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Goodbye, Hazen; Hello, Kozeny-Carman

W. David Carrier III, F.ASCE1
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Abstract: The century-old Hazen formula for predicting the permeability of sand is based only on the D 10 particle size. Whereas, the
half-century-old Kozeny-Carman formula is based on the entire particle size distribution, the particle shape, and the void ratio. As a
consequence, the Hazen formula is less accurate than the Kozeny-Carman formula. It is recommended that the former be retired and the
latter be adopted.
DOI: 10.1061/共ASCE兲1090-0241共2003兲129:11共1054兲
CE Database subject headings: Permeability; Sand; Particle size; Particle size distribution; Silts.

Hazen Formula Kaufman 共1962兲 and Mitchell 共1976, 1993兲. Mansur and Kauf-
man do not actually report the values of C H shown above but
About a century ago, Hazen 共1892, 1911兲 developed the follow- instead plot D 10 versus permeability 共based on field tests in sands
ing empirical formula for predicting the permeability 共or hydrau- along the middle and lower Mississippi River兲. Their log-log plot
lic conductivity兲 of saturated sands: 共Fig. 314兲 shows a rough correlation between D 10 and k; for
k⫽C H D 210 (1) 0.01 cm⬍D 10⬍⬃0.07 cm, the implied value of C H varies from
100 to 1,000. Furthermore, for D 10⬎⬃0.04 cm, k is not propor-
where k⫽permeability 共cm/s兲; C H ⫽Hazen empirical coefficient; tional to D 210: at D 10⫽0.1 cm, k⬀D 0.710 . Mitchell does not refer-
and D 10⫽particle size for which 10% of the soil is finer 共cm兲. ence Hazen, and only discusses Kozeny-Carman.
Although Hazen developed his formula for the design of sand None of the geotechnical textbooks referenced herein mention
filters for water purification 关i.e., loose, clean sands with a coef- that the Hazen empirical coefficient corresponds to a water tem-
ficient of uniformity D 60 /D 10 , less than about 2 共Terzaghi and perature of 10°C. Perhaps all of the writers have tacitly concluded
Peck 1964兲兴, it is frequently used to estimate the permeability of that the Hazen formula is so inaccurate that to correct for tem-
in situ soil. perature would be superfluous. Hazen himself used a compound
The value of C H is usually assumed to be equal to 100, but the coefficient equal to C H (0.70⫹0.03 T), where T is the tempera-
following ranges have been reported in geotechnical textbooks: ture in degrees celsius. In his own words, ‘‘I have found that the
• 41 to 146: Taylor 共1948, p. 112兲, friction 关i.e., resistance to flow兴 also varies with the temperature,
• 100 to 150: Leonards 共1962, p. 119兲, being twice as great at the freezing point as at summer heat ...’’
• 100 to 1,000: Mansur and Kaufman 共1962, p. 260–261兲, 共Hazen 1892, p. 553; 1911, p. 200兲. Thus, at 20°, the compound
• 100 to 150: Terzaghi and Peck 共1964, p. 44兲, coefficient is equal to 1.3 C H , and the permeability would be
• 90 to 120: Cedergren 共1967, p. 42兲, 30% greater than at 10°.
• 1 to 42: Lambe and Whitman 共1969, p. 290兲,
• 40 to 120: Holtz and Kovacs 共1981, pp. 209–212兲,
• 50 to 200: Terzaghi et al. 共1996, pp. 73–74兲, Kozeny-Carman Formula
• 100 to 150: Das 共1997, p. 153兲, and
• 80 to 120: Coduto 共1999, pp. 226 –227兲. About a half-century ago, Kozeny 共1927兲 and Carman 共1938,
Thus, the published value of C H ranges from 1 to 1,000. The 1956兲 developed the following semiempirical, semitheoretical
formula’s applicability is generally limited to 0.01 cm⬍D 10 formula for predicting the permeability of porous media:
⬍0.3 cm 共Hazen 1892, 1911; Holtz and Kovacs 1981; Coduto k⫽ 共 ␥/␮ 兲共 1/C K-C兲共 1/S 20 兲关 e 3 / 共 1⫹e 兲兴 (2)
Nearly all of the geotechnical textbooks cited herein reference where ␥⫽unit weight of permeant; ␮⫽viscosity of permeant;
the Hazen formula, with two notable exceptions: Mansur and C K-C⫽Kozeny-Carman empirical coefficient; S 0 ⫽specific surface
area per unit volume of particles 共1/cm兲; and e⫽void ratio.
When the permeant is water at 20°, ␥/␮⫽9.93⫻104 1/cm s.
President, Argila Enterprises, Inc., 76 Woodside Dr., Lakeland, FL
关At 10°, ␥/␮⫽7.64⫻104 1/cm s. Thus, the ratio of 20° to 10° is
33813. E-mail:
Note. Discussion open until April 1, 2004. Separate discussions must
1.3, the same as Hazen used in his compound coefficient. For the
be submitted for individual papers. To extend the closing date by one effect of temperature on the viscosity of water, see Lambe 共1965,
month, a written request must be filed with the ASCE Managing Editor. p. 148兲 or Terzaghi et al. 共1996 p. 73兲.兴 Carman 共1956, p. 14兲
The manuscript for this technical note was submitted for review and reported the value of C K-C as being equal to 4.8⫾0.3 for uniform
possible publication on May 3, 2002; approved on November 26, 2002. spheres; C K-C is usually taken to be equal to 5. Thus, Eq. 共2兲
This technical note is part of the Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvi- becomes
ronmental Engineering, Vol. 129, No. 11, November 1, 2003. ©ASCE,
ISSN 1090-0241/2003/11-1054 –1056/$18.00. k⫽1.99⫻104 共 1/S 20 兲关 e 3 / 共 1⫹e 兲兴 关 for 20°C兴 (3)


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2003, 129(11): 1054-1056

The Kozeny-Carman formula appears in some geotechnical
textbooks, such as Leonards, Lambe and Whitman, Mitchell, and
Das; but not in many others: Cedergren, Peck et al. 共1974兲, Holtz
k⫽1.99⫻104 100% 冉 冒 再兺 关 f i / 共 D li0.404⫻D si0.595兲兴 冎冊 2
共 1/SF2 兲

and Kovacs, Terzaghi et al., and Coduto. And yet, the Kozeny- ⫻关 e 3 / 共 1⫹e 兲兴 (10)
Carman formula is known to be more accurate than the Hazen
formula 共e.g., Loudon 1952兲. The explanation for this paradox is
at least twofold: First, most geotechnical engineers do not regu- Hazen versus Kozeny-Carman
larly measure specific surface area 共SSA兲, and, thus, they are not
used to it. 关SSA is usually expressed in m2/g; by also measuring As noted above, the published value of the Hazen coefficient C H
the specific gravity of the soil particles, S 0 in Eqs. 共2兲 and 共3兲 can varies from 1 to 1,000; that is, three orders of magnitude. This
be simply calculated from the SSA.兴 Although soil scientists rou- alone should have disqualified the Hazen formula. Nonetheless, it
tinely measure SSA using nitrogen gas adsorption 共e.g., Hillel has continued to be used because of its simplicity and ease of
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1980兲, there is presently no ASTM standard for soil 共there are memorization.
several standards for measuring the SSA of other materials兲. In the past, calculating the effective particle size diameter D eff
Second, none of the geotechnical textbooks referenced herein required for the Kozeny-Carman formula was considered by some
explain that S 0 can be simply estimated from the particle size geotechnical engineers to be time consuming, and this led to at-
distribution. For example, if a soil consists of uniform spheres of tempts to improve the Hazen formula. For example, Amer and
diameter D (cm), S 0 ⫽area/volume⫽(␲D 2 )/ 关 (␲D 3 /6) 兴 ⫽6/D. Awad 共1974兲 developed a permeability formula in which k
Thus, Eq. 共3兲 becomes ⬀(D 60 /D 10) 0.6D 2.32
10 关 e /(1⫹e) 兴 ⫽D 60 D 10 关 e /(1⫹e) 兴 . But the
3 0.6 1.72 3

price of improved accuracy was less simplicity and less ease of

k⫽552D 2 关 e 3 / 共 1⫹e 兲兴 (4) memorization.
Today, personal computers and spreadsheet software are nearly
If the soil consists of nonuniform spheres, then the effective ubiquitous, making the calculation of D eff extremely simple and
diameter D eff can be calculated from the particle size distribution fast. For that matter, the Kozeny-Carman formula could be easily

冒 冋兺 册
incorporated into software that calculates and plots sieve analy-
D eff⫽100% 共 f i /D ave i兲 (5) ses, such that the estimated permeability of a sandy layer could be
automatically output. There is no longer any reason not to use the
where f i⫽fraction of particles between two sieve sizes; larger 关l兴 Kozeny-Carman formula.
and smaller 关s兴 共%兲; and

D ave i⫽average particle size between two sieve sizes 共cm兲 Limitations of Kozeny-Carman Formula

⫽Dli0.5⫻Dsi0.5 (6) The Kozeny-Carman formula is constrained by certain limitations

共which also apply to the Hazen formula兲:
Then, 1. Fine side: The formula assumes there are no electrochemical
reactions between the soil particles and the water. That
S 0 ⫽6/D eff (7) means the formula is not appropriate for clayey soils, al-
though it will work for nonplastic silts. 关For an example of
Obviously, the smaller particles have the most influence on the
an empirical formula to predict the permeability of a clay,
calculated D eff and S 0 .
see Carrier and Beckman 共1984兲.兴
Finally, to account for the angularity of the individual soil
2. Coarse side: The formula assumes Darcian conditions; that
particles, a shape factor SF can be introduced is, laminar flow and a low pore water velocity, such that the
S 0 ⫽SF/D eff (8) inertia term in the Bernoulli energy equation can be ignored.
These conditions apply in silts, sands, and even gravelly
Collecting terms, Eq. 共3兲 can be expressed as sands. But as the pore size increases and the velocity in-

冒 再兺
creases, turbulent flow and the inertia term must be taken
k⫽1.99⫻104 100% 冉 关 f i / 共 D li0.5⫻D si0.5兲兴 冎冊 2
共 1/SF2 兲
into account.
Hazen 共1892, p. 554兲 also recognized this: ‘‘For gravels
with effective sizes above 3 mm the friction varies in such a
⫻ 关 e 3 / 共 1⫹e 兲兴 (9) way as to make the application of a general formula very
difficult. As the size increases beyond this point, the 关quan-
Eq. 共9兲 is similar to versions of the Kozeny-Carman formula tity of flow兴 with a given head does not increase as rapidly as
presented in Fair and Hatch 共1933—note the date兲, Loudon, Car- the square of the effective size; and with coarse gravels the
man 共1956兲, and Todd 共1959兲 关interestingly, Eq. 共9兲 does not ap- 关quantity of flow兴 varies as the square root of the head in-
pear in Todd 共1980兲兴. Fair and Hatch suggested the following stead of directly with the head as in sands. The influence of
values for the shape factor, SF: spherical—6.0; rounded—6.1; temperature also becomes less marked with the coarse
worn—6.4; sharp—7.4; and angular—7.7. Loudon suggested the gravels.’’
following values: rounded—6.6; medium angularity—7.5; and Thus, in gravels and coarser soils, a more advanced for-
angular—8.4. mula must be used. As an example, Scheidegger 共1974, pp.
Eq. 共9兲 can be improved slightly by noting that although 165–166兲 and Åberg 共1992兲 use an expression in which the
D ave i⫽D 0.5
li ⫻D si 关Eq. 共6兲兴, S 0 i /SF⫽(1/D i) ave⫽(1/D ave i). As-
apparent permeability is a function of the hydraulic gradient:
suming the particle size distribution is log-linear between each The maximum value of k apparent is equal to k Kozeny-Carman ,
pair of sieve sizes, it can be shown that (1/D i) ave⫽1/(D 0.404 li which occurs when the hydraulic gradient is zero; and as the
⫻D si0.595). Thus, Eq. 共9兲 becomes hydraulic gradient increases, k apparent decreases.


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2003, 129(11): 1054-1056

3. Extreme particle shape: The formula assumes the soil par- soils.’’ J. Geotech. Eng. Div., Am. Soc. Civ. Eng., 100共12兲, 1309–
ticles are relatively compact. It is not appropriate for soils 1316.
containing platy particles such as mica 共and this is another Carman, P. C. 共1938兲. ‘‘The determination of the specific surface of pow-
reason it does not work for clayey soils兲. Furthermore, if the ders.’’ J. Soc. Chem. Ind. Trans., 57, 225.
measured specific surface area is significantly higher than Carman, P. C. 共1956兲. Flow of gases through porous media, Butterworths
the calculated specific surface area, then the latter should be Scientific Publications, London.
used to predict permeability. This condition occurs when the Carrier, W. D., and Beckman, J. F. 共1984兲. ‘‘Correlations between index
tests and the properties of remolded clays.’’ Geotechnique, 34共2兲,
particles are extremely irregular with re-entrant surfaces and
intragranular porosity. This results in ‘‘dead end’’ and ‘‘by-
Carrier, W. D., Olhoeft, G. R., and Mendell, W. 共1991兲. ‘‘Physical prop-
passed’’ flow channels that do not contribute to the effective
erties of the lunar surface.’’ Lunar sourcebook, G. Heiken, D. Vani-
specific surface area. 关For example, lunar soil particles look man, and B. M. French, eds., Cambridge University Press, Cam-
like microscopic pieces of popcorn. The measured specific bridge, England, 475–594.
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surface area is nearly eight times the calculated area 共Carrier Cedergren, H. R. 共1967兲. Seepage, drainage, and flow nets, Wiley, New
et al. 1991, pp. 480– 481兲.兴 York.
In fact, for extreme particle shapes, in which it is desired Coduto, D. P. 共1999兲. Geotechnical engineering: Principles and practice,
to determine the specific surface area for an industrial pro- Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
cess 共such as a catalyst兲, Carman recommended that the Das, B. M. 共1997兲. Advanced soil mechanics, Taylor & Francis, Wash-
Kozeny-Carman formula be used in reverse: Measure the ington, D.C.
permeability and back-calculate the effective specific surface Fair, G. M., and Hatch, L. P. 共1933兲. ‘‘Fundamental factors governing the
area. stream-line flow of water through sand.’’ J. Am. Water Works Assoc.,
4. Extreme particle size distribution: The formula is not appro- 25, 1551–1565.
priate if the particle size distribution has a long, flat tail in Hazen, A. 共1892兲. ‘‘Some physical properties of sands and gravels, with
the fine fraction. As a practical matter, D 0 must be known or special reference to their use in filtration.’’ 24th Annual Rep., Massa-
estimated in order to calculate D eff 关see Eqs. 共5兲 and 共6兲兴. chusetts State Board of Health, Pub. Doc. No. 34, 539–556.
5. Anisotropy: The formula does not explicitly account for an- Hazen, A. 共1911兲. ‘‘Discussion of ‘Dams on sand foundations’ by A. C.
isotropy. Of course, in most deposits 共both natural and man- Koenig.’’ Trans. Am. Soc. Civ. Eng., 73, 199–203.
Hillel, D. 共1980兲. Fundamentals of soil physics, Academic Press, New
made兲, the horizontal permeability k h is greater than the ver-
tical permeability k v . Nearly all of the laboratory
Holtz, R. D., and Kovacs, W. D. 共1981兲. An introduction to geotechnical
measurements which have been made to validate the formula engineering, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
and to establish the value of C K-C were based on the vertical Kozeny, J. 共1927兲. ‘‘Ueber kapillare Leitung des Wassers im Boden.’’
permeability. Thus, k Kozeny-Carman⬇k v . Wien, Akad. Wiss., 136共2a兲, 271.
Lambe, T. W. 共1965兲. Soil testing for engineers, Wiley, New York.
Lambe, T. W., and Whitman, R. V. 共1969兲. Soil mechanics, Wiley, New
Conclusions York.
Leonards, G. A. 共1962兲. ‘‘Engineering properties of soils.’’ Foundation
The Hazen formula 关Eq. 共1兲兴 has been around for about a century. engineering, G. A. Leonards, ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 66 –240.
It is time to bid it goodbye, with thanks, and welcome the Loudon, A. G. 共1952兲. ‘‘The computation of permeability from simple
Kozeny-Carman formula 关Eq. 共10兲兴, which, after all, has been soil tests.’’ Geotechnique, 3, 165–183.
around for half-a-century. Mansur, C. I., and Kaufman, R. I. 共1962兲. ‘‘Dewatering.’’ Foundation
engineering, G. A. Leonards, ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 241–350.
Mitchell, J. K. 共1976兲. Fundamentals of soil behavior, Wiley, New York.
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New York.
Peck, R. B., Hanson, W. E., and Thornburn, T. H. 共1974兲. Foundation
The writer greatly appreciates the assistance of Ms. Karen Stew- engineering, Wiley, New York.
art and the rest of the library staff at the Florida Institute of Scheidegger, A. E. 共1974兲. The physics of flow through porous media,
Phosphate Research, Bartow, Fla. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.
Taylor, D. W. 共1948兲. Fundamentals of soil mechanics, Wiley, New York.
Terzaghi, K., and Peck, R. B. 共1964兲. Soil mechanics in engineering
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Terzaghi, K., Peck, R. B., and Mesri, G. 共1996兲. Soil mechanics in engi-
Åberg, B. 共1992兲. ‘‘Hydraulic conductivity of noncohesive soils.’’ J. Geo- neering practice, Wiley, New York.
tech. Eng., 118共9兲, 1335–1347. Todd, D. K. 共1959兲. Ground water hydrology, Wiley, New York.
Amer, A. M., and Awad, A. A. 共1974兲. ‘‘Permeability of cohesionless Todd, D. K. 共1980兲. Ground water hydrology, Wiley, New York.


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2003, 129(11): 1054-1056