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To determine the coefficient of permeability of a soil using falling head method.

Permeability is a measure of the ease in which water can flow through a soil volume. It is
one of the most important geotechnical parameters. However, it is probably the most difficult
parameter to determine. In large part, it controls the strength and deformation behavior of
soils. It directly affects the following:

Quantity of water that will flow to ward an excavation.

Design of cutoffs beneath dams on permeable foundations.

Design of the clay layer for a landfill liner.

Permeability influences the rate of settlement of a saturated soil under load.

For fine grained soil Falling head permeability test is done, whereas constant head
permeability test is done for the coarse grained soil
Darcys Law
Henry Darcy, a French scientist, based on his experimental evidences proposed the Darcys
law for ground water flow. In 1856 Darcy proposed a simple equation (Equation 1) for velocity
of water through saturated soils.
= ---------------------------(1)
v Discharge velocity, which is the quantity of water flowing in unit time through a unit
cross sectional area of soil at right angle to the direction of flow,
k Coefficient of permeability
Water is allowed to run through the stand pipe of cross sectional area a into the sample of
cross sectional area A as shown in Figure 1. The times t1, t2, t3 etc. are noted when the
dropping water level indicates readings h1, h2, h3 etc

In the falling head test a relatively short sample is connected to a standpipe which provides
both the head of water and the means of measuring the quantity of water flowing through the
sample. Several standpipes of different diameters are normally available from which can be
selected the diameter most suitable for the type of material being tested.
In permeability tests on clays, much higher hydraulic gradients than are normally used with
sands can be applied, and are often necessary to induce any measurable flow. The cohesion
of clays provides resistance to failure by piping at gradients of up to several hundred, even
under quite low confining or surcharge pressures. Dispersive clays however are very
susceptible to erosion at much lower gradient.
The falling head principle can be applied to an undisturbed sample in a sampling tube and to
a sample in an odometer consolidation cell. The equation used in determines the
permeability of fine grained soils is given in Eqn (1).

Permeability, k

log e 1 ..Eqn (1)
A(t 2 t1 )

The time difference (t2-t1) can be expressed as the elapsed time, t (minutes). The heights h 1
and h2 and the length, L are expressed in millimeters, and the areas A and a in square
millimeters. Eqn (1) then becomes Eqn (2).

Permeability, k

log e 1 ( mm / s ) ..Eqn (2)
Ax 60t

To convert natural logarithms to ordinary (base 10) logarithms, multiply by 2.303. If k is

epxressed in m/s, the above equation becomes Eqn (3).

Permeability, k

log10 1 ( m / s ) ..Eqn (3)
1000 xAx 60t

Where: a = area of cross-section of standpipe tube,

A = area of cross section of sample
h1 = heights of water above datum in standpipe at time t 1
h2 = heights of water above datum in standpipe at time t 2
L = heights of sample
t = elapsed time in minutes

Falling Head Apparatus.

Stop watch.

Dearies water.

Meter scale.

Graduated flask

1. Prepare the soil sample
2. Determine the bulk density and moisture content of the soil
3. Place the sample in perspex cylinder with wire mesh and gravel filter above and below
4. Place the cylinder in an overflowed water reservoir
5. Connect the top of cylinder to a glass standpipe using a rubber tube
6. Fill in distilled water from the top of the glass standpipe
7. Record the height of water in the glass standpipe at several time intervals
8.Determine the average of k from the results

Falling Head Permeability test
Diameter of the sample

= 100mm

Length of the sample

= 27.3mm

Sample area, A:

=31415.93 mm 2

Diameter of the stand pipe

= 20mm

Standpipe area, a:

=1256.64 mm 2

Coefficient of permeability

= 8.45 10-5 m / min