You are on page 1of 12

1

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Experiment 6
Consolidation Test (Oedometer).
General
The standard oedometer consolidation test for saturated clays is the main feature of this
experiment. The test is carried out by applying a sequence of vertical loads to a laterally
confined specimen having a height of about one quarter of its diameter. The vertical
compression under each load is observed over a period of time, usually up to 24 hours. Since no
lateral deformation is allowed it is a one-dimensional test, from which the one-dimensional
consolidation parameters are derived.
Objective
The objective of the oedometer consolidation test is to determine consolidation characteristics of
soils with low permeability. The test determines two important consolidation parameters of
clays, i.e. coefficeient of volume compressibility, mv, and coefficient of consolidation, cv
Theory
The one-dimensional consolidation test procedure was first suggested by Terzaghi. The test is
performed in an oedometer. A schematic diagram of an oedometer is shown in Figure 6.2(a).
The soil sample is placed inside a metal ring with a porous stone at the top of the sample and
another at the bottom. The samples are usually 63.5mm in diameter and 25.4mm thick. Load on
the sample is applied through a lever arm and compression is measured by a micrometer dial
gauge. The sample is kept underwater during the test. Usually each load is kept for 24 hours.
After that, conventionally, the load is doubled, thus doubling the pressure on the sample, while
measurement of the compression continues. At the end of the test, the dry weight of the test
sample is determined.
The general shape of the plot of deformation of the sample versus time for a given load
increment is shown in Figure 6.1. The plot shows three distinct stages that may be described as
follows:
Stage I: initial compression, which is mostly due to preloading.
Stage II: primary consolidation during which, due to expulsion of pore water pressure, is
gradually transferred into effective stress.
Stage III: secondary consolidation after complete dissipation of excess pore water pressure some deformation of the sample is caused by plastic readjustment of soil fabric.
The aim of the consolidation test is to determine two important consolidation parameters for the
clay sample :
1. The coefficient of volume compressibility, mv (in m2/MN) is given by the equation
H1-H2
1000
mv =( H ) x (p -p ) m2/MN
1
2 1

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

(6.1)

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

where H1 is the height of the specimen at the beginning of the stage(i.e. at the end of the
previous stage ) (in mm).
H2 is the height of the specimen at the end of that increment (in mm).
p1 is the pressure applied to the specimen for the previous loading stage (in kPa).
p2 is the pressure applied to the specimen for the loading stage being considered.
(in kPa)
The required units are in m2/MN.

Figure 6.1 Time-deformation Plot During Consolidation for Given Load


Increment (source: Das 1979)

2. The coefficient of consolidation, cv ( in m2/year).


The coefficient of consolidation, cv, may be determined by finding the time required for
90% consolidation of the sample (U = 0.9).
For the condition of double drainage, which is the case in the oedometer test :
When

Since

U = 0.9
Tv= 0.848
cvt
Tv= h2

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

(6.2)

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

T90 2
h2
cv = t h = 0.848 x t
90
90
h 2
0.848(
) x 60 x 24 x 365.25
1000
m2/year
cv =
t 90
0.446h 2 2
m /year
t 90
0.112 2 2
cv =
H m /year
t 90
cv =

(6.2)

where Tv is the time factor.


t is the time elapsed since the start of the consolidation (in min.).
h is length of the drainage path (H is the thickness of the clay sample at
time t) (in mm).
cv is the coefficient of consolidation (m2/year).
where H is the average specimen thickness for the load increments (in mm)
H + H2
i.e. H = 1
2
In the standard oedometer consolidation test with double drainage the height H of the specimen
is equal to 2h.
The details of the theory of compressibility of soil, students should refer to their textbook and
handout.
Material
Compacted decomposite granite
Apparatus
1. Casagrande type oedometer (Figure 6.2) which includes :
a. a consolidation ring, internal diameter 75 mm, height 20 mm;
b. a fixed ring, consolidation cell;
c. a dial gauge reading to 0.01 mm having a travel of at least 10 mm;
d. a loading device, (see Figure 6.4)
2. Glass plate 100 mm x 100 mm (approx.),
3. Apparatus for moisture content determination (experiment 9),
4. Top pan weighing balance reading to 0.1 g,
5. Vernier callipers,
6. Packet of 75 mm diameter filter papers,
7. Silicone grease or petroleum jelly,
8. Set of standard weights,
9. Stop watch or clock readable to 1 sec,
10. Palatte knife.
Procedure
Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

1. Preparation of the sample (see Figure 6.2 (c) and (d))


a. Weigh the consolidation ring and glass plate separately to an accuracy of 0.1g. (Form 6.1)
b. Lubricate the inside of the ring with a thin smear of silicone grease or petroleum jelly.
c. Measure the height of the ring to 0.05 mm at four equally spaced points using the vernier
callipers and calculate the mean height.
d. Measure the internal diameter of the ring to 0.1 mm in two perpendicular directions
using the vernier calipers. Calculate the mean diameter and the area in mm2.
e. Extrude a small amount of soil from the compaction mould using the mechanical
extruder.
f. Press the cutting ring, bevelled sharp cutting edge downwards, into the soil until its upper
most rim is just below the soil surface.
g. Extrude more of the soil so that the bottom of the ring is well clear of the edge of the
mould.
h. Trim off the top of the soil with the palatte knife.
i. Cut off the soil below the base of the consolidation cutting ring with the spatula.
j. Place the glass plate on the top surface and gently slide the specimen clear using a
palate knife to assist the process.
k. Invert the ring containing the soil sample and trim off the upper surface of the clay level
with the bevelled edge of the consolidation ring with the spatulas.
l. Any voids should be carefully filled with pieces of clay without compressing the sample.
m. Weigh the glass plate, ring the clay sample to the nearest 0.1 g.
Notes : the height of the ring can be accepted as the initial height of the clay sample.
2.

Preparation and assembly of consolidation apparatus.


a. Put a wet filter paper onto the porous disc at the base of the consolidation cell and
place the sample, contained in the ring, on it with the bevelled cutting edge of the ring
uppermost.
b. Cover the top of the sample with a second wet filter paper and use the retaining screws
to secure the collar of the consolidation cell to the base to hold the consolidation ring
and sample firmly together.
c. Place the top porous stone and loading plate on tope of the filter paper.

3.

Assembly in load frame


a. Place the consolidation cell in position on the cell platform of the oedometer.
b. Connect the loading yoke of the oedometer with the top platen of the consolidation cell
and adjust the counter balance weight of the beam so that it is slightly above the
horizontal position.
c. Place a 100 g weight on the top pan of the weight hanger to give a very small positive
downward load on the sample in the consolidation ring (seating load).
d. Check the beam ratio value and set it to 9:1.
e. Fill the consolidation cell with water at room temperature.
f. Clamp the compression dial gauge in to position, allowing space for swelling as well
as compression of the sample and record the initial dial gauge reading.
g. Screw up the beam support jack so that the beam is held fixed, ready for the start of the
test.

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

Figure 6.2 (a) and (b) Set up of Oedomenter, and (c) and (d) Preparation of the Sample

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

4.

Test procedure
Normally, in the consolidation test, a loading sequence is adopted to give a range of
compression stresses suitable for the soil type and also for the effective pressure which
will occur in situ due to the overburden and the proposed construction. The initial
pressure should be large enough to ensure that the sample in the consolidation cell does
not swell.
A loading sequence of stages selected from the following range of pressures is considered
appropriate (see BS 1377, 1990, Part 5, p. 5 section 3.5.1.).
6, 12, 25, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 kPa.
A typical test comprises four to six increments of loading, each held constant for 24 hours
and each applied stress being double that of the previous stage.
Unloading decrements are usually half the number of loading increments.
The single stage consolidation test to be performed will be for a stress of 100 kPa.
a. Determine the value of mass (in kg) needed on the weight hanger pan to produce a
stress of 100 kPa on the specimen (vo) see Appendix A.
b. With the screw jack support in supporting position, load the weight hanger with the
necessary weights and set the dial gauge to zero. Remove the weight used for seating
load.
c. Check that the timing device (stop watch or clock) is working correctly, note the time
of day and activate the timing device whilst at the same time lowering the beam
support jack to allow the consolidation to begin.
d. Take readings of the compression gauge at the following time sequence (minutes)
0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100 and 121 min.(Form No. 6.2)
A final reading, after approximately 24 hours can be taken by the technical staff.
e. As the sample undergoes compression record the data and plot a graph of compression
dial gauge readings versus time . (Figure 6.5)
After 24 hours, when the consolidation will be virtually complete, unload the sample
and record the following data.
weight of consolidation ring + sample, wet
weight of consolidation ring + sample, dry*
*after drying to constant weight in an oven at 105oC.
From this data the final moisture content and void ratio of the sample may be
determined.
f. Determine the values of

90

from the graph of compression vs

time on Figure 6.5 by :

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Draw the straight line of best fit to the early portion of curve (usually
within the first 50% of compression) and extend it to intersect the ordinate of
zero time. This intersection represents the corrected zero point, denoted by do.
Draw the straight line through the do point which at all points has abscissae 1.15
times as great as those on the best fit line drawn in (a). The intersection of this
line with the laboratory curve gives the 90% compression point, d90.
Read off the value of t90 from the lab. curve corresponding to the d90.
Determine the value of the coefficient of volume compressibility, mv(m2/MN)
(see Equation 6.1) from the settlement data for this loading.
Determine the value of the coefficient of consolidation, cv(m2/yr) (see Equation
6.2).
g. The record of data obtained from a full consolidation test with several stages of
loading and unloading. Plot a graph of void ratio versus log10 of applied pressures.
For the single stage test you are required to plot only settlement versus time in
order to find t90 by Taylors curve fitting method. For the determination of t90 and cv
for each stage over several stages a separate graph of settlement versus time will
have to be drawn for each stage.

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Appendix A
Calculation of mass (m) or equivalent mass (in kg) supported by the specimen
9810 m a
kPa
A
'vo A
=
9810 a

vo =
m
where vo
m
a
A

is the vertical stress applied to the specimen (kPa).


is the mass or equivalent mass, supported by the specimen (kg).
is the lever arm ratio (9:1).
is the area of the specimen in mm2.

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

(a)

Cell

Consolidation ring

Lateral restraint for


ring

Loading cap

Fixing nuts

Porous plate

(b)
Figure 6.3 (a) Section of a Typical Consolidation Cell, and (b) Details of a Consolidation Cell.

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

10

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Figure 6.4 Section of a Loading Device

Figure 6.5 Consolidation Curve

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

11

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Form 6.1
Soil description
DIMENSIONS

Inital
specimen

Diameter

D mm

Area

A mm2

Height

H mm

Volume

V cm3

Overall
change

Re-moulded

Initial specimen
(a)
(b)

Wet soil + ring + tray

Dry soil + ring + tray

Ring + tray

Wet soil

Dry soil

Water

Moisture content (measured)

Density

Mg/m3

Dry density

Mg/m3

Voids ratio

Height of solids

Specimen
Preparation
Method

Ho

WEIGHINGS

Degree of saturation

Final
specimen

mo

Final specimen
(c)

mo
md

md

eo
%

So

Hs mm

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong

35

Consolidation Test - Oedometer

Form 6.2
Soil description
Machine no.
Cell no.

Specimen diameter
Lever ratio

mm
:1

Height
Area

mm
mm2

LOADING/UNLOADING*
Increment no./date started
Load kg/lb */pressure kPa
Mean daily temperature oC
Elapsed
time
h
m

Clock
time
s

tmin

Gauge
Reading
x 0.01

Cumulative
compression
mm H

Clock
time

Gauge
reading
x 0.01

Cumulative
compression
mm H

Clock
time

Gauge
reading
x 0.01

Cumulative
compression
mm H

Cumulative correction
Net cumulative
compression
H

* Delete as appropriate

Soil and Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Building and Construction, City University of Hong Kong