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Chapter 8

Compaction Using Standard Effort
8.1 Purpose
Soil placed as engineering fill (embankments, foundation pads, road bases) must be compacted to the se-
lected density and water content to ensure the desired performance and engineering properties such as shear
strength, compressibility, or permeability. Also, foundation soils are often compacted to improve their en-
gineering properties. Laboratory compaction tests provide the basis for determining the percent compaction
and water content needed in the field, and for controlling construction to assure that the target values are
achieved.
In a geotechnical laboratory you would prepare at least four (preferably five) specimens with water
contents bracketing the estimated optimum water content. A specimen having a water content close to
optimum would be prepared first by trial additions of water and mixing and then water contents for the rest
of the specimens would be selected to provide at least two specimens wet and two specimens dry of optimum,
and water contents varying by about 2%, but no more than 4%. In this laboratory exercise each group in your
section will compact one of the specimens at a specific water content, as directed by the laboratory instructor,
and the results from all the groups will be combined later.
The data, when plotted, represents a curvilinear relationship known as the compaction curve. The values
of optimum water content and standard maximum dry unit weight are determined from the compaction curve.
These test methods apply only to soils (materials) that have 20% or less by mass of particles retained on
the No.4 (4.75 mm) sieve.
8.2 Standard Reference
ASTM D 698 - Standard test methods for laboratory compaction characteristics of soil using standard effort
(12,400 ft-lbf/ft
3
(600 kN-m/m
3
)).
8.3 Required Materials and Equipment
• Mold - A cylindrical metal mold having a 4.000 ±0.016 in (101.6 ±0.4 mm) average inside diameter,
a height of 4.584 ±0.018 in (116.4 ±0.5 mm) and a volume of 0.0333 ±0.0005 ft
3
(944 ±14 cm
3
).
• Rammer - with free fall of 12 ±0.05 in (304.8 ±1.3 mm) from the surface of the specimen. The mass
of the rammer is 5.5 ± 0.02 lbm (2.5 ± 0.01 kg).
• Sample extruder - A jack for extruding compacted specimens from the mold.
42 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
• Balance - with 1 g readability.
• straight edge - for leveling off compacted sample
• mixing tools - for mixing the sample of soil with increments of water.
8.4 Procedure
8.4.1 Specimen preparation
1. Obtain from your laboratory instructor a sample of the soil to be tested. You will need approximately
2 kg.
2. Without previously drying the sample, pass it through a No. 4 (4.7 mm) sieve. Determine the water
content of the processed soil. See chapter 2 for the procedure.
3. Double check the target water content for your specimen with the laboratory instructor.
4. Calculate how much water should be added or subtracted from your sample to obtain the desired water
content. Remember to account for the moisture already present in the sample and use the exact value
for the mass of the soil, not the approximate number.
5. To add water, spray it into the soil during mixing; to remove water, allowthe soil to dry in air at ambient
temperature Mix the soil frequently during drying to maintain an even water content distribution.
Thoroughly mix each specimen to ensure even distribution of water throughout and then place in a
separate covered container.
8.4.2 Compaction
1. Determine and record the mass of the mold or mold and base plate.
2. Assemble and secure the mold and collar to the base plate. Place on the concrete floor of the laboratory,
NOT on the counters.
3. The specimen is compacted in 3 layers. Remember that after compaction the layers should be approx-
imately equal in thickness and the last layer should extend above the top of the mold, but no more than
1
4
in (6 mm). Place approximately 1/3 of the loose soil into the mold for each layer and spread into a
layer of uniform thickness.
4. Compact each layer with 25 blows. In operating the manual rammer, do not lift the guide sleeve
during the rammer upstroke. Hold the guide sleeve steady and within 5
o
of vertical. Apply the blows
at a uniform rate of approximately 25 blows per minute and in such a manner as to provide complete,
uniform coverage of the specimen surface. Usually this is achieved by moving the rammer along the
perimeter of the mold and using 5 blows to cover the whole area. Then the pattern is repeated for 5
times.
5. After compaction of the first two layers, trim any soil remaining on the mold walls or extending above
the compacted surface and include it with the soil for the next layer. Before placing the next layer of
soil scarify the surface of the compacted soil with a knife or other suitable tool to avoid separation of
the layers at the joints later in the test.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
8. Compaction Using Standard Effort 43
6. If the third layer extends above the top of the mold by more than
1
4
in (6 mm) or below the top of the
compaction mold, the specimen should be discarded.
7. Following compaction of the last layer, remove the collar and base plate from the mold. A knife may
be used to trim the soil adjacent to the collar to loosen the soil from the collar before removal to avoid
disrupting the soil below the top of the mold.
8. Carefully trim the compacted specimen even with the top of the mold by means of the straightedge
scraped across the top of the mold to form a plane surface even with the top of the mold. Initial
trimming of the specimen above the top of the mold with a knife may prevent the soil from tearing
below the top of the mold. Fill any holes in the top surface with unused or trimmed soil from the
specimen, press in with the fingers, and again scrape the straightedge across the top of the mold.
9. Determine and record the mass of the specimen and mold to the nearest gram.
10. Remove the material from the mold using the sample extruder.
11. Obtain a specimen for water content by using the whole specimen or a representative sample. Select a
suitable container and record its weight.
12. Weigh the container and the specimen.
13. Place in the oven for 24 hours. If the entire specimen is used, break it up to facilitate drying.
14. Record the weight of the oven dried specimen in the container.
8.5 Calculations
• Post the following information as directed by the laboratory instructor: laboratory section (week day),
group (color), date, mass of moist specimen in the mold, mass of mold, water content determination:
mass of moist soil after compaction and can, mass of can, mass of oven dried specimen an can. See
section 8.5 for a form to fill.
• Calculate the total unit weight of each specimen:
γ
t
=
M
t
g
V
m
=
(M
sm
−M
m
)g
V
m
(8.1)
where:
M
t
= mass of moist soil
M
sm
= mass of the moist specimen and mold
M
m
= mass of the mold
V
m
= volume of the mold (944 cm
3
)
g = acceleration of gravity (9.807 m/s
2
)
• Calculate water content of each compacted specimen:
w =
M
w
g
M
s
g
=
(M
wsc
−M
sc
)
(M
sc
−Mc
(8.2)
where:
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
44 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
M
w
= mass of water
M
s
= mass of dry soil
M
wsc
= mass of wet soil and can
M
sc
= mass of dry soils and can
M
c
= mass of can
w = water content
• Calculate dry unit weight:
γ
d
=
γ
t
1 +w
(8.3)
• Plot the values and draw the compaction curve as a smooth curve through the points (see example,
Fig. 3). Plot dry unit weight to the nearest 0.1
lbf
ft
3
, (0.2
kN
m
3
) and water content to the nearest 0.1 %.
• From the compaction curve, determine the optimum water content and maximum dry unit weight.
• Plot the 100% saturation curve.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
8. Compaction Using Standard Effort 45
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3
)
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
46 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Moisture content Determination
Sample No. Project
Boring No. Location
Depth
Description of sample
Date Tested by
Mass of container, M
c
(g)
After 3
min.
After 1
more
min.
After 1
more
min.
After 1
more
min.
After 1
more
min.
Initial mass of container + wet specimen, M
cws
(g)
Mass of container + dry specimen, M
cs
(g)
Mass of water, M
w
= M
cws
−M
cs
(g)
Mass of solid particles, M
s
= M
cs
−M
c
(g)
Moisture content w =
Mw
Ms
×100% (%)
Percent difference in water content (%) – –
Group Data Sheet
Group Target Water
Content
Moist Unit
Weight
Water Content Dry Unit
Weight
Dry Unit
Weight for
100% Sat.
(%) (kN/m
3
) (%) (kN/m
3
) (kN/m
3
)
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 9
Measuring Suction with the Filter Paper
Method
9.1 Purpose
The filter paper method has long been used in soil science and engineering practice and it has recently been
accepted as an adaptable test method for soil suction measurements because of its advantages over other
suction measurement devices. Basically, the filter paper comes to equilibrium with the soil either through
vapor (total suction measurement) or liquid (matric suction measurement) flow. At equilibrium, the suction
value of the filter paper and the soil will be equal. After equilibrium is established between the filter paper
and the soil, the water content of the filter paper disc is measured. Then, by using filter paper water content
versus suction calibration curve, the corresponding suction value is found from the curve. This is the basic
approach suggested by ASTM Standard Test Method for Measurement of Soil Potential (Suction) Using
Filter Paper (ASTM D 5298). ASTM D 5298 employs a single calibration curve that has been used to infer
both total and matric suction measurements. The ASTM D 5298 calibration curve is a combination of both
wetting and drying curves. Bulut (2001) demonstrates that the ”wetting” and ”drying” suction calibration
curves do not match, an observation that was also made by Houston et al. (1994). In this test, the wetting
curve as shown in Figure 9.2 is used because the filter paper becomes wet during the test.
9.2 Soil Suction Concept
In general, porous materials have a fundamental ability to attract and retain water. The existence of this
fundamental property in soils is described in engineering terms as suction, negative stress in the pore water.
In engineering practice, soil suction is composed of two components: matric and osmotic suction (Fredlund
and Rahardjo 1993). The sum of matric and osmotic suction is called total suction. Matric suction comes
from the capillarity, texture, and surface adsorptive forces of the soil. Osmotic suction arises from the
dissolved salts contained in the soil water. This relationship can be formed in an equation as follows:
h
t
= h
m
+h
π
(9.1)
where:
h
t
= total suction (kPa)
h
m
= matric suction (kPa)
48 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
h
p
= osmotic suction (kPa)
Total suction can be calculated using Kelvin’s equation, which is derived from the ideal gas law using
the principles of thermodynamics and is given as:
h
t
=
RT
V
ln

P
P
o

(9.2)
where:
h
t
= total suction
R = universal gas constant
T = absolute temperature
V = molecular volume of water
P/P
o
= relative humidity
P = partial pressure of pore water vapor
P
o
= saturation pressure of water vapor over a flat surface of pure water at the same temperature.
If equation 9.2 is evaluated at a reference temperature of 25
o
, the following total suction and relative
humidity relationship can be obtained:
h
t
= 137, 182 ln(P/P
o
) (9.3)
It can be said, in general, that in a closed system under isothermal conditions the relative humidity may
be associated with the water content of the system such as 100% relative humidity refers to a fully saturated
condition. Therefore, the suction value of a soil sample can be inferred from the relative humidity and
suction relationship if the relative humidity is known. In a closed system, if the water is pure enough, the
partial pressure of the water vapor at equilibrium is equal to the saturated vapor pressure at temperature, T.
However, the partial pressure of the water vapor over a partly saturated soil will be less than the saturation
vapor pressure of pure water due to the soil matrix structure and the free ions and salts contained in the soil
water (Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993).
In engineering practice, soil suction has usually been calculated in pF units (Schofield, 1935) (i.e., suc-
tion in pF = log
10
|suction in cm of water|). However, soil suction is also currently being represented in
log(kPa) unit system (Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993) (i.e., suction in log(kPa) = log
10
|suction in kPa|).
The relationship between these two systems of units is approximately suction in log(kPa) = suction in pF
- 1. Matric suction can be calculated from pressure plate and pressure membrane devices as the difference
between the applied air pressure and water pressure across a porous plate. Matric suction can be formed in a
relationship as follows:
h
m
= −(u
a
−u
w
) (9.4)
where:
h
m
= matric suction
u
a
= applied air pressure
u
w
= free water pressure at atmospheric condition
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
9. Measuring Suction with the Filter Paper Method 49
The osmotic suction of electrolyte solutions, that are usually employed in the calibration of filter papers
and psychrometers, can be calculated using the relationship between osmotic coefficients and osmotic suc-
tion. Osmotic coefficients are readily available in the literature for many different salt solutions. Table 1
gives the osmotic coefficients for several salt solutions. Osmotic coefficients can also be obtained from the
following relationship (Lang 1967):
φ = −
ρ
w
vmw
ln

P
P
o

(9.5)
where:
f = osmotic coefficient
v = number of ions from one molecule of salt (i.e., v = 2 for NaCl, KCl, NH
4
Cl and v = 3 for Na
2
SO
4
,
CaCl
2
, Na
2
S
2
O
3
,etc.)
m = molality
w = molecular mass of water
ρ
w
= density of water
The relative humidity term (P/Po) in eq. 9.5 is also known as the activity of water (a
w
) in physical
chemistry of electrolyte solutions. The combination of eq. 9.2 and eq. 9.5 gives a useful relationship that
can be adopted to calculate osmotic suctions for different salt solutions:
h
π
= −vRTmφ (9.6)
9.3 Required Materials and Equipment
• Schleicher & Schuell No. 589-WH filter paper
• Sensitive balance with accuracy of 0.0001 g
• Constant temperature container (or cooler)
• moisture tins and glass jars
• PVC rings, electrical tape
• tweezers and gloves
• Oven and aluminum block
9.4 Procedure
A testing procedure for total suction measurements using filter papers can be outlined as follows:
1. At least 75% by volume of a glass jar should be filled with the soil; the smaller the empty space
remaining in the glass jar, the smaller the time period that the filter paper and the soil system require
to come to equilibrium.
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
50 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
2. A ring type support, which has a diameter smaller than filter paper diameter and about 1 to 2cm in
height, is put on top of the soil to provide a non-contact system between the filter paper and the soil.
Care must be taken when selecting the support material; materials that can corrode should be avoided,
plastic or glass type materials are much better for this job.
3. Two filter papers one on top of the other are inserted on the ring using tweezers. The filter papers
should not touch the soil, the inside wall of the jar, and underneath the lid in any way.
4. Then, the glass jar lid is sealed very tightly with plastic tape.
5. Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 are repeated for every soil sample.
6. After that, the glass jars are put into the ice-chests in a controlled temperature room for equilibrium.
Researchers suggest a minimum equilibrating period of one week (ASTM D 5298; Houston et al., 1994;
Lee 1991). After the equilibration time, the procedure for the filter paper water content measurements can
be as follows:
1. Before removing the glass jar containers from the temperature room, all aluminum cans that are used
for moisture content measurements are weighed to the nearest 0.0001 g. accuracy and recorded.
2. After that, all measurements are carried out by two persons. For example, while one person is opening
the sealed glass jar, the other is putting the filter paper into the aluminum can very quickly (i.e., in a
few seconds) using tweezers.
3. Then, the weights of each can with wet filter paper inside are taken very quickly.
4. Steps 2 and 3 are followed for every glass jar. Then, all cans are put into the oven with the lids half-
open to allow evaporation. All filter papers are kept at 105 ± 5
o
C temperature inside the oven for at
least 10 hours.
5. Before taking measurements on the dried filter papers, the cans are closed with their lids and allowed
to equilibrate for about 5 minutes. Then, a can is removed from the oven and put on an aluminum
block (i.e., heat sinker) for about 20 seconds to cool down; the aluminum block functions as a heat
sink and expedites the cooling of the can. After that, the can with the dry filter paper inside is weighed
very quickly. The dry filter paper is taken from the can and the cooled can is weighed again in a few
seconds.
6. Step 5 is repeated for every can.
9.5 Soil Matric Suction Measurements
Soil matric suction measurements are similar to the total suction measurements except instead of inserting
filter papers in a non-contact manner with the soil for total suction testing, a good intimate contact should
be provided between the filter paper and the soil for matric suction measurements. Both matric and total
suction measurements can be performed on the same soil sample in a glass jar as shown in Fig. 1. A testing
procedure for matric suction measurements using filter papers can be outlined as follows:
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
9. Measuring Suction with the Filter Paper Method 51
Figure 9.1: Assembly for total and matric suction measurements.
9.6 Procedure
1. A filter paper is sandwiched between two larger size protective filter papers. The filter papers used in
suction measurements are 5.5cm in diameter, so either a filter paper is cut to a smaller diameter and
sandwiched between two 5.5cm papers or bigger diameter (bigger than 5.5cm) filter papers are used
as protection.
2. Then, these sandwiched filter papers are inserted into the soil sample in a very good contact manner
(i.e., as in Fig. 1). An intimate contact between the filter paper and the soil is very important.
3. After that, the soil sample with embedded filter papers is put into the glass jar container. The glass
container is sealed up very tightly with plastic tape.
4. Steps 1, 2, and 3 are repeated for every soil sample.
5. The prepared containers are put into ice-chests in a controlled temperature room for equilibrium.
9.7 Calculations
After obtaining all of the filter paper water contents, figure 9.2 is employed to get total suction and matric
values of the soil samples.
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
52 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Figure 9.2: Filter paper wetting calibration curve.
Paper Suction Determination
Sample No. Project
Boring No. Location
Depth
Description of sample
Date Tested by
Total Suction
Paper
Matric Suction
Paper
Container Number
Mass of container (g)
Mass of wet paper + container (g)
Mass of wet filter paper (g)
Mass of hot container (g)
Mass of dry filter paper (g)
Mass of water in filter paper (g)
Water content of filter paper (%)
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 10
Hydraulic Conductivity
10.1 Purpose
Hydraulic conductivity is the parameter that tells us how fast water can flow through soil. This quantity is
measured to determine if a particular soil is a suitable material for a levee, dam or landfill liner, or filter.
During this laboratory both the constant head and the falling head methods will be used.
10.2 Standard Reference
ASTM D 2434 - Standard test method for permeability of granular soils (constant head).
10.3 Fundamental Test Conditions
The following test conditions are prerequisites for laminar flow of water through granular soils, under
constant-head conditions:
• Continuity of flow with no soil volume change during a test.
• Flow with the soil voids saturated with water and no air bubbles in the soil voids.
• Flow is steady state with no change in hydraulic gradients.
• Direct proportionality of velocity of flow with hydraulic gradients below certain values, at which
turbulent flow starts.
All other types of flow involving partial saturation of soil voids, turbulent flow, and unsteady state of
flow are transient in character and yield variable and time-dependent coefficients of permeability; therefore,
they require special test conditions and procedures.
10.4 Constant head test
10.4.1 Required Materials and Equipment
• Permeameter - Specimen cylinders with minimum diameter of 8 or 12 times the maximum particle
size. The permeameter should be fitted with a porous disk at the bottom with a permeability greater
54 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Figure 10.1: Schematic of constant head test set-up.
than that of the soil specimen, but with openings small enough to prevent movement of the soil par-
ticles. The permeameter should be fitted with manometer outlets for measuring head loss, h, over a
length, L, equivalent to at least the diameter of the cylinder.
• Sample - A representative sample of air-dried granular soil containing less than 10% of the material
passing the No. 200 sieve.
• Constant head board - Board including manometer tubes with scales for measuring head of water and
a water reservoir.
• Plastic tubing
• Stopwatch
• Thermometer
10.4.2 Procedure
1. Unscrew the three nuts on the top of the permeameter cell and remove the top. Make sure the #200
mesh screen is covering the two ports on the inside middle of the cell.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
10. Hydraulic Conductivity 55
2. Place one of the porous stones in the bottom of the cell. Fill the cell with the soil sample. Place the
other porous stone on top. The top of this stone should be about 1/4 inch below the top of the cell.
3. Make sure the surface where the O-ring seals off the cell is clean and replace the top. Evenly tighten
each of the nuts on the top of the cell.
4. Connect a tube coming out of the reservoir on the board to the water faucet.
5. Place the other tube coming out of the reservoir over the sink so that water will be allowed to drain
out.
6. Connect tubes from points A and B on the permeameter cell to the two manometers. The distance
between these two points on our sample is 10 cm.
7. Connect a tube from the needle valve on the board to the lower ball valve on the cell.
8. Fill the reservoir with water. Adjust the water tap so that the level in the cup remains the same and
water is draining into the sink. This gives us constant head.
9. Let the water flow slowly from the reservoir, into the cell, through the bottom porous stone, soil
sample, top stone, out of the top of the cell. The water will replace the voids within our sample.
10. Get all of the bubbles out of the tubes by tapping them. De-air the lines going to the manometer tubes.
Close the top ball valve and open the lower ball valve. Crack the petcock valve to purge out any air
bubbles and then close it off.
11. Open the top ball valve on the cell and watch water come out of the top of the cell. The needle valve
on the board controls the flow out of the top of the cell.
12. Record the differential reading between the two manometers.
13. Using a beaker, collect 100 mL of water from the water coming out of the top of the cell. Time how
long it takes to get 100 mL using the stopwatch.
14. Repeat this process collecting 200 and then 300 mL of water.
15. Take the temperature of the water in the constant head cup. Our data will only be good for water at
this specific temperature.
10.4.3 Calculations
• Determine the average time it took to collect 100 mL of water.
• Calculate the cross-sectional area of our soil sample. The diameter of the sample is 2.5 in or 6.35 cm.
• Calculate the coefficient of permeability, k.
k =
QL
A∆ht
(10.1)
Where
Q=volume of water collected
L=sample height
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
56 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
A=cross-sectional area of soil specimen
∆ h=differential reading between h
0
and h
1
t=duration of water collection
• Calculate the corrected k value for the temperature you recorded.
k
corrected
= k
η
TC
η
20C
(10.2)
10.5 Falling head test
10.5.1 Required Materials and Equipment
• Permeameter
• Sample - use the same sample prepared for the constant head test
• Calibrated stand pipe
• Plastic tubing
• Calipers
• Stopwatch
10.5.2 Procedure
1. Connect a tube between points A and B on the permeameter cell. We bypass the manometers this time.
2. We have a new sample height for this test. Measure the height using the calipers from the top of the
bottom porous stone to the bottom of the top stone.
3. Attach a tube from the top ball valve on the cell to the calibrated stand pipe valve.
4. Open both of these valves.
5. Attach a tube from the water faucet to the lower ball valve on the cell.
6. Let the water flow through the cell, out of the top, and into the stand pipe.
7. Purge any bubbles from the tubes by opening the petcock valve on the permeameter cell.
8. Allow water to flow slowly through the stand pipe and out of the funnel at the top.
9. When there are no more bubbles, disconnect the hose from the faucet and close the ball valve at the
same time.
10. Time how long it takes the water to drop a known distance in the stand pipe.
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10. Hydraulic Conductivity 57
Figure 10.2: Schematic of falling head test set-up.
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10.5.3 Calculations
• Calculate the cross-sectional area of the tube. The inner diameter of the tube is 3/16 in.
• Calculate the coefficient of permeability, k.
k =
aL
At
ln
h
0
h
1
(10.3)
Where
– a=cross-sectional area of tube
– L=sample height
– A=cross-sectional area of soil specimen
– t=elapsed time
– h
0
=initial head
– h
1
=final head
• Calculate the corrected k value for the temperature you recorded using 10.2.
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10. Hydraulic Conductivity 59
Constant Head Data
∆H =
L =
Temp =
mL Collected Time
(s)
Falling Head Data
L =
h
0
=
h
1
=
Temp =
Trial Number Time
(s)
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G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 11
Instrumentation and Calibration
11.1 Purpose
The purpose of this laboratory exercise is to familiarize students with some of the basic instrumentation
commonly used in geotechnical engineering laboratories to measure the mechanical properties of soils. For
the purposes of this class we will assume that electronic instrumentation is the preferred method for all
measurements in our experiments. We will familiarize ourselves with transducers and calibrate them for
future usa in our later laboratories.
Typically, the physical quantities that we need to measure when conducting experiments on soils are
temperature, force, displacement, and pressure. The choice of which sensor to use for a particular task,
in a particular situation depends on two main considerations: a) technical characteristics of the sensor; b)
a cost-benefit analysis, which includes considerations on ease of use as well. Temperature is the easiest
to measure accurately and for all experiments in this laboratory will be measured with a simple mercury
thermometer or a hand held digital thermometer. In many research laboratories the instrumentation is kept at
a carefully controlled, constant temperature, because many sensors are sensitive to temperature, even if they
are not meant to measure it. Commercial geotechnical laboratories are not usually equipped with constant
temperature rooms because the expense would not be justified in normal circumstances.
We must consider cost, simplicity, technical characteristics and time to decide whether to use relatively
inexpensive instrumentation, such as mechanical dial indicators(for displacement and force measurements)
and simple pressure gages, or the more expensive, more accurate and automated electronic instrumentation.
These days, the cost of electronics is usually not an impediment to the use of electronic instrumentation for
all the measuring needs in a soil mechanics laboratory.
11.2 Transducers
A transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another. An electronic transducer has either
an input or an output that is electrical in nature, such as a voltage or a current. In our case, we are interested
in a transducer that senses a physical change (force, displacement, pressure) and converts it to an electrical
signal, directly related to that physical change. We call this type of transducer a sensor. The principle of
electronic instrumentation is to use an electrical sensor to detect change in a physical quantity and output
an electrical signal to a measuring device. This electrical signal becomes convenient to use as the input
signal to a measurement system, such as an elaborate voltmeter, a chart recorder, an oscilloscope, or even
better, a computer that will record all the information over time, so it can be retrieved a later date. The
relationship between measured output voltage and physical quantity being sensed is the response function,
usually expressed in terms of a linear relationship obtained through a calibration process.
62 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
A good example: you are driving a car at the speed indicated on your speedometer. The rotation rate of
the car’s wheel is detected by a sensor, which outputs a voltage that increases with increasing speed. You
could then use a digital voltmeter to read the output of the sensor. Obviously, you would get a speeding
ticket, because the voltage alone does not tell you the speed. You also need a relationship between measured
voltage and speed because you would rather see your speed directly in miles/hr. In order to make this
conversion to miles/hr, one has to determine the correlation between the sensor’s output voltage and the
known speed. Usually, the voltage is measured at several different speeds in order to maximize the accuracy
of the conversion relationship. Lastly, thanks to the relationship between voltage and speed, the voltmeter
can be re-scaled in miles/hr rather than volts.
In conclusion, we used a sensor to detect a certain physical quantity and then converted the electrical
voltage output from the sensor (through calibration against a known standard) to engineering units that are
more meaningful and useful to us.
In general, when examining the technical characteristics of a sensor we consider:
• Precision, or the ability to detect small changes in the measured quantity reliably, and the ability to
measure the same value under repeated identical conditions. Example: a typical measuring tape has a
precision of 1/4in., because that is the closest distance between two marks.
• Accuracy, the difference between the measured quantity and the “true” value, as defined by accepted
standards. Example: when you weigh yourself with a cheap scale the precision may be 1 lb, but the
needle indicates a weight that may not be accurate.
• Range
• Stability
• Noise
• Temperature coefficient
• Linearity error
• Physical ruggedness, and size.
11.3 Calibration
You will calibrate two transducers this week: a force transducer and a displacement transducer. Both will
be used in future laboratories during the rest of the semester. Output accuracy of these transducers is only
as good as the quality of the transducer, accuracy of the standard used in comparison, and the care taken in
calibrating the transducer to the known standard. In this week’s laboratory we will calibrate both the force
(in N) and displacement transducer (in mm), each to a known physical standard. We will vary the physical
parameters over a known range of the instrument and record the voltage output at each point over that range.
We can then generate a best-fit line through those points by plotting the physical input parameter (mm or N)
against the resulting voltage output reading from the transducer. Plot the input parameter in physical units on
the Y axis and the resultant output reading on the X axis. Using any appropriate software package, determine
the best fit to your data. Usually, a linear fit is the most appropriate and will have the form:
Physical Quantity = CF * Output Voltage + ZERO
Where: CF is the calibration factor; ZERO, this constant ensures that when the physical quantity is
zero (for example: no force applied) or in the initial position (example: we need to measure the differential
displacement, not the absolute position) the formula will give a zero reading. Notice that in the case of the
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11. Instrumentation and Calibration 63
force transducer the ZERO is very important because any error in estimating the ZERO during calibration
results in an error in our estimate of the applied load. When measuring differential displacement we set the
initial measurement as ZERO, without calibrating the sensor again.
This formula is the response function for the transducer and will be used in the future. Given this formula,
we can use the transducer in different experiments, read the output, and know from our calibration constants
what the resulting measurement is in physical units.
11.3.1 Calibration Procedure
Calibration of LSCT (Linear Strain Conversion Transducer)
The LSCT is calibrated using a known standard, the 0-1” micrometer head on a fixture that holds the LSCT
”face to face” with the micrometer anvil. The micrometer can be moved by any desired increment (down
to .001 inches if necessary) and the resulting output voltage is recorded at each point along the range over
which calibration is desired. The range we will calibrate our instrument over is 0-1” and we will take a series
of readings in .1” increments over the entire range. Additionally, we will take a smaller increment series of
readings about the middle of our range, say, from .5 to .6” and take these readings at the .025” increments.
Our complete set of input points will start at 0” and go: .1, .2, .3, .4, .5, .525, .550, .575, .6, .7, .8, .9, and
1.000”, for a total of 14 readings. For each physical input change we will read and record the corresponding
output voltage. When completed, a calibration plot and corresponding transducer formula can be generated
in MS Excel, or any similar software package. Using statistical analysis we will also analyze our transducer
for linearity.
1. Obtain LSCT transducer and record: Serial number, range, date of today’s calibration, and your group
color.
2. Obtain calibration fixture with the micrometer head. Take the time to examine the fixture such that
you are familiar with its proper usage. If you are uncertain, ask your TA for assistance.
3. Insert the LSCT in the fixture and lock it down using the allen key. Make certain that the micrometer
head reads exactly 1.000 inches. When mounting the LSCT in the fixture, slide the plunger up to the
face of the micrometer rod and ensure that it just barely physical touches. IT MUST TOUCH.
4. Plug the transducer into the 10 V excitation receptacle as explained in classroom discussion.
5. Insert the voltmeter probes into the excitation jacks on the lab island panel. Record the excitation
voltage with the transducer plugged it. Then move the voltmeter probes to the transducer output jacks
on the panel.
6. Start your calibration and record each input parameter, its incremental change, the resulting output
voltage reading (in millivolts, 1/1000 of a volt), and the incremental voltage change from the previous
reading.
7. Record all 14 data points in the data sheet and use MS Excel to reduce your data as described in class.
Remember to convert the units from inches to millimeters.
Calibration of Force transducer
The calibration of the force transducer is similar to the procedure outlined above for the LSCT. However,
the physical quantity will be in kilogram force (kgf) and the calibration range of the force transducer will be
from 0 to 200 kgf, in 10 kgf increments. This makes a total of 21 points of input and 21 corresponding output
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64 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
voltage readings. The process is conceptually the same as before, but you will be using the load frames to
apply the load to the transducer.
The procedure and safe usage of the load frames will explained in detail during class. Be very careful in
approaching the load frames and while hanging the weights from the loading arm. The counterweight is not
permanently attached to the frame mechanism and will fall to the ground (or on your head!) if the loading
arm is lifted to abruptly. Add the weights by extending your arm and reaching towards the hanger rather than
bending and placing your head under the loading arm. Move slowly and be aware of your surroundings.
Remember to transform the units from kgf to Newton (N).
11.4 Report
For the report, be sure to include:
• Memo to Mike Linger
• Include a table with the data and the plot on the same page. Display the equation of the best fit line
and R
2
value taken to 5 decimal places. One page for each transducer.
• Attach raw data.
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11. Instrumentation and Calibration 65
Calibration Data Sheet (LSCT)
Date Tested by
Transducer type Serial number
Excitation
Voltage
Micrometer
Reading
Incremental
displacement
Transducer
output
Change in
transducer
output
(V) (in) (in) (mV) (mV)
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Calibration Data Sheet (Force)
Date Tested by
Transducer type Serial number
Excitation
Voltage
Mass Added Incremental
Applied Force
Transducer
output
Change in
Transducer
Output
(V) (kgf) (N) (mV) (mV)
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 12
Flow Nets
12.1 Definitions
• Flow net a graphical representation of the 2 −D flow of water through soils
• Flow line the flow path of a particle of water
• Equipotential line − a line representing constant head
12.2 Flow Net Facts
• The area between two flow lines is called a flow channel.
• The rate of flow in a flow channel is constant.
• The velocity of flow is normal to equipotential lines.
• The difference in head between two equipotential lines is called the potential drop or head loss.
12.3 Drawing Flow Nets
• Identify prefixed conditions, noting starting directions of lines.
• Draw trial family of flow lines (or equipotentials) consistent with prefixed conditions.
• Keeping the lines you just drew, sketch first trial flow net. Make all lines intersect other set of lines at
90 degrees.
• Erase and redraw lines until all figures are square. Subdivide as desired for detail and accuracy.
12.4 Rules for Sketching Flow Nets
• Flow lines must intersect equipotential lines at right angles.
• The area between flow lines and equipotential lines must be curvilinear squares. An inscribed circle
should be able to be drawn that touches each side of the square.
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Figure 12.1: Budhu, 2000.
Figure 12.2: Cedergren, 1989.
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12. Flow Nets 69
Figure 12.3: Cedergren, 1989.
• Flow lines cannot intersect other flow lines.
• Equipotential lines cannot intersect other equipotential lines.
• The more flow lines and equipotential lines drawn, the more accurate your results. However, the more
lines, the more difficult it will be to draw the flow net. Drawing a few will allow you to obtain a
suitable solution.
12.5 Common Mistakes
12.6 Example
12.7 Example Problem
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Figure 12.4: Cedergren, 1989.
Figure 12.5: Budhu, 2000.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 13
State of Stress: Mohr’s Circle
13.1 Purpose
In order to describe the state of stress at a point, it is necessary to characterize both normal and shear stresses
acting on any arbitrary plane passing through that point. A three-dimensional state of stress is fully charac-
terized by six components (3 normal stresses and 3 shear stresses). In the case of geotechnical engineering,
we often limit the analysis to two-dimensional states of stress and strain. Mohr’s circle construction is one
of the simplest methods to examine the state of stress and strain in the soil.
13.2 Two-Dimensional States of Stress
The 2-D state of stress at a point can be represented by the normal and shear stresses acting on the faces of
an infinitesimal plane element, such as that in figure 13.1. The normal stress σ
x
acts on the plane normal
to the x-axis in the direction parallel to the x-axis. The shear stress τ
xy
act on the same plane, but in the
direction parallel to the y-axis. The directions of σ
y
and τ
yx
are defined similarly. By equilibrium it follows
that τ
xy
= τ
yx
.
In soils, normal stresses are usually compressive and, by convention, compression is taken as positive
(notice that the opposite convention is used in continuum mechanics). Then, stresses σ
x
and σ
y
in figure
13.1 are positive quantities and the shear stresses are also positive as marked.
If the stresses σ
x
, σ
y
, τ
xy
are known, it is possible to calculate the magnitudes of the stresses (σ
m
, τ
mn
)
on some arbitrary plane at an angle θ with the x-axis 13.1.
13.3 Derivation of stress transformation equations
The system of axes (m,n) in figure 13.1 is rotated by an angle θ in the positive (counterclockwise) direction
from the system of axes (x,y). Assume segment BC has length of L, then:
AB = Lsin(θ) (13.1a)
BC = Lcos(θ) (13.1b)
Use equilibrium of forces in the m-direction and n-direction to derive:
σ
m
L = σ
x
cos θ(Lcos θ) +σ
y
sin θ(Lsin θ) +τ
xy
sin θ(Lcos θ) +τ
xy
cos θ(Lsin θ) (13.2a)
τ
mn
L = −σ
x
sin(θ)(Lcos θ) +σ
y
cos θ(Lsin θ) +τ
xy
cos θ(Lcos θ) +τ
xy
sin θ(Lsin θ) (13.2b)
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Figure 13.1: State of stress in a two-dimensional element.
Recall from trigonometry that:
sin 2θ =2 sin θ cos θ (13.3a)
cos 2θ =cos
2
θ −sin
2
θ (13.3b)
Substituting 13.3 into 13.2 and simplifying, you obtain:
σ
m
=
σ
x

y
2
+
σ
x
−σ
y
2
cos 2θ +τ
xy
sin 2θ (13.4a)
τ
mn
=−
σ
x
−σ
y
2
sin 2θ +τ
xy
cos 2θ (13.4b)
If you rearrange slightly, square and then sum equations 13.4, you obtain the equation for a circle:

σ
m

σ
x

y
2

2

2
mn
=

σ
x
−σ
y
2

2

2
xy
(13.5)
where:
σ
o
=
σ
x

y
2
(13.6)
R =

(
σ
x
−σ
y
2
)
2

2
xy
(13.7)
This is the equation for the Mohr circle.
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13. State of Stress: Mohr’s Circle 73
Figure 13.2: State of stress in a two-dimensional element.
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13.4 Mohr’s Circle of Stress
For the purpose of plotting Mohr’s circles, and for this purpose alone, we adopt the convention that counter-
clockwise shear stresses are taken as positive quantities. Thus, the counter-clockwise shear stress τ
xy
in
figure 13.1 is positive and the clockwise shear stress τ
yx
is negative when constructing the Mohr’s circle in
figure ??.
13.4.1 The Pole Method
The pole of a Mohr’s circle is a unique point on the Mohr’s circle characterized by an important property:
if a line is drawn through the pole with the direction of any plane in the physical space, it
intersects the Mohr’s circle at a point that defines the state of stress on that plane.
By reversing the definition we can locate the pole as the intersection of the line representing the physical
plane on which the stresses are acting (line QP or RP) and the Mohr’s circle. Line QP is parallel to the plane
on which σ
zz
and τ
zx
act and is parallel to the x-axis. The point P where the line intersects the Mohr’s circle
is the pole, P. Similarly, RP is parallel to the z-axis and it also identifies the pole.
We may now use the pole of the circle to calculate the state of stress on any plane through the material.
For example, the normal and shear stresses (σ
θ
, τ
θ
) on the plane inclined at an angle θ to the x-axis. We
draw a line, PN, trough P inclined at θ with line QP (and the x-axis). The stresses at point N are the stresses
acting on that plane.
13.5 Principal Stresses and Principal Planes
The points at which the Mohr’s circle crosses the σ-axis represent planes on which the shear stress is zero and
the normal stress is either a minimum or a maximum. These planes are known as principal planes ande the
corresponding stresses as principal stresses. From the geometry of the Mohr’s circle the principal stresses
occur on two orthogonal planes, therefore the stresses must also be orthogonal (see figure 13.3.
In three-dimensional stress analysis there are three principal stresses and three principal planes. These
will be denoted by σ
1
, σ
2
and σ
3
, and it is usual practice to define σ
1
≥ σ
2
≥ σ
3
; σ
1
is the major principal
stress, σ
2
is the intermediate and σ
3
is the minor.
When the layering of soils is horizontal, the vertical and horizontal stresses (σ
v
, σ

v
, σ
h
and σ

h
) are
principal stresses and the vertical and horizontal planes are principal planes. Since it is an axi-symmetric
state of stress (the horizontal stress is the same independent of the direction in the horizontal plane) σ
v
= σ
1
and σ
h
= σ
2
= σ
3
.
13.6 Mohr’s Circles of Total and Effective Stress
So far we haven’t differentiated between total and effective stresses. If the stresses acting on the element in
figure ?? are total stresses, the effective stresses can be calculated using the principle of effective stress:
σ

= σ −u
The effective stress circle has the same diameter of the total stress circle, but it is translated to the left by
the amount of the pore pressure (see figure 13.4). By examining the circles, we note that:
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13. State of Stress: Mohr’s Circle 75
Figure 13.3: Principal planes and principal stresses
σ

θ
= σ
θ
−u
τ

θ
= τ
θ
Thus, for a given state of total stress, changes in pore pressure have no effect on the shear stresses.
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Figure 13.4: Mohr’s circles of total and effective stress.
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13. State of Stress: Mohr’s Circle 77
Figure 13.5: Example 1.
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Figure 13.6: Example 2.
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13. State of Stress: Mohr’s Circle 79
A loading due to a proposed embankment is estimated to be equivalent to a uniform load of 100kPa as shown in figure
13.7. The unit weight of the foundation material is 16kN/m
3
, and K
o
is 0.5. The water table is at 5m depth.
• Draw the Mohr’s circle for the initial stresses in the soil, before the construction of the embankment.
• Two exiting pipelines run parallel to the embankment at a depth of 3m, as shown in figure 13.7. We want to
make sure that the stress increase in the soil due to the construction of the embankment is not going to damage
the pipelines. What is the increase in stresses at A and B? Draw the new Mohr’s circles for both points.
• What is the magnitude and the direction of the principal stresses at point A and B after construction?
Figure 13.7: Schematic of the embankment and location of the pipelines.
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G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 14
Direct Shear Test of Soils Under
Consolidated Drained Conditions
”The following method departs from the ASTM Standard D3080, copyright c American Society for Testing
and Materials, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959”
14.1 Purpose
This test method covers the determination of the consolidated drained shear strength of a soil material in
direct shear. The test is performed by deforming a specimen at a controlled strain rate on or near a single
shear plane determined by the configuration of the apparatus. Generally, three or more specimens are tested,
each under a different normal load, to determine the effects upon shear resistance and displacement, and
strength properties such as Mohr strength envelopes. Shear stresses and displacements are nonuniformly
distributed within the specimen. An appropriate height cannot be defined for calculation of shear strains.
Therefore, stress-strain relationships or any associated quantity such as modulus, cannot be determined from
this test.
14.2 Terminology
• Relative Lateral Displacement-The horizontal displacement of the top and bottom shear box halves.
• Failure-The stress condition at failure for a test specimen. Failure is often taken to correspond to the
maximum shear stress attained, or the shear stress at 15 to 20 percent relative lateral displacement.
Depending on soil behavior and field application, other suitable criteria may be defined.
14.3 Apparatus
• Shear Device-A device to hold the specimen securely between two porous inserts in such a way that
torque is not applied to the specimen. The shear device shall provide a means of applying a normal
stress to the faces of the specimen, for measuring change in thickness of the specimen, for permitting
drainage of water through the porous inserts at the top and bottom boundaries of the specimen, and
for submerging the specimen in water. The device shall be capable of applying a shear force to the
specimen in water. The device shall be capable of applying a shear force to the specimen along a
predetermined shear plane (single shear) parallel to the faces of the specimen. The frames that hold
the specimen shall be sufficiently rigid to prevent their distortion during shearing. The various parts
82 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
of the shear device shall be made of material not subject to corrosion by moisture or substances within
the soil, for example, stainless steel, bronze, or aluminum, etc. Dissimilar metals, which may cause
galvanic action, are not permitted.
• Shear Box, a shear box, either circular or square, made of stainless steel, bronze, or aluminum, with
provisions for drainage through the top and bottom. The box is divided vertically by a horizontal plane
into two halves of equal thickness which are fitted together with alignment screws. The shear box is
also fitted with gap screws, which control the space (gap) between the top and bottom halves of the
shear box.
• Porous Inserts, Porous inserts function to allow drainage from the soil specimen along the top and
bottom boundaries. They also function to transfer horizontal shear stress from the insert to the top and
bottom boundaries of the specimen. Porous inserts shall consist of silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, or
metal which is not subject to corrosion by soil substances or soil moisture. The proper grade of insert
depends on the soil being tested. The permeability of the insert should be substantially greater than
that of the soil, but should be textured fine enough to prevent excessive intrusion of the soil into the
pores of the insert. The diameter or width of the top porous insert or plate shall be 0.01 to 0.02 in. (0.2
to 0.5 mm) less than that of the inside of the ring. If the insert functions to transfer the horizontal stress
to the soil, it must be sufficiently coarse to develop interlock. Sandblasting or tooling the insert may
help, but the surface of the insert should not be so irregular as to cause substantial stress concentrations
in the soil.
• Device for Applying and Measuring the Normal Force-The normal force is applied by a lever loading
yoke which is activated by dead weights (masses) or by a pneumatic loading device. The device shall
be capable of maintaining the normal force to within 61 percent of the specified force quickly without
exceeding it.
• Device for Shearing the Specimen-The device shall be capable of shearing the specimen at a uniform
rate of displacement, with less than 65 percent deviation, and should permit adjustment of the rate
of displacement from 0.0001 to 0.04 in./min (.0025 to 1.0 mm/min). The rate to be applied depends
upon the consolidation characteristics of the soils (see 9.12.1). The rate is usually maintained with an
electric motor and gear box arrangement and the shear force is determined by a load indicating device
such as a proving ring or load cell. 6.4.3 The weight of the top shear box should be less than 1 percent
of the applied normal force: this may require that the top shear box be modified and supported by
counter force.
• Shear Force Measurement Device-A proving ring or load cell accurate to 0.5 lbf (2.5 N), or 1 percent
of the shear force at failure, whichever is greater.
• Shear Box Bowl-A metallic box which supports the shear box and provides either a reaction against
which one half of the shear box is restrained, or a solid base with provisions for aligning one half of
the shear box, which is free to move coincident with applied shear force in a horizontal plane.
• Miscellaneous Equipment, including timing device with a second hand, distilled or demineralized
water, spatulas, knives, straightedge, wire saws, etc., used in preparing the specimen.
14.4 Procedure
1. Assemble the shear box.
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14. Direct Shear Test of Soils Under Consolidated Drained Conditions 83
2. Place moist porous inserts over the exposed ends of the specimen in the shear box; place the shear box
containing the undisturbed specimen and porous inserts into the shear box bowl and attach the shear
box.
3. Connect and adjust the shear force loading system so that no force is imposed on the load measuring
device.
4. Properly position and adjust the horizontal displacement measurement device used to measure shear
displacement. Obtain an initial reading or set the measurement device to indicate zero displacement.
5. Place a moist porous insert and load transfer plate on the top of the specimen in the shear box.
6. Place the normal force loading yoke into position and adjust it so the loading bar is horizontal.
7. Apply a small normal load to the specimen. Verify that all components of the loading system are seated
and aligned. The top porous insert and load transfer plate must be aligned so that the movement of the
load transfer plate into the shear box is not inhibited. Record the applied vertical load and horizontal
load on the system.
8. Attach and adjust the vertical displacement measurement device. Obtain initial reading for the vertical
measurement device and a reading for the horizontal displacement measurement device.
9. Select the appropriate displacement rate.
10. Shear the specimen, until the shear resistance measured by the load transducer levels off indicating
that the specimen has failed.
14.5 Calculation
Calculate the nominal shear stress:
τ =
F
A
where:
• τ = nominal shear stress (lbf/in
2
,kPa),
• F = shear force (lbf, N),
• A = initial area of specimen (in
2
, mm
2
).
Calculate the normal stress acting on the specimen:
n =
N
A
where:
• n = normal stress (lbf/in
2
, kPa),
• N = normal vertical force acting on the specimen (lbf, N),
• A = initial area of specimen (in
2
, mm
2
).
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84 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
14.6 Report
For the report, be sure to include:
• Shear stress versus time for each normal stress
• Mohr Circle plot with φ, τ versus n
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14. Direct Shear Test of Soils Under Consolidated Drained Conditions 85
Shear Test Data
Initial Reading Initial Reading Initial Reading
Load Applied Load Applied Load Applied
Seconds Reading Seconds Reading Seconds Reading
(mV) (mV) (mV)
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86 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 15
One-Dimensional Consolidation
15.1 Purpose
A surface load, for example due to the construction of a building, results in increased stresses in the under-
lying soils. The increase in stress also causes settlements. When the soils are fine grained and saturated the
increase in total stress is carried by the water, as excess pore pressure. Since these soils have low hydraulic
conductivity the excess pore pressure will dissipate slowly and the settlement will be delayed in time.
The consolidation test, or oedometer test, is used to determine the parameters that can be used to estimate
both the magnitude and the time rate of the settlements. The test is performed on a cylindrical specimen,
constrained laterally by a ring and allowed to compress under a constant load. The load is held on the
sample for 24 hours or until all excess pore pressure is dissipated. During this time the change in height is
measured. The load is usually doubled at the end of the 24 hour period and the process repeated. Usually 5
or 6 load increments are applied and then data are taken during one unloading step. The measurements are
used to determine the relationship between the effective stress and void ratio or strain, and the rate at which
consolidation can occur.
This test method uses conventional consolidation theory based on Terzaghi’s consolidation equation to
compute the coefficient of consolidation, c
v
. The analysis is based on the following assumptions:
• The soil is saturated and has homogeneous properties.
• The flow of pore water is in the vertical direction.
• The compressibility of soil particles and pore water is negligible compared to the compressibility of
the soil skeleton.
• The stress-strain relationship is linear over the load increment.
• The ratio of soil permeability to soil compressibility is constant over the load increment.
• Darcy’s law for flow through porous media applies.
15.2 Standard Reference
ASTM D 2435 - Standard test method for one-dimensional consolidation properties of soils.
88 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Figure 15.1: Consolidometer assembly.
15.2.1 Required Materials and Equipment
• Load Device - two systems are available in our laboratory: (a) pneumatic load frame; (b) mechanical
load frame.
• Consolidometer - the consolidometer is the device holding the sample during the test. It is composed
of various parts, shown in figure 15.1.
• Porous disks - to allow loading of the sample and free drainage at one or both ends of the specimen.
• Specimen trimming device - The specimen ring has a sharp edge that can be used as a cutter and can be
used for trimming the sample down to the inside diameter of the consolidometer ring with a minimum
of disturbance.
• Deformation indicator - to measure change in specimen height. Usually, two independent measure-
ment devices are used. One is a simple dial gauge and the other is a linear strain conversion transducer
(or LSCT).
• Miscellaneous equipment - distilled or demineralized water, water content cups, spatulas, knives, and
wire saws, used in preparing the specimen.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 89
15.3 Preliminary Preparation
It is a good idea to become familiar with the equipment before getting started with specimen preparation.
In addition, look at the data sheet to make sure you remember to take all the measurements that are needed
later.
15.3.1 The consolidometer and the dial gauge
1. Unassemble the consolidometer and become familiar with its parts. Practice assembling the con-
solidometer again, pay attention to the right fit of the parts.
2. Place the porous disk in distilled water and gently tap them to improve their saturation by driving air
bubbles out.
3. Weigh and measure the diameter and height of the consolidation ring. Take measurements at 3 different
location around the ring. Enter the values in the data sheet.
4. Record the serial number of the LSCT on your data sheet and write down the calibration factor.
5. Each member of the team must become familiar with the workings of a dial gauge. Our dial gauges
can measure up to 1 in displacement in increments of 0.001 in. The dial gauge typically has two dials:
a large one with subdivisions from 0 to 99, and a small one with subdivisions from 0 to 9 (see figure
15.2). The small dial indicates the 1/10 in for the reading and the large one gives the 1/1000 in reading.
The dial gauge in figure 15.2 is measuring 0 in. The dial gauge starts at 0 when the rod is completely
extended and indicates 1 in when the rod is all up if you reading on the back numbers in the large dial.
This means that the readings during the test will go backward from 1 in to 0 during the test since you
want the rod to be almost all up at the beginning of the test.
I strongly recommend you do not use red numbers to take your dial readings. Play with the dial gauge
to figure out why.
Always remember that reading a dial gauge may seem obvious, but every semester some group data
of this week-long test must be thrown away because someone failed to take the right reading. I am not
kidding.
15.3.2 The data acquisition software
1. Now look at the software. Start the GGdatalogger. It should appear as in figure 15.3. There are
3 windows on the screen because 3 LSCTs will be connected to each laptop. Therefore 3 different
groups will refer to the same laptop. Select one of the ports in the signal processing box (the black
box under the laptop) and plug in your LSCT. Write the channel number in the data sheet. Be careful
because data acquisition channel numbers are not sequential. The plugs are labelled but you may need
to look under the laptop.
2. Before you can run the software you need to enter the file names for your data files with path. Right
now we just need to test the system and we are not going to save the data, so pick any name you want
as long as you can remember what it is. Before you start the real test you will want to look at this file
and then delete it. All the 3 paths must be filled, otherwise you get an error message.
3. You also need to check that the data acquisition system is actually reading the right channels. The
channels listed in the text box labeled I/O should match the channel numbers that will be plugged in
(typically: 0,8,1). Make sure your channel number is listed.
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
90 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Figure 15.2: Dial gauge.
Figure 15.3: Screen shot of the GGdatalogger.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 91
4. Run the VI (virtual instrument is the name of the programs in LabView) by clicking on the right arrow
on the toolbar. It does not really matter whether the 3 channels are all plugged in or not. The readings
should appear in the graphs. If you move the LSCT’s rod the reading should change. If not, stop
the software, check that the channel is correct. Try plugging into a different channel and restart the
software.
5. record the reading of the LSCT voltage output when it is all extended and all retracted and write down
the range in Volts on your data sheet. Do not forget the sign!
6. Stop the VI and scroll up the window. Some additional boxes should be hidden up there (figure 15.4).
You need to adjust the range of the data acquisition system to match the voltage range of your LSCT.
7. Set the scan rate to 20 scans/sec and the scans to read to 20. This is sufficient for a slow test such as
consolidation.
8. Click on the up or down arrows on the left of the “input limits” box, until your channel is selected.
9. Click on the “high limit” box and enter the highest value of the voltage range of your LSCT in Volts.
Round up to the nearest higher 0.01 V. Remember the sign. If the highest value is a small negative
number enter “0”.
10. Click on the “low limit” box and enter the lowest value of the voltage range of your LSCT in Volts.
Round up to the nearest lower 0.01 V. Remember the sign. If the lowest value is a small positive
number enter “0”.
11. Scroll down so that the top windows are hidden again.
12. Start the VI and verify that the system can still read the correct voltage.
13. Stop the software and look at the file. It should consist of two columns of numbers. The first one is
the time in seconds, the second is the voltage in Volts. The time may restart at 0 multiple times in your
“trash” file because every time you restart the VI without changing the the file name the new data are
appended at the end of the file, but the time count restarts from 0.
15.3.3 The remaining preliminary details
1. Assign a person responsible to the readings and changing the load for each day of the test. Write down
the names and contact info.
2. Select a basic file name for the data files. It is a good idea to have a different file for each day of
testing, so add a number at the end to distinguish among the different days.If someone should forget
to change the file name, the data is not lost, just appended to the end of the previous day data. This
makes for really large files that need special handling. but it is a minor annoyance.
3. enter the file name for day 1 in the VI.
15.4 Specimen Preparation
All possible precautions should be taken to minimize disturbance of the soil or changes in moisture and
density during specimen preparation. Avoid vibration, distortion, and compression.
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Figure 15.4: Location of the hidden windows in the GGDataLogger and close-up of the hidden section.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 93
1. Use the ring to trim the specimen to the desired size. Do not slam the ring down into the soil as
a cookie cutter. Remember you are trying to minimize disturbance and this would most definitely
disturb the soil. The appropriate procedure requires you to trim the soil to a gentle taper in front of
the cutting edge. After the taper is formed, advance the cutter a small distance. Continue until the
specimen protrudes from the ring.
2. Trim the specimen flush with the flat ends of the ring. Use a thin wire saw to minimize smearing.
3. Weigh the ring and the specimen to determine the initial wet mass of the specimen, M
To
(see data
sheet).
4. Obtain the natural water content of the soil from material trimmed adjacent to the test specimen. It is
best to use the traditional oven method. Fill in the appropriate information in the data sheet.
5. Assemble the ring with specimen, porous disks, in the consolidometer.
15.5 Procedure for pneumatic load frames
The pneumatic load frame applies the desired load to the specimen by regulating the supply of air pressure.
A different supply pressure results in a different load on the sample. Since all our consolidometers are the
same and the specimen have a nominal diameter of 2.5 in, the loads have already been transformed into
stresses, as shown in table 15.1. Notice that the frame operates in two modes: low load (below 100 lbf)
or high load (above 100 lbf). The following procedure should be followed to apply the desired load to the
sample. Refer to figure 15.6 to identify the different switches.
1. Center the consolidometer below the cross arm of the pneumatic (figure 15.5) load frame.
2. Apply a seating pressure of 5 kPa (100 psf). Refer to figure 15.6 to identify the switches described in
the following instructions.
(a) Set the “HIGH/LOW LOAD” selector valve to LOW LOAD
(b) Set the “LOAD” valve to OFF.
(c) Set the regulator to the desired seating stress (see table 15.1).
(d) Turn the “LOAD” valve to LOAD.
3. Check that the load is sufficient by trying to gently roll the loading ball between the consolidometer
and the cross arm of the frame. You should not be able to move it.
4. Adjust the location of the LSCT and dial gauge. Remember the sample is supposed to decrease in
height and the cross bar should be moving down. When you adjust the deformation indicators you
need to insure they can measure the change in height of the specimen throughout the test. Therefore,
try to place the displacement indicators with their rods almost all the way up, but not completely.
5. Inundate the specimen with water. Check if the dial gauge reading is changing.
6. Record the initial dial gauge reading on the appropriate location in the data sheet.
7. Select the supply air pressure for the loading frame which matches the desired load for the increment
from table 15.1.
8. Wait until all the groups using the same data acquisition system have completed all the previous steps
and are ready to start the actual test.
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Figure 15.5: Pneumatic load frame setup.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 95
Desired stress on the specimen Load Air supply pressure
Low load High load
(psf) (kPa) (lbf) (N) (psi) (psi)
100 4.79 –
250 11.97 8.52 37.9 22.12 –
500 23.94 17.04 75.8 30.24 –
1,000 47.88 34.09 151.64 46.43 –
2,000 95.76 68.18 303.28 78.69 –
4,000 191.52 136.35 606.52 – 8.60
8,000 383.04 272.7 1213.03 – 16.32
16,000 766.08 545.4 2426.06 – 31.83
32,000 1532.17 1090.8 4852.12 – 62.60
64,000 3064.34 2181.6 9704.24 – 123.61
Table 15.1: Air pressure supply for pneumatic loading frame and corresponding applied pressure on the
sample.
9. Prepare the loading system for application of the first load. Refer to figure 15.6 to identify the switches
described in the following instructions.
(a) Turn the “LOAD” valve to OFF. This actually locks the load to whatever it is supposed to be. It
should not unload the sample.
(b) Set the regulator to the desired stress (see table 15.1).
(c) Stop
10. Make sure everyone is ready to go.
11. Start data acquisition. Wait a few seconds to see the readings on the graphs.
12. Load the sample by turning the the “LOAD” valve to LOAD.
13. Look at the dial gauge and LSCT readings indicate change in height for a few minutes.
14. After about 5 minutes, change the rate to 10 s interval. Type 10 in the text box and hit enter.
15. You are done for today. Return tomorrow to change the load.
15.6 Procedure for mechanical load frames
The mechanical load frames simply use weights to apply the load (figure 15.7). The loading arm multiplies
the load on the specimen by 10. The load required to obtain the desired stress can be calculated given the
area of sample. It is also listed in table 15.1. Remember to divide by 10 to obtain the actual weight you need
to apply on the loading arm. Be extremely every time you change the load. The counterweight is not secured
to the upper arm of the loading frame and it is known to crash to the floor while the load is changed.
1. Assemble the ring with specimen, porous disks, in the consolidometer.
2. Place the consolidometer in the mechanical load frame and apply a seating pressure of 5 kPa (100 psf).
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
96 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
Figure 15.6: Close-up of the front panel of the pneumatic load frame.
3. Adjust the location of the LSCT and dial gauge. Remember the sample is supposed to decrease in
height and the cross bar should be moving down. When you adjust the deformation indicators you
need to insure they can measure the change in height of the specimen throughout the test. Therefore,
try to place the displacement indicators with their rods almost all the way up, but not completely.
4. Inundate the specimen with water. Check if the dial gauge reading is changing.
5. Record the initial dial gauge reading on the appropriate location in the data sheet.
6. Select the weights you are going to use for the first stress increment.
7. Wait until all the groups using the same data acquisition system have completed all the previous steps
and are ready to start the actual test.
8. Start data acquisition. Wait a few seconds to see the readings on the graphs.
9. Load the sample.
10. Look at the dial gauge and LSCT readings indicate change in height for a few minutes.
11. After about 5 minutes, change the rate to 10 s interval. Type 10 in the text box and hit enter.
12. You are done for today. Return tomorrow to change the load.
15.7 Second and following days
Follow these directions for all the tests running data acquisition on the same laptop.
1. Check that the specimens are still covered in water. Add water if necessary.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 97
Figure 15.7: The mechanical load frame.
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2. Stop the software.
3. Enter the new file names for all 3 groups.
4. Reset the rate to 1.
5. Write down the dial gauge readings for all 3 specimens.
6. Change the load to the next increment.
• Turn the “LOAD” valve to OFF.
• Set the regulator to the desired air supply pressure (see table 15.1).
• If changing to the “high load” mode, turn the “HIGH LOAD/LOW LOAD” valve to HIGH
LOAD.
• Stop
7. Repeat with the other specimen.
8. Figure out what weights should be added or removed from the mechanical loading frame stack. Do
not do it.
9. Start the data acquisition.
10. Load the sample by turning the the “LOAD” valve to LOAD.
11. Now add or remove the weights from the mechanical loading frame arm.
12. Look at the dial gauge and LSCT readings indicate change in height for a few minutes.
13. After about 5 minutes, change the rate to 10 s interval. Type 10 in the text box and hit enter.
14. You are done for today. Return tomorrow to change the load.
15.8 Last day
To minimize swell during disassembly, rebound the specimen back to the seating load (5 kPa). Once height
changes have ceased (usually overnight), dismantle quickly after releasing the final small load on the speci-
men. Remove the specimen and the ring from the consolidometer and wipe any free water from the ring and
specimen. Determine the mass of the specimen in the ring and subtract the tare mass of the ring to obtain
the final wet specimen mass, M
Tf
. The most accurate determination of the specimen dry mass and water
content is found by drying the entire specimen at the end of the test. Determine the final water content, w
f
,
and dry mass of solids, M
d
, using the entire specimen.
15.9 Calculation
The goal of this test is to determine the magnitude of settlement and the rate of settlement. For this purpose,
the compression index, C
c
, the re-compression index or swelling index, C
r
, the coefficient of secondary
compression, C
α
, the coefficient of consolidation, c
v
, and the pre-consolidation pressure σ
zc
must be ob-
tained from the data. Consult your textbook for the appropriate methods to use for interpretation of the
data.
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15. One-Dimensional Consolidation 99
15.10 Report
For the report, be sure to include:
• c
v
, C
α
, and void ratio for each day
• Void ratio versus effective stress plot
• σ

z
c, C
c
, C
r
• Displacement versus time for each day included in appendix
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Incremental loading consolidation test data
Date Tested by
Ring mass (g) Ring diameter ( ) 1) 2) 3) Avg.
Ring height ( ) 1) 2) 3) Avg.
Ring + initial wet sample mass (g) Initial wet sample mass (g)
Final dry sample mass (g) Final water content
Cup ID Cup mass (g) Final wet sample + cup mass (g)
Final wet sample mass (g) Final dry sample + cup mass (g)
Final dry sample mass (g) Final water content
Cup ID Cup mass (g) Wet trimmings + cup mass (g)
Wet trimmings mass (g) Dry trimmings + cup mass (g)
Dry trimmings mass (g) Trimmings water content
LSCT serial No. LSCT calibration factor Channel
LSCT Voltage range (V)
Dial gauge initial reading Dial gauge readings on Red Black
Day Date Load Initial dial gauge Final dial gauge File name Reading by:
Time (kPa) reading reading
1 12
2 25
3 50
4 100
5 200
6 400
7 100
7b seat
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 16
Triaxial Unconfined Compression Test
16.1 Purpose
This test will be used to quickly determine the undrained shear strength of saturated clays. In this test, no
radial stress will be applied to the sample (σ
3
=0), but the axial stress, (σ
1
) will be increased until the sample
fails (can no longer support load). The load is applied quickly so that the pore water cannot drain, meaning
that the sample is sheared at a constant volume. Since we are not applying a radial stress, the principle of
effective stresses gives:
σ

3
= σ
3
−∆u = 0 −∆u = −∆u (16.1)
Because soils cannot sustain tension, σ
3
must be positive, and therefore, the excess water stresses, ∆u,
must be negative. The results from the UC test are used to:
• Estimate the short-term bearing capacity of fine-grained soils for foundations
• Estimate the short-term stability of slopes
• Compare the shear strengths of soils from a site to establish soil strength variability quickly and cost-
effectively (the UC test is cheaper than others)
• Determine the stress-strain characteristics under fast (undrained) loading conditions
16.2 Procedure
16.2.1 Materials
• Soil sample
• Sample form and sample manual rammer for compaction
• Sample extruder
• Knife
• Sample holder
• Calipers
• Pressure chamber
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• Porous stones
• Transducers - force and displacement
• Shearing apparatus
• Computer - Geotech Data Logger Program
• Digital Voltmeter
16.2.2 Procedure
1. Refer to Chapter 3, Compaction Using Standard Effort, for sample preparation.
2. The sample extruded may now be cut in two, lengthwise. Each group should take half of the original
sample.
3. Place the sample in the sample holder.
4. Each side of the sample holder cuts the sample to different diameters; one for a coarse preparation,
and one for a final sample preparation
5. Carefully, (very carefully), shave the sample with the knife so that the final product is a cylindrical
sample with a diameter equal to that of the sample holder.
6. Take the sample and lay it horizontally on the sample holder. Using the edge of the holder, cut the ends
off of the sample so that they are square. You want a sample with a height-to-diameter ratio between
2 and 2.5
7. Record the dimensions of the sample in several places and record the average height and diameter.
8. Disassemble the compression chamber
9. Place a porous stone on the bottom platen of the compression chamber. Then place the sample with a
porous stone on top of it. Re-assemble the compression chamber, taking care to prevent the plunger
from interfering with the sample.
10. Place the compression chamber with the sample inside it onto the loading frame.
11. Prepare the computer data acquisition system as directed.
12. Record the serial numbers of the force and displacement transducers
13. Begin data acquisition and then start applying a load to produce an axial strain at a rate of 1/2 to
2%/min. Allow the computer to take the readings, and stop the data acquisition when the failure plane
in the sample is visible.
14. Save the computer data, and make a sketch of the failed sample, noting the angles of the failure planes.
15. Record a water content of the sample after completion of the test.
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16. Triaxial Unconfined Compression Test 103
16.3 Calculations
The undrained shear strength is given as:
S
u
=
P
z
2A
=
1
2
σ
1
(16.2)
where P
z
is the axial load applied to the sample and
A =
A
o
(1 −e
1
)
(16.3)
Note that because we are assuming no volume change, and we are axially deforming our sample, the
cross sectional area of the sample changes as the strain increases.
16.4 Report
For the report, be sure to include:
• Force vs. time plot
• Displacement vs. time plot
• Stress versus strain plot
• σ versus τ plot, (including the Mohr’s circle)
• Values for s
u
and q
u
(ultimate stress, or s
1
at failure)
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Unconfined Compression Test Data
Sample No. Project
Boring No. Location
Depth
Description of sample
Date Tested by
Time Force Displacement
(s) (mV) (mV)
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 17
Unconsolidated Undrained Triaxial Test
17.1 Specimen preparation
The test will be carried out on a compacted specimen of clayey sand. Prepare the compacted specimen
following the directions on chapter 8 and as directed by your teaching assistant. The procedure is similar to
that used for the preparation of the unconfined compression specimen. Once the soil is extruded, carefully
divide the sample into two parts and obtain one specimen from each part.
17.1.1 Preparation of the specimen
1. Trim the specimen to the desired dimensions: diameter 38mm (1.5in) and height 76mm (3in), using
a trimming device. The trimming apparatus should allow for convenient trimming of a cylindrical
specimen of constant cross section, using either a wire saw or a steel blade. Be careful during the
trimming and while handling the specimen because the material is prone to cracking and crumbling.
The specimen should be slightly taller than the final desired height to allow the removal of top and
bottom slices prior to final measurement and testing. Be particularly careful in trimming the specimen
ends to ensure they are perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the specimen (otherwise alignment
becomes a real problem).
2. Place the specimen on a small piece of saran wrap while you are handling it to avoid loss of moisture.
3. Obtain the moist weight of the specimen.
4. Measure height to 0.1mm (0.01in) with a caliper. Care should be taken that the measuring does not
penetrate soft specimens. The average of 3 readings should be used.
5. Measure the specimen diameter to 0.01mm (0.001in) in two perpendicular directions and three eleva-
tions (center, near top and near bottom) to obtain an average.
6. Measure the thickness of the membrane. Usually this is done by folding the membrane and measuring
the thickness of several layers at a time and then dividing by the number of layers.
17.1.2 Fitting end caps and membrane
1. Carefully place the specimen on the bottom cap and then the top cap on the specimen. If needed,
also place porous stones. Make sure the specimen is centered and the assembly is aligned (VERY
IMPORTANT!!).
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Figure 17.1: Stages of membrane fitting (from Head, 1992)
2. Fit two o-rings over the membrane stretcher and roll themnear the middle of its length. Fit a membrane
inside the stretcher and fold back the ends, over and outside. Apply vacuum to the membrane stretcher.
Make sure the membrane is actually being pulled out and adheres to the stretcher. It may take a little
tugging, but be careful not to twist the membrane at this point.
3. Carefully lower the membrane stretcher over the specimen until it is nicely centered. Then release
vacuum and allow the membrane to adhere to the specimen.
4. Carefully release the membrane ends covering the caps and trying to minimize the amount of air
entrapped in contact with the sample.
5. Lower the stretcher so that the bottom is located at about mid-height of the lower cap. Roll down and
off one o-ring to seal the membrane.
6. Raise the membrane stretcher all the way up so that the bottom is located at about mid-height of the
top cap. Roll down and off the o-ring.
7. Carefully fold the membrane over the o-rings.
17.2 Procedure
1. Assemble the triaxial cell.
2. Carefully check that the piston is aligned with the top cap.
3. If not, undo the cell set up and try to gently adjust the alignment until it works. It is important that you
do so very gently as to minimize the disturbance to the sample.
4. Place the cell in the loading frame.
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17. Unconsolidated Undrained Triaxial Test 107
5. Prepare the computer data acquisition system as directed.
6. Record the serial numbers of the transducers.
7. Slowly increase pressure in the cell to the desired confining pressure. Be careful, the loading rod may
be lifted by the pressure if it is not locked. Allow 10 minutes under confining pressure for the sample
to equilibrate.
8. Begin data acquisition and note the reading for the load transducer (this should be the “zero” reading,
or no load is applied). Then start loading at a strain rate of approximately 1%/min. Before the loading
rod comes into contact with the top cap the load transducer is reading the upward force due to the
chamber pressure and the friction between the rod and the seal.
9. Allow the computer to take the readings, and stop the data acquisition when the axial strains reach
15%.
10. Save the computer data, and make a sketch of the failed sample, noting the angles of the failure planes.
11. Record a water content of the sample after completion of the test.
17.3 Calculations
The deviator stress is given as:
σ
1
−σ
3
=
P
z
A
(17.1)
where P
z
is the axial load applied to the sample (corrected for uplift and friction and:
A =
A
o
(1 −e
1
)
(17.2)
Note that because we are assuming no volume change, and we are axially deforming our sample, the
cross sectional area of the sample changes as the strain increases.
You also need to correct the deviator stress σ
1
−σ
3
for the effect of the membrane:
∆(σ
1
−σ
3
) =
4E
m
t
m

1
D
(17.3)
where: E
m
is Young’s modulus of the membrane, use 1400 kPa; t
m
is the thickness of the membrane
and
1
= ∆H/H is the vertical strain.
17.4 Report
Include the following information in the report:
• Rate of strain, in percent per minute.
• The stress-strain curve, (σ
1
−σ
3
) vs.
1
.
• Axial strain at failure, in percent.
• The value of compressive strength and the major and minor principal stresses at failure.
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108 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
• The sample water content
• A failure sketch of the specimen.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
Chapter 18
Triaxial Consolidated Drained Compression
Test
18.1 Purpose
This test method covers determination of the strength and stress-strain relationships of a cylindrical specimen
of cohesionless sand. Specimens are subjected to a confining pressure in a triaxial chamber. Dry sand will be
used and the specimen is sheared in compression at a constant rate of axial deformation (strain controlled).
This test method provides data for determining undrained strength properties and stress-strain relations for
cohensionless soils. This test method provides for the measurement of the total stresses applied to the
specimen. This handout is based on the ASTM 5202-91 “Standard Test Method For Determining Triaxial
Compression Creep Strength of Chemical Grouted Soils”.
18.2 Summary of Test Method
A dry sand is placed in a sample form to make a sand cylinder. The sand cylinder is then placed in the
triaxial compression chamber and air pressure is applied. Axial load is then applied in the vertical direction
and compress the soil cylinder at a constant rate until the soil fails. This procedure is repeated three times
under different confining pressures. The applied force, vertical displacement and the air pressure are recorded
every 15 seconds until the soil fails. The results are used to determine the shear strength and the Young’s
Modulus of the soil.
18.2.1 Apparatus
Triaxial Compression Chamber - used to apply a confining pressure and an axial load.
Load Device
18.2.2 Specimen Preparation
1. Place the porous stone on top of the lower loading plate.
2. Place the sample membrane over the stone and the loading plate and secure the membrane with an
o-ring.
3. Place the sample form around the lower loading plate and pull the sample membrane over the top of
the sample form. Pull the sample membrane so that there are no folds in the membrane.
110 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
4. Fill the sample form with sand to the top of the sample form. Lightly tap the sand in to the sample
form and refill the sample form if needed.
5. Place the top loading plate on top of the sample form, pull the sample membrane over the top plate
and secure it with an o-ring.
6. Apply a vacuum to the sample by attaching the appropriate hose to the vacuum outlet.
7. Remove the sample form. The sample should be a smooth cylinder from the top of the porous stone to
the bottom of the top loading plate. If it is not a smooth cylinder, the results will be affected.
8. Measure and record the length of the sample in three locations.
9. Measure and record the diameter of the sample of three locations.
10. Assemble the pressure chamber as directed by your instructor.
11. Pressurize the chamber as directed by our instructor.
12. Remove the vacuum.
13. Raise the loading frame to reduce the distance top loading plate and the load cell extension.
18.2.3 Procedure
1. With the specimen encased in the rubber membrane, which is sealed to the specimen cap and base
and positioned in the chamber, assemble the triaxial chamber. Bring the axial load piston into contact
with the specimen cap several times to permit proper seating and alignment of the piston with the cap.
When the piston is brought into contact, record the reading on the deformation indicator. During this
procedure, take care not to apply an axial stress to the specimen exceeding approximately 0.5% of
the estimated compressive strength. If the weight of the piston is sufficient to apply an axial stress
exceeding approximately 0.5% of the estimated compressive strength, lock the piston in place above
the specimen cap after checking the seating and alignment and keep locked until application of the
chamber pressure.
2. Place the chamber in position in the axial loading device. Be careful to align the axial loading device,
the axial load-measuring device, and the triaxial chamber to prevent the application of a lateral force
to the piston during testing. Attach the pressure-maintaining and measurement device and fill the
chamber with the confining air. Adjust the pressure- maintaining and measurement device to the
desired chamber pressure and apply the pressure to the chamber air. Wait approximately 10 min after
the application of chamber pressure to allow the specimen to stabilize under the chamber pressure
prior to application of the axial load. Note: Make sure the piston is locked or held in place by the axial
loading device before applying the chamber pressure.
3. The axial load-measuring device is located outside of the triaxial chamber. The chamber pressure will
produce an upward force on the piston that will react against the axial loading device. In this case,
start the test with the piston slightly above the specimen cap, and before the piston comes in contact
with the specimen cap, either: ( 1) measure and record the initial piston friction and upward thrust of
the piston produced by the chamber pressure and later correct the measured axial load, or (2) adjust
the axial load-measuring device to compensate for the friction and thrust. If the axial load-measuring
device is located inside the chamber, it will not be necessary to correct or compensate for the uplift
force acting on the axial loading device or for piston friction. In both cases record the initial reading
on the deformation indicator when the piston contacts the specimen cap.
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
18. Triaxial Consolidated Drained Compression Test 111
4. Apply the axial load to produce axial strain at a rate of approximately 1.5mm/min. At these rates, the
elapsed time to reach maximum deviator stress will be approximately
5. Record load and deformation values every 15 seconds until the soil fails. The criterion for the soil
failure is the force reduces or levels off for at least two continuous readings. Take the readings for the
air pressure, applied vertical load and the vertical displacement.
6. After completion of the test, remove the test specimen from the chamber.
7. Repeat the procedure from 1 to 7 two times with different air pressures
18.3 Calculations
Calculate the axial strain, e (expressed as a decimal), for a given applied axial load, as follows:
=
∆H
H
o
(18.1)
where: ∆H = change in height of specimen as read from deformation indicator; and H
o
= initial height
of test specimen minus any change in length prior to loading.
Calculate the average cross-sectional area, A, for a given applied axial load as follows:
A =
A
o
1 −
(18.2)
where: A
o
= average cross-sectional area of the specimen, and = axial strain for the given axial load
(expressed as a decimal)
Calculate the principal stress difference (deviator stress), for a given applied axial load as follows:
σ
1
−σ
3
=
P
A
(18.3)
where: P = measured applied axial load, and A = corresponding average cross-sectional area.
Calculate the major and minor principal total stresses at failure as follows:
σ
3
= minor principal total stress = chamber pressure, and
σ
1
= major principal total stress = deviator stress at failure plus chamber pressure.
18.4 Report
For the report, be sure to include:
• Description the soil specimen at failure such as shape and angle of the failure plane.
• Figure of the shear strength versus the normal stress with Mohr’s circle at failure for each test
• Cohesion coefficient
• Friction angle of the soil.
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin
112 CVEN365 Laboratory Manual
x
G. Biscontin Civil Engineering Department
18. Triaxial Consolidated Drained Compression Test 113
Triaxial Unconfined Compression Test Data
Sample No. Project
Boring No. Location
Depth
Description of sample
Date Tested by
Time Force Displacement
(s) (mV) (mV)
Texas A&M University G. Biscontin