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THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
ST AUGUSTINE, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, WEST INDIES
FACULTY OF ENGINEERING
DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

CVNG 2002 Soil Mechanics
Module 3. Compaction and Strength of Partially Saturated Soils
Lectures by Richard Dean, Semester 1, 2006/7

























Proctor test equipment
Moisture content
Dry
unit
weight

Unconfined compression test machine
Vertical strain, %
0 20
Axial
total
stress
brittle
ductile
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Objectives
After completing this module and its labs and assignment, you will
1. understand the differences between dry, partially saturated, and fully saturated soils
2. understand how and why soils need to be compacted
3. be able to calculate densities and unit weights for soils
4. be able to specify and control the compaction of partially saturated soils
5. be able to use Mohr's Circle to calculate total stresses on any plane in a soil element
6. be able to measure the strength of partially saturated soils



Contents
What are Compaction, Strength, and Partially Saturated Soils?....................................................................3
Compaction equipment ...................................................................................................................................7
Lifts, materials and equipment ......................................................................................................................13
Controlling compaction (1) the Phase Diagram for Soils..............................................................................14
Controlling compaction (2) Compaction curves ............................................................................................19
More about compaction curves.....................................................................................................................21
Controlling compaction (3) Checking compaction in the field.......................................................................24
Unconfined compression testing...................................................................................................................26
The Mohr's Circle Construction for Total Stress ...........................................................................................28
References....................................................................................................................................................32
Technical Standards .....................................................................................................................................32
Assignment for Module 3 ..............................................................................................................................33
Previous exam questions..............................................................................................................................35


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What are Compaction, Strength, and Partially Saturated Soils?
A body of soil consists of a large number of soil particles, with air, water, and sometimes other
fluids in the void spaces. Partially saturated soil is soil that has both air and water in the void spaces.
Partially saturated soils have special properties because of surface tension effects at air-water interfaces.
Also, pathways for the flow of water and air through the soil skeleton are constrained in ways that do not
apply for dry or fully saturated soils.









Some effects of having air as well as water in the void spaces
Partially saturated soils are relevant to civil engineering because the vadose zone between the ground
surface and the water table is usually partially saturated, and because construction material used as fill or
for earthworks such as embankments is usually partially saturated.
Compaction is the process of removing some of the air from partially saturated soils, using
mechanical means. This increases the strength and stiffness of the soil. The bearing capacity of the
ground is increased. Settlements of structures are reduced compared to structures on un-compacted
material. Compaction also reduces the permeability of the soil, and stabilizes soil particles against erosion.
In sands, surface tension effects
can hold particles together
In clays, the remaining water shrinks back against
the particle surfaces, forming a soil/water skeleton
Sand grain
Water
Air
Clay particle
Water in semi-solid state
on surface of clay particle
Air
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Typical problems caused by poor or no compaction, from www.concrete-catalog.com/soil_compaction.html
Many methods can be used to compact a soil. They can
be classed as pressure methods such as the use of
rollers, kneading methods such as the use of a
sheepsfoot rollers, impact methods such as dropping
weights onto ground (dynamic compaction) or by use of
explosives, and vibration methods.







Roller compactor

Dynamic compaction, from www.densification.com
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A geotechnical engineer will normally specify the results needed for compaction, and will
sometimes specify how those results are to be obtained. The engineer will use a compaction curve. This is
a relationship between the dry unit weight of compacted material, and the water content at which it is
compacted. Different materials have different compaction curves, and the curve for a given material
depends on the nature of the compaction and the compactive effort used.











For a given compactive effort, the optimum water content is the water content which produces the
greatest compaction, as measured by the maximum dry unit weight of the compacted material. The zero-
air-voids (ZAV) curve is the theoretical maximum if all the air is removed from the soil. In the field, the
engineer will check that a required unit weight has been achieved. This is done by field density tests.
Compaction increases the strength of partially saturated soil, but the main aim is in the future. The
soil may be partially saturated during construction, but may become fully saturated later. For instance, this
can occur if the water table rises, or if water seeps into the ground from rain or flood. For a fully saturated
soil, the strength of the soil is larger for denser samples. Strength can be measured in many ways. In the
unconfined compression test, a cylindrical sample is placed between platens and compressed vertically,
without any support or "confinement" in the radial direction.

Results of Standard Proctor test for a silty clay. From page 66 of Das (2004)
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The results of an unconfined compression test can be interpreted using the Mohr's Circle diagram, which is
a plot of stresses on all of the planes in the soil. The stress on the failure plane, for example, can be found
from the Mohr's Circle construction as shown above. The shear strength of the material is the radius of the
circle, which is one half of the maximum stress achieved in the unconfined compression test.
If we take some soil and prepare
samples at different water contents, then
compact the samples using the same
compactive effort for each, then test their
strengths, we can plot two kinds of results.
One is the relation between moisture
content during compaction and shear
strength of the partially saturated soil. This
generally increases as the moisture
content is reduced, up to a maximum
which usually occurs at a water content
drier than optimum. However, if we plot
the strength of fully saturated soils, the
maximum occurs at the optimum moisture
content. This is why the optimum is so
important.

2
Normal stress
Shear
stress
Water content during compaction
Dry
density
Strength
Partially saturated,
after compaction
Fully saturated
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Compaction can occur naturally, without
the use of machines. A track may be compacted
a little more each time someone walks along it.
The soil beneath a road may be compacted a
little more each time a vehicle passes.
Compaction can also occur due to cycles of
wetting and drying, which effectively produce
cycles of stress in the soil. The cycles produce a
gradual compaction and strengthening of the
material. As a result of these various processes,
soil near the ground surface is sometimes
stronger than the underlying soil. This is referred
to as an overconsolidated dessication crust.
Wetting and drying cycles can also
produce many problems. In expansive clays in
tropical regions, drying causes the soil to shrink
and crack, and the air temperature can be
sufficient to suck moisture out of the soil. The
active zone can be 10m to 20m deep. When the
rains come, the soil sucks up water again. This
causes expansion, which can cause much
damage to foundations, structures, and
earthworks.
Compaction equipment
The most common ways of compacting soil is to place the un-compacted material is layers or "lifts"
of typically 1 foot thickness, and to pass machines over the surface to compact the soil. Before placing a
lift, water may be sprayed onto the uncompacted material to achieve a desired water content, or this can
be done after placement and before compaction. Compaction is achieved by:
Pressure
Kneading
Vibration
Impact

strength
Depth
below
ground
surface
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Smooth steel-wheeled
rollers can be walk-behind,
drive-on, or towed types.
They achieve compaction
primarily by the application
of pressure to the soil, but
also with some kneading as
the roller passes over a
place.




Pneumatic rollers compact
by a combination of pressure
and kneading as the wheel
passes over a place. Wheels
are typically offset front and
back, so as to achieve
maximum coverage of the
ground.






From page 74 of Das (2004)

From www.constructionequipment.com/article/CA6359370.html
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Sheepsfoot rollers are
only suitable for clayey
soils. As the roller passes
over the soil, the
projections or "feet" push
into the soil, creating a
severe kneading action
which tends to force air
out of the soil. The
kneading action remoulds
the soil, so its remoulded
undrained shear strength
is used for design in the
short term.














Pictures from www.sbe.napier.ac.uk/projects/compaction/chapter2d.htm
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Vibration systems can be
fitted to smooth-wheeled,
pneumatic, and sheepsfoot
rollers to increase the
effectiveness of the
compaction and so reduce
the number of passes that a
machine has to make on
each lift. Vibration is usually
achieved by attaching
eccentric weights to the
wheels.



Vibratory plates are hand-
operated machines that apply low
amplitude, high frequency
vibrations to the ground. They are
effective for granular fills, and also
for asphalt, so they are commonly
used in small road construction.
Typical frequencies are 2000 to
6000 vibrations per minute. The
engine and handle are generally
partially isolated from the base
plate to prevent damage to the
machine or the operator, who
walks behind the machine.



From page 75 of Das (2004)

From
www.constructioncomplete.com/SingleDirectionPlateCompactorsGas/W
ackerWP1550APlateCompactor.html
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Rammers deliver high impact
force top the ground. They are
good for cohesive and semi-
cohesive soils. A typical
frequency range is 500 to 750
blows per minute. Rammers
have three effects impact,
vibration, and kneading.




Other types of compaction include
dynamic compaction, where a heavy
weight is dropped onto the ground.
Dynamic compaction is good for
granular and silty granular soils.










From www.macrental.net/plant_hire/compaction_and_rollers
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In vibroflotation, granular
material is compacted by a
process involving liquefaction
and re-solidification of denser
material.



















From p.82 of Das (2004), see also Brown (1977)
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Granular material sands and
gravels can also be compacted
by blasting explosive
compaction. Holes are drilled into
a soil body to a depth of about 2/3
of the depth to be compacted.
Small explosive charges are fired
at the bottoms of the holes. The
shear wave from the explosion
liquefies the soil, joggling the
particles. The material then
settles, water is expelled, and the
particles come into contact again
the material solidifies at a
greater density than previously.

Lifts, materials and equipment

The effects of rollers, vibration systems,
and small rammers are generally felt
close to the surface of the layer that is
being compacted. For rollers, the effects
depend on the wheel weights and areas,
the amount of kneading action that is
involved, the lift height, and the number
of passes.
The maximum effect typically occurs a
short distance below the ground
surface. Above this, the equipment
tends to disturb the soil. Below, the
compactive effect is dissipated.
Consequently, lifts are typically of the
order of 6 inches to 1 foot.

From page 671 of Das (2005)
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Materials

Vibrating Sheepsfoot
Rammer
Static Sheepsfoot
Grid Roller
Scraper
Vibrating Plate Compactor
Vibrating Roller
Vibrating Sheepsfoot
Scraper
Rubber-tired Roller
Loader
Grid Roller
Lift Thickness Impact
Pressure
(with kneading)
Vibration
Kneading
(with pressure)
Gravel 12+ Poor No Good Very Good
Sand 10+/- Poor No Excellent Good
Silt 6+/- Good Good Poor Excellent
Clay 6+/- Excellent Very Good No Good
From www.concrete-catalog.com/soil_compaction.html
Gravels tend to be excellent fill materials, with good drainage characteristics and suitable for foundation
support and pavement subgrade. Sands are good. Silts are generally poor materials. Clays can give
adequate foundation support but are not good for pavement subgrades, and can be difficult to compact.
Organic soils are poor foundation materials and poor pavement supports.
Controlling compaction (1) the Phase Diagram for Soils
To control compaction, the engineer needs to specify and measure moisture contents and densities of
uncompacted and compacted material. The phase diagram is a way of remembering how to calculate
some of these quantities, and related quantities. In a real soil, particles, air, and water are mixed together.
In the phase diagram we think of the particles as packed together in one region, without voids between
them, and we think of all the voids together in another region, with air in one part and water in another.












AIR
WATER

SOIL
PARTICLES
Void spaces the degree of saturation S of the soil is the
volume of water divided by the volume of void spaces
Solids the unit weight of the solids is Gs times the unit
weight of water, where Gs is the specific gravity of the solids
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There are three commonly used ways of measuring the relation between volumes of the fluid and solid
phases of the material. The void ratio e is the ratio of the volume of air plus water to the volume of solids:
e =
solids of Volume
water air of Volume +
=
n
n
1
= V 1
The porosity n is the ratio of the volume of air plus water to the total volume of the soil:
n =
solids water air of Volume
water air of Volume
+ +
+
=
e
e
+ 1
=
V
V 1

The specific volume V is the ratio of the volume of everything divided by the volume of solids:
V =
solids of Volume
solids water air of Volume + +
= 1+e =
n 1
1

The void ratio is the most commonly used quantity for granular soils sand and gravels. It is usually
expressed as a fraction. Porosity is sometimes preferred in calculations for the flow of water through soils
(seepage). Specific volume is sometimes used for clays instead of void ratio.
As noted in the sketch above, the degree of saturation is the ratio of the volume of water in the
voids divided by the volume of the voids (air + water). It is usually expressed as a percentage. Another
common measure is the gravimetric water content w, usually just called the water content by geotechnical
engineers. This is the ratio of the weight of water to the weight of dry solids:
w =
solids dry of weight
water of weight

Water content can be related to degree of saturation and void ratio by considering the relative volumes of
water and solids, and their unit weights. The relative volume of the water in the soils is the degree of
saturation S multiplied by the void ratio e. Hence the relative weight is Se times the unit weight of water.
The relative volume of dry solids is 1, and their unit weight is Gs times the unit weight of water. Hence:
w =
s
G
e S.

Engineers use several measures of density and weight. The word density is used to denote mass per unit
volume, so that the density of water is typically around w = 1000 kg/m
3
. The phrase unit weight is used to
denote weight divided by volume, so the unit weight of water is w = 9.81 x 1000 N/m
3
= 9.81 kN/m
3
in
earth's gravity of 9.81 m/s
2
. Unit weight depends on gravity, so is different on the moon, for instance.
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The dry density dry of a soil is the mass of the dry soil divided by the volume of the soil + water + air. The
dry unit weight dry is this multiplied by the acceleration of gravity. Now the relative volume of solids to total
volume is 1/(1+e), so:
dry =
water air solids of volume
solids dry of mass
+ +
=
e
G
w s
+

1
.

dry =
water air solids of volume
solids dry of weight
+ +
=
e
G
w s
+

1
.

Dry unit weight is used as part of the method of controlling compaction see later. The bulk density bulk of
a soil is the mass of the soil and water divided by the volume of the soil + water + air. The bulk unit weight
dbulk is this multiplied by the acceleration of gravity. Considering the relative volumes of solids, water, and
total volume, and considering their densities and unit weights, gives:
bulk =
water air solids of volume
water solids of mass
+ +
+
=
e
Se G
w s
+
+
1
). (

bulk =
water air solids of volume
water solids of weight
+ +
+
=
e
Se G
w s
+
+
1
). (

We also often consider buoyancy effects. The buoyant density , also called the effective density or the
submerged density, is the bulk density less the density of water. The buoyant unit weight , also called the
effective unit weight and the submerged unit weight, is the bulk unit weight less the unit weight of water:
= bulk w =
w
s
e
e S G

+
+
.
1
). 1 ( ) 1 (

= bulk w =
w
s
e
e S G

+
+
.
1
). 1 ( ) 1 (


The table gives the specific gravities
of some minerals of which soil
particles may be made (see page 17
of Das, 2005). If in doubt, a value of
Gs = 2.65 is usually fairly accurate.






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Example 1. The water content of a fully saturated quartz sand is 25%. Calculate its:
(a) Void ratio
(b) Porosity
(c) Dry density
(d) Bulk density
(e) Submerged unit weight
Answer: 1: (a) Since the sand is quartz, we shall assume Gs=2.65. Since it is fully saturated,
S=100%. Hence e = w.Gs/S = 0.25 x 2.65 / 1 = 0.6625
(b) The porosity is the volume of voids divided by the total volume, so is e/(1+e) =
0.6625/1.6625 = 39.8%
(c) The dry density is the dry mass divided by the volume. The relative volumes are 1
(solids) to 1+e (total). Hence dry = 1 x 2.65x 1000 / (1.6625) = 1594 kg/m
3
.
(d) The bulk density is the total mass divided by the volume. The relative volumes are 1
(solids) to 1+e (total). Hence bulk = (1 x 2.65 + 0.6625x1)x 1000 / (1.6625) = 1992
kg/m
3
.
(e) The submerged unit weight is the bulk unit weight less the unit weight of water.
Hence = (1992 1000) x 9.81 N/m
3
= 9.73 kN/m
3
.

Example 2. A material has a bulk unit weight of 18.5 kN/m
3
and a water content of 23%. What is its
dry density?
Answer 2: The bulk unit weight includes water. Considering the definition of water content, the dry
unit weight is therefore the bulk unit weight divided by 1 plus the moisture content.. Hence
dry = 18.5/1.23 = 15.04 kN/m
3
. The dry density is therefore this divided by 9.81, which
comes to 15040 / 9,.81 = 1533 kg/m
3
.

Example 3. A site investigation has been carried out at a site and the soil has been found to consist of
2m of uniform quartz sand with a void ratio of 0.75, overlying a uniform kaolin clay. The
water table is 0.5 m below the ground surface, and the sand may be assumed to be fully
dry above the water table and fully saturated below it. The clay is fully saturated and has a
moisture content of 47%. For a depth of 6m below the ground surface, calculate:
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(a) The total vertical stress at that depth
(b) The water pressure at that depth
(c) The effective vertical stress at that depth, equal to the total stress less the water
pressure

Answer 3: To calculate the stresses in the soil, we need to first calculate the unit weights of the
materials. And before that it is useful to draw a diagram.












For the dry quartz sand above the water table, the specific gravity is 2.65 and the void
ratio is 0.75m, so the dry unit weight is 2.65 x 9.81 / 1.75 = 14.86 kN/m
3
.
For the fully saturated sand below the water table, the bulk unit weight is (2.65+0.75) x
9.81 / 1.75 = 19.06 kN/m
3
.
For the kaolin clay, the specific gravity is 2.6 (from the table of specific gravities). The
moisture content is 47%, so the void ratio is 0.47 x 2.6 / 1 = 1.222. Hence the bulk unit
weight is (2.6+1.222) x 9.81 / (1+1.222) = 16.87 kN/m
3

The total vertical stress at 6m below the ground surface is the sum of
1) stress due to 0.5m of dry sand, i,. 0.5x14.86 = 7.43 kN/m
2

2) stress due to 1.5m of saturated sand, ie. 1.5 x 19.06 = 28.59 kN/m
2

3) stress due to 4m of clay,. ie. 4 x 16.87 = 67.48 kN/m
2

Hence the total stress at 6m depth is 7.43 + 28.59 + 67.48 = 103.5 kN/m
2
. This depth is
5.5m below the water table, so the pore water pressure is 5.5 x 9.81 = 53.95 kN/m
2
.
Hence the vertical effective stress is 103.5 53.95 = 49.55 kN/m
2

Dry sand, Gs=2.65, e=0.7
Fully saturated sand, Gs=2.65, e=0.7
Fully saturated clay, Gs=2.6, w=0.47
0.5m
1.5m
4m
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Controlling compaction (2) Compaction curves
If a soil is compacted under a certain amount of compactive effort, then the density of the soil that
is achieved due to the compaction depends on the moisture content of the soil. The relation between
moisture content and dry density is called a compaction curve.
In the standard Proctor test, the apparatus shown below is used, together with moisture content
tins and an oven. The apparatus consists of a mold of volume 943.3 cm
3
, into which soil is placed in layers
for compaction, and a hammer or rammer of a standard weight and standard drop.

From p.64 of Das (2005)
A few kilograms of the soil are first sieved to remove oversize particles. Depending on the size of
the particles remaining, the remaining material is then compacted in several steps, using either of three
methods called A to C. In each method, the material is compacted in a mold in three layers. Each layer is
placed at the same moisture content, and subjected to a number of blows of a standard Proctor hammer.
The hammer drops 304.8mm and its weight is 24.4N (its mass is 5.5 lb). The compactive energy for each
drop is 24.4 x 0.3048 = 7.437 Joules. The compactive effort for the three methods is:
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Method No.of blows
per layer
Volume of
mold
Compactive effort
A 25 944.3 cm
3
7.437 x 25 x 3 / (944.3 x 10

6
) 593 kN.m / m
3

B 25 944.3 cm
3
7.437 x 25 x 3 / (944.3 x 10

6
) 593 kN.m / m
3

C 56 2124 cm
3
7.437 x 56 x 3 / (2124 x 10

6
) 589 kN.m / m
3

The moisture content and dry density of the compacted material is measured. The material is then
removed from the mold, water is added, and the process is repeated. After five or six specimens have
been compacted and measured in this way, a curve is drawn of dry unit weight versus moisture content.
The following shows a typical example. The weights of compacted material were measured by
tipping the material from the mold onto a tray, weighing the tray, and subtracting the weight of the tray. The
moisture contents were measured by taking moisture content samples, weighing them, drying them in an
oven for 24 hours at 105C, then weighing again and accounting for the weights of the tins. Based on the
results, it is possible to calculate the remaining columns.

Sample Weight in
mold, N
Moisture
content, %
bulk,
kN/m
3

dry,
kN/m
3

Void ratio
(Gs=2.66)
dry if S=100%,
kN/m
3

1 17.23 12.0
2 18.13 13.7
3 18.78 15.6
4 19.07 18.0
5 18.89 21.5
6 18.45 23.8

The void ratio in the fifth column is the void ratio that would correspond to the listed moisture content if the
soil was saturated. Thus e = w/Gs. The maximum unit weight in the last column is then calculated as
Gs.w/(1+e).

The results are plotted on the following page. The optimum moisture content is the value of moisture
content at the maximum dry density.

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The degree of saturation at the optimum can also be read from the graph. First, plot the optimum point.
Next, plot the point at the same dry density but on the zero air voids line, i.e the line corresponding to full
saturation. Next read the moisture content off that point on zero air void line. This is the maximum moisture
content for the given dry density. The degree of saturation at optimum is the optimum moisture content
divided by this maximum moisture content.
More about compaction curves
Typical compaction curves for a variety of materials are shown on the next page. Most materials
have the characteristic bell-shaped curve. Other types of curve are also possible. Type A curves are for
silty and clayey materials where the fines have liquid limits between about 30% and 70%. Types B and C
occur for materials with low liquid limits, lower than about 30%. Soils with liquid limits greater than about
70% may have compaction curves like C or D but such curves are not very common.
Moisture content of compacted sample, %
12
14 16 18 20 22 24
15
16
17
18
Dry unit
weight,
kN/m
3

19
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Typical curves for various soil types note that dry density is being plotted vertically instead of dry unit
weight. The result for optimum moisture content is unchanged. From page 79 of Sarsby (2000)



Various types of compaction curve. From page 67 of Das (2004)
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The compaction curve for a soil varies with the compactive effort. For higher efforts, the curve is
displaced leftwards (towards smaller water contents) and upwards (towards higher densities).

Effect of compactive effort, from page 76 of Sarsby (2000)
The effect of compactive effort has two effects. First, heavier compaction equipment developed
over the last 40 years or so, and the original Proctor test has become less useful. In the modified Proctor
test, the soil in the mold is compacted in five layers instead of three, and each layer is compacted with a
44.5N hammer instead of a 24.4N one. The compactive effort in the modified Proctor test is about 2696
kN.m/m
3
, which is about 4.5 times the effort for the standard Proctor test.
The Proctor tests do not necessarily match the compaction curves that can be achieved using
practical equipment. There are two approaches to specifying field compaction. In a method specification,
the engineer specifies the moisture content for the compacted material, and the method by which the
material is to be compacted (including the equipment, the lift thickness, and the number of passes, which
is typically around 10 to 12). Problems with method specification are (a) it requires the consultant to have a
high degree of contracting knowledge, and (b) it is not necessarily the most best or most economical way
of using the contractor's equipment and skills. In end-product specification, the engineer specifies the
range of final densities to be achieved, and leaves the contractor to work out how to achieve densities in
that range.
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Controlling compaction (3) Checking compaction in the field
If soil is trucked to a site, placed, and compacted, after adding water if necessary, the result is termed
an engineered fill. The main objective of the compaction is to achieve a certain range of dry densities,
which will give a certain range of strength for the fill. A secondary objective may be to achieve a certain
range of moisture contents too. To verify compaction, the engineer will carry out moisture content and
density tests on samples taken from the compacted fill.
Moisture content tests are straightforward, The engineer arranges that a small mobile laboratory be
available on site, including a weighing balance and an oven. Measuring moisture content involves taking
samples, measuring their wet weights, drying them for 24 hours at 105C, measuring the dry weights, and
taking account of the weights of the tins.
Density tests are more time consuming. There are four methods to choose from. In the sand replace-
ment method, a small hole is dug into the compacted material. The weight of material W1 removed from
the hole is measured. A standard cone is then used to fill the hole with a standard dry sand. The purpose
of the cone is to ensure that the method of pouring is repeatable. The weight Ws of sand needed to
achieve this is measured. The volume of the hole is deduced by dividing Ws by the density or unit weight of
the sand which is measured in a separate calibration exercise. The bulk unit weight of the compacted
material is then W1 divided by the volume of the hole. The dry unit weight is this divided by 1+w.


Equipment and procedure for the sand replacement method, from pages 78-79 of das (2005)

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Example 4. An engineer scrapes flat the surface of a small area of a compacted engineered fill, then
digs a hole through a template approximately 4 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. The
mass of material removed from the hole is 1.434 kg, and its moisture content is later found
to be 13%. The sand replacement method is used to refill the hole with sand, and 1.323 kg
of sand are needed. The poured density of the sand is 1.730 grams/cc. What dry density
has been achieved for the compacted fill?

Answer 4: The volume of the hole was 1323 / 1.73 = 764.7 cm
3
. hence the bulk density of the clay
was 1434 / 764.7 gm/cm
3
= 1.875 gm/cm
3
, equivalent to 1875 kg/m
3
. Hence the dry
density of the compacted fill was 1875 / (1+0.13) = 1659 kg/m
3
.

Other methods for measuring the compacted density include (1) the rubber balloon method, in which the
volume of the hole is measured using a rubber balloon filled with water, (2) the Shelby tube method in
which a tube is pushed into the fill and pulled out again - the volume of material extracted is measured
directly or indirectly, and (3) the nuclear method, in which a nuclear density meter is used to measure
density. A summary of the various methods is given below.

Field Density Testing Method
Sand Cone Balloon Dens meter Shelby Tube Nuclear Gauge




Advantages
* Large sample
* Accurate
* Large sample
* Direct reading obtained
* Open graded material
* Fast
* Deep sample
* Under pipe haunches
* Fast
* Easy to redo
* More tests (statistical
reliability)
Disadvantages
* Many steps
* Large area required
* Slow
* Halt Equipment
* Tempting to accept flukes
* Slow
* Balloon breakage
* Awkward
* Small Sample
* No gravel
* Sample not always retained
* No sample
* Radiation
* Moisture suspect
* Encourages amateurs
Errors
* Void under plate
* Sand bulking
* Sand compacted
* Soil pumping
* Surface not level
* Soil pumping
* Void under plate
* Overdrive
* Rocks in path
* Plastic soil
* Miscalibrated
* Rocks in path
* Surface prep required
* Backscatter
Cost * Low * Moderate * Low * High
From www.concrete-catalog.com/soil_compaction.html
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Unconfined compression testing
In an unconfined compression test, a
cylindrical sample of soil is placed between
platens and subjected to compression without
any lateral support or confinement. The test
gives a quick way of measuring the unconfined
compressive strength qu of the soil.
The load F applied to the soil is measured
by a proving ring. This is a string ring which is
compressed in a diametrical direction. The ring
deforms and the deformation is measured by a
dial gauge placed at the center of the ring. A
calibration factor or curve is then used to
calculated the load on the sample from the dial
gaage reading. The nominal stress on the
sample is then equal to F divided by the initial
cross-sectional area Ao of the sample.

A second dial gauge is used to measure the
relative movement of the platens. If the reduction in
height is h at some time during the test, then the
axial compressive strain is h/Ho, where Ho is the
initial height of the specimen.
As long as a soil has sufficient cohesion to stay together, it can be tested in an unconfined
compression machine. If the soil is a fully saturated clay, the volume of the specimen will stay sensibly
constant during the test, so the area increases from the initial value of Ao to a value of A = Ao/(1h/Ho)
when the sample height has reduced by h. In some applications, the stress on the sample is taken to be
corrected ("true") stress F/A rather than the nominal stress F/Ao.
Typical stress-strain curves are shown in the following sketches. The response is ductile if it involves
large strain with the compressive stress continually increasing. For a ductile material, the unconfined
compressive strength is taken as the stress at 20% strain. The response is brittle if the material is initially
quite stiff (large increase in stress for only a small vertical strain), but subsequently the stress peaks and
reduces at larger strains. For a brittle material, the strength is taken to be the peak stress.
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It is generally possible to obtain an idea of the elastic properties of the soil from the initial part of the
stress-strain curve. Subsequently, the curve becomes significant non-linear. Plasticity develops, so that
an unload-reload cycle will not return along the same stress-strain curve as the initial loading cycle.
For clays, the following descriptions are used for clays of various consistencies:
Range of unconfined compressive strengths, kN/m
2

Consistency (Das, 2004) British system
Very soft 0 25 0-40
Soft 25 50 40 80
Medium (firm) 50 100 80 150
Stiff 100 200 150 300
Very stiff 200 400 300 600
Hard > 400 > 600
Vertical strain
Vertical
total
stress
0%
20%
ductile
brittle
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As the maximum stress is approached, the sample may start to bulge or "barrel" if it is ductile, or
may shear along an inclined rupture plane if brittle, or may fail in a combination of these ways. Barreling
is due to friction on the platens which prevents the ends of the sample from expanding outwards like the
middle. The angle of the rupture plane to the vertical is an interesting parameter, and is discussed below.
The Mohr's Circle Construction for Total Stress
In general, stresses act on a variety of different planes in a soil body. We are interested in all of
those planes. The Mohr's Circle Construction allows us to plot the stresses on different planes, and to
quickly calculate the stresses on one plane once the principal stresses have been determined.
Suppose that principal total stresses 1 and 3 act on an element of a soil body, as shown. Note
that the lateral total stress is zero in the unconfined compression test, but it is useful here to develop a
general analysis that can be used for other applications as well as for the unconfined compression test
(which is obtained by putting 3=0).











stresses on a soil element, view in the x, z plane, and view of an inclined plane at angle to the x,y plane

Suppose we want to calculate the stresses acting on some plane AB in the material at an angle to the
horizontal plane. To calculate the stresses on plane AB, we construct a triangular wedge of soil as shown
in the next sketch.
1
1
3 3
x
z

A
B
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Let us suppose that a stress acts normally on the inclined plane, and a shear stress acts tangentially
on that plane. We consider a unit depth of wedge into the paper. Let L be the length of the inclined plane
from A to B. Then the inclined plane has area L.1. The vertical plane on the left has area Lsin.1 The
horizontal plane on the base has area Lcos.1. The force on any plane is the stress on that plane
multiplied by the area of the plane. Hence we can resolve in the directions normal and tangential to the
inclined plane AB:

Resolving forces normal to AB : .L.1 = 3.(Lsin.).sin + 1.(Lcos.).cos
Resolving tangential to AB: .L.1 = 3.(Lsin.).cos 1.(Lcos.).sin
Dividing the equations by L, and using the trigonometric identities 1+cos2=2cos
2
, 1cos2=2sin
2
, and
sin2 = 2sin.cos, gives:

=
2
3 1
+
+
2
3 1

.cos2
=
2
3 1

.sin2

This means that, if we plot the normal stress on the horizontal axis of a graph, and the shear stress on
the vertical axis, the result is:

1
3
A
B



L.cos
L.sin
L
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If we now consider all possible planes in the material that are inclined at some angle to the horizontal and
contain a tangent in the direction of the y-axis, we will get a circle on the graph:














The normal stresses at the intersection of the Mohr's Circle with the normal stress axis are the principal
total stresses. The major principal total stress is the one that is the largest. The minor principal total stress
is the one that is smallest (including consideration of out-of-plane stresses). In 3D there are three principal
stresses. If the value of one of them is between the other two, it is the intermediate principal total stress.

Normal
stress
Shear
stress
Normal
stress
Shear
stress
2
3 1
+

2
3 1

.cos2
2
3 1

.sin2
2
3 1


3 1
2
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In the unconfined compression test, the lateral total stresses are zero, so the Mohr's Circle passes through
the origin of the graph. If we have measured the angle of the failure plane to the horizontal, we can
calculate the stresses on the rupture plane directly from the Mohr's Circle.


















The radius of the circle is half of the unconfined compressive strength. It equals the shear stress on a
plane inclined at 45 to the horizontal. For the failure plane, the normal and shear stresses can be
calculated as:
=
2
u
q
.(1cos2) = (qu.sin).sin
=
2
u
q
.sin2 = (qu.sin).cos
For partially saturated soils, the unconfined compressive strength generally increases for decreasing water
content, up to a maximum. The increase is due to the fact that, at relatively large water contents, the
meniscuses in the material get tighter as the water content reduces, so that the effects of the surface
tension forces increase. At lower water contents, the size of the wetted areas at inter-particle contacts
starts to reduce, so that there is less strengthening effect.



2
Normal
stress
Shear
stress
q
u

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References
Craig, R.F. (2005). Craig's Soil Mechanics. 7
th
edition. E&F Spon
Craig, R.F. (2004). Craig's Soil Mechanics. 7
th
edition, Solutions Manual. E&F Spon
Das, B.M. (2004). Principles of Foundation Engineering, Thomson (Brooks Cole)
Fredlund, D.G. and Rahardjo, H. (1993). Soil Mechanics for Unsaturated Soils. Wiley
Lambe, P.W., and Whitman, R.V. (1979). Soil Mechanics SI version. Wiley
Sarsby, R. (2000). Evironmental Geotechnics. Thomas Telford
Terzaghi, K., Peck, R., and Mesri, G. (1996). Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice. Wiley
Hilf, J.W. (1991). Compacted fill. Chapter 8 of Foundation Engineering Handbook, 2
nd
edition, ed H-Y
Fang. Chapman & Hall, Chapter 3, pp.249316
Technical Standards
Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Volume 04.08 Soil and Rock (I): D 420 - D 5611 and Volume 04.09
Soil and Rock (II): D 5714 - latest, American Society for Testing and Materials
D698-00 Methods for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Standard Effort
D1556-00 Method for Density and Unit Weight of Soil in Place by the Sand-Cone Method
D1557-00 Method for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Modified Effort
D2167-94 Density and Unit Weight of Soil in Place by the Rubber Balloon Method
D2168-90(1996) Methods for Calibration of Laboratory Mechanical-Rammer Soil Compactors
D2937-00 Method for Density of Soil in Place by the Drive-Cylinder Method
D4564-93 Method for Density of Soil in Place by the Sleeve Method
D4718-87 Standard Practice for Correction of Unit Weight and Water Content for Soils
Containing Oversize Particles
D4914-99 Methods for Density of Soil and Rock in Place by the Sand Replacement Method
in a Test Pit
D4959-00 Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil By Direct Heating
D5080-00 Standard Test Method for Rapid Determination of Percent Compaction

BS 1377. Methods of test of soils for civil engineering purposes. (7 vols). British Standards Institution
BS 6031. Code of practice for earthworks. British Standards Institution
BS 8004. British Standard Code of Practice for Foundations (formerly CP2004). 1986EN1997
Eurocode 7: Geotechnical design, www.eurocodes.co.uk
ISO 17892. Geotechnical investigation and testing. International Standards Organization
PCTTS 599. Guide to the design and construction of small buildings, TT Bureau of Standards
US Navy. Design Manual Soil Mechanics, Foundations, and Earth Structures. NAVDOCKS DM-7
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Assignment for Module 3

Please staple your answer sheets firmly together at one corner, and write your student id at the top right on
the first sheet. There is no need to bind the sheets in a folder, or to use a plastic spine. Hand your
assignment in by giving it to Dr Dean, or by putting it in his letter box or through/under his door.

1. What is compaction? How does it differ from compression? Give four reasons to compact soil.
Give five examples of problems that occur if soil is not compacted.
2. Describe four types of compaction equipment. Under what circumstances would you use which
type?
3. The water content of a saturated quartz sand is 25%, and its degree of saturation is 75%.
Calculate its:
(a) Void ratio
(b) Porosity
(c) Dry density
(d) Bulk density
(e) Submerged unit weight
4. (a) A material has a dry unit weight of 16.5 kN/m
3
and a water content of 17%. What is its bulk
density?
(b) A material has a dry unit weight of 15.8 kN/m
3
and a moisture content of 24% when fully
saturated. Calculated the average specific gravity of the soil particles.
5. A site investigation has been carried out at a site and the soil has been found to consist of 3m of
uniform quartz sand with a void ratio of 0.85, overlying a uniform illite clay. The water table is 0.8m
below the ground surface. The sand may be assumed to be fully dry above the water table and
fully saturated below it. The clay is fully saturated and has a moisture content of 63%. For a depth
of 7m below the ground surface, calculate:
(a) The total vertical stress at that depth
(b) The water pressure at that depth
(c) The effective vertical stress at that depth, equal to the total stress less the water pressure

6. The following results were obtained from a compaction test using a mold of 944.3 cm
3
volume.
Plot the compaction curve and the zero air voids line, assuming the material has a specific gravity
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of 2.68. What is the optimum water conetnt and the maxmum dry density for this compactive
effort? What is the degree of saturaton at the optimum point?

Sample Weight in mold, N Moisture content, %
1 17.7 13.5
2 18.4 15.3
3 18.8 17.1
4 19 19.5
5 18.7 22
6 18.3 25.5

7. What laboratory equipment is needed in the field to carry out quality control tests on compaction?
Describe:
(a) a procedure for measuring moisture content
(b) a procedure for mesuring dry density of compacted fill
8. An engineer scrapes flat the surface of a small area of a compacted engineered fill, then digs a
hole through a template. The mass of material removed from the hole is 1.42 kg, and its moisture
content is later found to be 17%. The sand replacement method is used to refill the hole with sand,
and it is found that 1.35 kg of sand are needed. The poured density of the sand is 1.69 grams/cc.
What dry density has been achieved for the compacted fill?
9. (a) How is the unconfined compressive strength of a soil specimen measured?
(b) What is the unconfined compressive strength of dry, uncemented sand?
(c) The unconfined compressive strength of a sandy clay is measured as 175 kN/m
2
. The
rupture surface was at 61 to the horizontal. Calculate the total normal stress and the
shear stress on the rupture surface when the soil reached its compressive strength.



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Previous exam questions
2006

2001

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2000 (July)


2000 (May)



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1999