diameter corresponding to 25% finer.

Comparison of 4 systems for describing soils based on particle size

Additional parameter: 5. Average grain size (D50): This parameter is the diameter in the particle-size distribution curve corresponding to 50% finer. EXAMPLE 3.3 A sieve analysis test was conducted on 650 grams of soil. The results are as follows. Mass of soil retained on each Sieve No. sieve (g) 3/8 in 0 4 53 10 76 20 73 40 142 100 85 200 120.5 Pan 99.8 Determine the following: a. The amount of coarse-grained and fine-grained soils. b. Amount of each soil type based on ASTM system. c. Particle size distribution (gradation) curve d. Effective size e. Average particle size f. Uniformity coefficient g. Coefficient of curvature h. Description of gradation curve i. Classification of soil using USDA chart, AASHTO-CS and USCS EXAMPLE 3.4 A sample of a dry, coarse-grained material of mass 500 grams was shaken through a nest of sieves, and the following results were obtained:

**3.6.1 SIEVE ANALYSIS US Standard Sieves
**

Designation 2 in 1-1/2 in 3/4 in 3/8 in 4 8 10 14 16 18 20 30 Opening mm 50.80 38.10 19.00 9.51 4.75 2.36 2.00 1.40 1.18 1.00 0.85 0.60 Designation 35 40 50 60 70 80 100 120 170 200 270 Opening mm 0.50 0.425 0.355 0.250 0.212 0.180 0.150 0.125 0.090 0.075 0.052

Calculations needed: 99. Percentage retained on any sieve, r 2. Cumulative percentage retained on any sieve, R ∑ ∑ 3. Percentage finer than any sieve, F ( ∑ )

Figure 3. 3. Plot the particle size distribution (gradation) curve Determine (1) the effective size.5%. losing its ability to flow as a liquid.5 Classify the soil using AASHTO-CS and USCS. consistency of a soil refers to the resistance offered by it against forces that tend to deform or rupture the soil aggregate. Laboratory Definition 1 (ASTM D 4318): Using Cup Device or the Casagrande Apparatus. the amount of gravel. .7 CONSISTENCY OF CLAY SOILS ‘Consistency’ is that property of a material which is manifested by its resistance to flow.). the moisture content corresponding to 25 blows from the flow curve is taken as the liquid limit of the soil. and (4) the coefficient of curvature Determine the textural composition of the soil (i. (3) the uniformity coefficient.2 Variation of volume of soil mass with variation of water content CONSISTENCY LIMITS (Atterberg Limits) and INDECES a.e.. it represents the relative ease with which the soil may be deformed. At this limit. c. sand.6 Classify the soil using AASHTO-CS and USCS. From the figure. EXAMPLE 3. b. In this sense. the soil possesses a small value of shear strength. in other words. Figure 3.3 Flow Curve (x – No. EXAMPLE 3. y – moisture contents) Flow Index (FI) – slope of the flow curve . LL = 31. This is applicable specifically to clay soils and is generally related to the water content.a. Liquid Limit ‘Liquid limit’ (LL or wL) is defined as the arbitrary limit of water content at which the soil is just about to pass from the plastic state into the liquid state. (2) the average particle size. of blows. Consistency may also be looked upon as the degree of firmness of a soil and is often directly related to strength. the liquid limit is the minimum moisture content at which the soil tends to flow as a liquid. In other words. etc.

Δw = separation in terms of moisture content between liquid state lines of two cones M1 = 80-g cone M2 = 240-g cone Laboratory Definition 3: By Feng.092 for soils with LL less than 50% x = 0. Shrinkage Limit ‘Shrinkage limit’ (SL or ws) is the arbitrary limit of water content at which the soil tends to pass from the semi-solid to the solid state. 2000 Where m = slope (taken as positive) of the best-fit straight line. Table: Plasticity Characteristics e. regardless. of further drying.. it is the difference between liquid and plastic limits. Most probable value of PL ∑ f. it is the range of water content within which a soil is in a semisolid state of consistency. w2 = moisture contents at cone penetrations of d1 and d2. when worked upon. Flow Index (FI) – slope of the flow curve ) ( Where ) w1. Consistency Index ‘Consistency index’ or ‘Relative consistency’ (CI or Ic) is defined as the ratio of the difference between liquid limit and the natural water content to the plasticity index of a soil: Where . Plasticity Index ‘Plasticity index’ (PI or Ip) is the range of water content within which the soil exhibits plastic properties. Shrinkage Index ‘Shrinkage index’ (SI or Is) is defined as the difference between the plastic and shrinkage limits of a soil. that is.( One-Point Method ( ) ) Laboratory Definition 2: Using cone penetrometer (fall cone method) with two masses of cone (80 g and 240 g). N: from 15 to 35 blows or drops Where N = number of drops required to close the groove at the moisture content. wN x = 0.e. the soil crumbles. Laboratory Definition: SL can be calculated from this equation ( Where m1 = mass of wet soil m2 = mass of oven-dried soil V1 = volume of wet soil V2 = volume of oven-dried soil d. remains constant in volume. in other words. PL can be determined by this equation: Where 50% < LL < 120%. N: from 20 to 30 blows or drops LL < 50%. If you use a spreadsheet program. the moisture content at which the soil crumbles when rolled into threads of 3. Laboratory Definition 1: By rolling on glass through bare hands.120 for soils with LL more than 50% Laboratory Definition 2: Using Fall Cone penetrometer.2 mm (1/8 in) in diameter is taken as the plastic limit of the soil. you can obtain C and m from a power trend line function that gives the best-fit equation c. respectively b. Thus. the water content corresponding to a 80-g cone penetration of 20 mm defines the liquid limit. It is that water content at which a soil. this is the minimum water content at which the change in shape of the soil is accompanied by visible cracks. Plastic Limit ‘Plastic limit’ (PL or wp) is the arbitrary limit of water content at which the soil tends to pass from the plastic state to the semi-solid state of consistency. i.

2 Four determinations for the plastic limit gave water contents of 20.405 If the soil were to be loaded to failure. Initial and final dry unit weight of soil e. Determine the following: a.3% 20.10 The Atterberg limits of a clay soil are: Liquid limit = 75%.73. Liquidity Index ‘Liquidity index (LI or IL)’ or ‘Water-plasticity ratio’ is the ratio of the difference between the natural water content and the plastic limit to the plasticity index: If LI = 0. the soil is in semi-solid state and is stiff CI < 0. Describe the consistency. Plastic limit = 45%. the soil is in liquid state LI < 0. w = PL LI = 1. e. EXAMPLE 3. The data available is as follows: a.0 45. The specific gravity of solids is 2. d.13 Two soils S1 and S2 are tested in the laboratory for the consistency limits. If a sample of this soil has a volume of 30 cm 3 at the liquid limit and a volume 16. would you expect a brittle failure? EXAMPLE 3.55%. Bulk unit weight of soil d. Which soil is more plastic? Which soil is better foundation material when remolded? Which soil has better strength as a function of water content? Which soil has better strength at the plastic limit? Could organic matter be present in these soils? . w = PL CI > 1. Determine the minimum volume which can be attained by the soil. On oven drying the mass specific gravity falls to 1.26%. Determine the specific gravity of solids and shrinkage limit of the clay. d. LL and PL (in %) b. 80-g cone Penetration (mm) Moisture Content % 8 43. if the natural water content is 27. conducted on a soil sample in the cup device. and the soil behaves like liquid g. gave the following results: Number of blows 10 19 23 27 40 Water Content (%) 60.11 The mass specific gravity of a saturated specimen of clay is 1.8 A fall cone test was carried out on a soil to determine liquid limit and plastic limit using cones of masses 80 g and 240 g.1 15 52 19 56.4 cc Determine the following: a.1 28 62. Shrinkage limit of the soil if the void ratio of this soil is at the minimum volume reached on shrinkage is 0. w = LL LI > 1.5 25. 20.84 when the water content is 38%.12 A saturated soil sample has a volume of 23 cm3 at liquid limit. Void ratio at the LL if Gs = 2. respectively.7 A liquid limit test.5 22 51 30 55.2 39.8% and 11. Void ratio EXAMPLE 3.6 cm3 at the shrinkage limit. Liquidity index and Consistency Index.1 EXAMPLE 3.4%. w = LL CI = 1. Initial volume of saturated soil = 32. the soil is in the semi-solid state and is stiff Table: Consistency Classification h.w = natural moisture content of the soil (water content of a soil in the undisturbed condition in the ground If CI = 0. the natural water content is greater than LL. Plasticity Index c.9 The following results were recorded in a shrinkage limit test using mercury.8 36. Shrinkage limit of soil b. The following results were obtained.70.7 e.9 9 37 240-g cone 18 47. c. EXAMPLE 3. b. The shrinkage limit and liquid limit are 18% and 45%. EXAMPLE 3. and Shrinkage limit = 25%. Toughness Index ‘Toughness Index’ (TI) is defined as the ratio of the plasticity index to the flow index: EXAMPLE 3. determine the specific gravity of solids. Specific gravity of grains c.

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