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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

PERMEABILITY TEST
OBJECTIVE
To determine the coefficient of permeability (k) for a given soil sample using falling head
method.
INTRODUCTION
Permeability (or hydraulic conductivity) refers to the ease with which water can flow through a
soil. This property is necessary for estimating the quantity of underground seepage under various
hydraulic conditions, for investigating problems involving the pumping of water for
underground construction, and for making stability analyses of earth dams and earth-retaining
structures that are subject to seepage forces.
One of the major physical parameters of a soil that controls the rate of seepage through it is
hydraulic conductivity, otherwise known as the coefficient of permeability.
There are two standard laboratory test methods to determine the hydraulic conductivity of soil:
1. The constant head test method
: used for permeable soils (k>10-4 cm/s)
2. The falling head test method
: used for less permeable soils (k<10-4 cm/s)
THEORY
Falling head test method
The falling head permeability test is a common laboratory testing method used to determine the
permeability of fine grained soils with intermediate and low permeability such as silts and clays.
This testing method can be applied to an undisturbed sample.
Principal of the falling head method is based on Darcys law which was proposed by Henry
Darcy, a French scientist in 1856. It is a simple equation for the discharge velocity of water
through saturated soils.

v = ki
where; 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
i = Hydraulic gradient
The rate of flow of the water through the specimen at any time t can be given by,
q=k

h
dh
A=a
l
dt

where; q = flow rate


a = cross-sectional area of the standpipe
A = cross-sectional area of the soil specimen

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

Figure 1: Diagram of the Falling-head Method

The equation used to calculate the coefficient of permeability is:


h
al
ln 0
A (t 1t 0 )
h1

( )

k=

When the equation is arranged in the form of y = mx,


ln

h 0 kA
= (t 1t 0 )
h1
al

( )

where;
a = cross-sectional area of the standpipe
A = cross-sectional area of the soil specimen
l = length of the soil sample
t1 t0 = the time interval
h0 = initial water level height from the bottom of the apparatus to the zero mark level
of the stand pipe
h1 = height measured with time from the bottom of the apparatus to the water level
The coefficient of permeability (k) can be determined using the gradient (m) of the graph
ln

h0
h1

( )

m=

against (t 1t 0 ) .

kA
al
Therefore,

k=

mal
A

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

The coefficient of permeability is defined as the rate of flow of water under laminar flow
conditions through a unit cross-sectional area of a porous medium under a unit hydraulic
gradient and standard temperature conditions. The unit of k is m/s.

MATERIALS AND APPARATUS


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Falling Head Permeability Apparatus


Permeameter with its accessories.
Standard soil specimen.
Stop watch.
Measuring jar.
Meter scale.
Container to collect excess water

Figure 2: Permeameter

Figure 3: Falling Head Permeability Apparatus

PROCEDURE
1. First, it has been checked whether the valve is closed and the tube connecting the
permeameter and standpipe is tight, also a container has been place to collect the excess
water falling from the valve.
2. Next, water has been filled in from the top of the glass standpipe up to the zero mark.
3. Soil specimen has been kept to get saturate for some time and when the water level dropped,
again water has been filled up to the water zero mark level.
4. Then, h0 has been measured from the bottom of the apparatus to the zero mark level using the
measuring tape.
5. The valve has been opened and water has been allowed to discharge through it for five
minutes time interval.
6. After five minutes, the valve has been closed and h1 (height of the new water level from the
bottom of the apparatus) has been recorded.

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

7. Similarly record the height of water in the glass standpipe in every 5 minutes time interval
for about 50 minutes.
h0
8. Using the recorded readings the graph ln h
1

( )

against (t 1t 0 ) has been plotted.

9. The coefficient of permeability, k has been found by the gradient of the graph.

CALCULATIONS
Specimen Calculation
1. The cross-sectional area (a) of the standpipe,
A=

d 2
4

0.02
( 2)

4
A=

A=3.143 x 104 m2

2. The cross-sectional area (A) of the soil specimen,


A=

d 2
4

0.1
( 2)

4
A=
A=7.857 x 103 m2

h1
3. The gradient (m) of the graph ln h
2

( )

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m=

y 2 y 1
x 2x 1

m=

0.8880.121
( 355 ) x 60

kA
against ( t 2t 1 ) is, m= a

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

4 1

m=4.26 x 10 s

4. The coefficient of permeability (k),


k=

k=

mal
A

( 4.26 x 104 ) (3.143 x 104 )(127.3 x 103 )


7.857 x 10
6

k =2.169 10 ms

RESULTS

t
(min)

h0
(cm)

h1
(cm)

h0
h1

ln

h0
h1

( )

140.2

140.2

140.2

124.2

1.29

0.121

10

140.2

110.2

1.272

0.241

15

140.2

97.3

1.441

0.365

20

140.2

85.7

1.636

0.492

25

140.2

75.3

1.862

0.622

30

140.2

65.9

2.127

0.755

35

140.2

57.7

2.430

0.888

40

140.2

50.3

2.787

1.025

45

140.2

43.9

3.194

1.161

50

140.2

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The calculated coefficient of permeability, k =2.169 10 ms

DISCUSSION

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

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CONCLUSION

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I

Permeability Test

REFERENCES:
Braja M. Das & Khaled Sobhan (2012) Principles of Geotechnical Engineering, 8th edition,
United States.
Permeability test, [Online], Available:
http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/ctms/pdf/CT_220.pdf [25 July 2015].
Falling head permeability test, [Online], Available:
http://www.controls-group.com/eng/soil-testing-equipment/falling-head-permeabilityapparatus.php [25 July 2015].

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