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Lebanese American University

Byblos Campus

School of Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

CIE 445 Soil Mechanics Lab

Lab Report 2

Sieve Analysis & Atterberg Limits

Supervised By: Eng. Omar El Masri

Elena Abboud - 201102974

Jennifer Hanna - 201101545

Stephanie Kehdy - 201104635

Joe Karam - 201102480

Nader Halabi - 201101471

Roy Fares - 201100567

Date of submission: 24/10/2013


CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Table of contents

Introduction ................................................................................................................................................. 3
List of Equipment ....................................................................................................................................... 3
Theory of the experiment ............................................................................................................................ 5
Experimental Procedure .............................................................................................................................. 6
Data Collected ........................................................................................................................................... 10
Liquid Limit .......................................................................................................................................... 10
Plastic Limit .......................................................................................................................................... 11
Sieve Analysis ....................................................................................................................................... 13
Discussion and Interpretation ................................................................................................................... 14
Question 2 ............................................................................................................................................. 14
Question 4 ............................................................................................................................................. 15
Question 5 ............................................................................................................................................. 16
Question 6 ............................................................................................................................................. 17
Question 7 ............................................................................................................................................. 18
Error Analysis ........................................................................................................................................... 18
Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................ 20
References ................................................................................................................................................. 20

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

List of figures and tables

Figure 1: Sieve Analysis Curve .................................................................Error! Bookmark not defined.


Figure 2: Plot of Water content (%) vs. Number of blows (log) .............................................................. 14
Figure 3: Water content (%) vs. Number of blows ................................................................................... 14
Figure 4: Cumulative particle size distribution plot on a semi log graph ................................................. 16

Table 1: Liquid Limit Data ....................................................................................................................... 10


Table 2: Plastic Limit Data ....................................................................................................................... 11
Table 3: Sieve Analysis Data .................................................................................................................... 13

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Introduction

Soil consistence provides a means of describing the degree and kind of cohesion and adhesion between
the soil particles as related to the resistance of the soil to deform or rupture. In other words, it is defined
as the ease to which a soil can be deformed. Hence, consistency largely depends on soil minerals and
water content. The smaller the size particle with high water content, the more the consistency (fine soils
are more consistent). The consistency of soils is evaluated according to Atterberg limits that represent
the limits of water content that are used to define soil behavior. Based on astm D4318, atterberg limits
include three different tests:
1.
Liquid Limit (LL) is defined as the moisture content at which soil begins to behave as a
liquid material and begins to flow. ( 15<Number of blows<35)
2.
Plastic Limit (PL) is defined as the moisture content at which soil begins to behave as a
plastic material.
3.
Shrinkage Limit (SL) is defined as the moisture content at which no further volume change
occurs with further reduction in moisture content.

In addition, based on astm D2487, sieve analysis of soils will help classifying the soils into groups by
determining the particle sizes characteristics and distribution. The size distribution is often of critical
importance to the way the material performs in use.

List of Equipment

Liquid Limit

4 moisture cans
Balance
Dry soil
Sieve N 40
Water in a plastic squeeze bottle
Pan
Casagrande cup
Spatula
Grooving tool
Paper towel
Oven
Porcelain evaporating dish

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Plastic Limit

Moist soil
Paper towel
Glass plate
Balance
3 moisture cans
spatula
Plastic squeeze bottle
Oven
Porcelain evaporating dish
Sieve Analysis

Sieves N(4,10,20,40,60,100,140,200)
Bottom pan
Cover
Mechanical sieve shaker
Balance

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Theory of the experiment

In general, the Atterberg Limits and the Sieve Analysis tests both target the classification of soils for
usage in engineering applications. This classification is very important for determining the possible use
of the available soil in different applications such as roads, dams, foundationsetc. depending on
characteristics specific to each class (drainage, workability, productivity, availability, strength,
compactibility, shrink-swell, compressibility, shear strengthetc.). Atterberg Limits include the liquid
limit (LL) which is the moisture content at the transition point from liquid to plastic state, and the plastic
limit (PL) which is the moisture content at the transition point from plastic to semi-solid state. Two of
the experiments at hand aim to determine the LL and PL respectively.

The first utilizes the Casagrande cup and defines the liquid limit as water content which is required to
close a distance in along the bottom of a groove drawn in the soil sample after 25 blows. If the water
content is too low then the number of blows required to close the gap will be too high (>35) and if it is
too high then required number of blows will be too low (<25). As a result of the experiment water
content is calculated for each trial (Wc= (M2-M3)/(M3-M1) * 100), the number of blows is recorded,
and a curve representing the water content relative to the number of blows is plotted. In theory, the LL is
intersection point of this curve with the flow curve drawn on the same graph.

The PL experiment utilizes manual rolling for the determination of the plastic limit which is defined as
the water content at which the soil crumbles when rolled into threads of 1/8 in diameter. This experiment
(like the previous) depends on trial and error and is based upon the testing of three samples to obtain
three results which can be averaged for better accuracy. This average value of the three water contents
obtained is used as the PL. The same soil is used for both experiments; therefore, the liquid and plastic
limits are now both determined and can be used in order to determine the plasticity index (PI) which is
calculated by subtracting the plastic limit from the liquid limit ( PI=LL-PL). In general, there are ranges
for the PI which determine the degree of plasticity of the soil: 1-5:
slightly plastic
5-10: low plasticity
10-20: medium plasticity
20-40: high plasticity
>40: very high plasticity

Atterberg Limits are mainly used for the classification of fine-grained soils; however, to classify regular
soils (coarse) the process of Sieve Analysis is used utilizing standard sieves of different sizes and
mechanical shakers. This process results in the determination of the mass percentage of each grain size
of the soil sample (mass retained on each sieve) to the total mass of the sample after shaking through a
set of sieves with progressively smaller openings. This results in a gradation table and associated curve
showing the percentage of different sizes inside the sample tested.

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Of course, when the classification of a soil sample is required, the first question that arises is what
standard to use. The most commonly used standards for classification of soils are the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials System (AASHTO) and The Unified Soil
Classification System (USCS). The planned usage for the soil sample we have is the main factor which
allows us to determine what standard to use. The AASHTO, just like its name suggests, classifies soils
for usage only in transportation systems and facilities (rural roads, urban roads, highways,
freewaysetc.). It utilizes a group classification system (A-1, A-2, A-3) which classifies soils
depending on their quality for use in different types of transportation systems. Each soil sample tested is
assigned a group index (GI) which is calculated according to an equation:

GI= (F 35) [0.2 +0.005(LL-40)] + 0.01(F - 15) (PI-10) where F is the percentage passing the No.
200 200 200

200 sieve.

And for groups A-2-6 and A-2-7:

GI= 0.01(F - 15) (PI-10)


200

However, the USCS which is a unified system is used for all engineering structures (foundations, dams,
residential buildingsetc.), unlike the transportation specific AASHTO. It classifies the soils according
to a grouping system depending on different parameters that specify the type of soil and assigns it a
symbol which indicates this type (GW, CL, GC). This symbol is assigned using an organized naming
system and is used to determine the properties associated with this type of soil to help us determine the
possibility of its usage in the planned structure and whether it requires any type of treatment before
application or initiation of construction project.

Experimental Procedure

Liquid Limit

1. Weight four different moisture cans using the digital balance and record the data (M1)
2. Weight 250g of an air dry soil sample passing sieve no.4 and place it in a porcelain evaporating
dish
3. Pour distilled water from the plastic squeeze on the soil sample and mix them until the soil
transforms into a uniform paste
4. Regulate the height of the Casagrandre cup to around 8 mm according to ASTM D4318
5. Insert a portion of the plate in the calibrated Casagrande cup
6. Smooth the surface of the cup by the help of a spatula in a way that the maximum depth of the
sample does not exceed 8 mm until the soil becomes flattened with the bottom lip of the cup
7. Using a grooving tool, cut a groove along the centerline of the soil sample placed on the
Casagrande cup. The grove should be perpendicular to the cup at all points of contact

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

8. Zero the number of blows instrument recording. Roll the crank of the cup at a rate of 2
blows/second until the groove closes for about 2 inch and record the number of blows

9. If the number of blows was either below 15 or above 35, the soil should either be hydrated (by
adding water) or dried (by the use of paper towels and the oven) then repeat the steps 5 through 8
10. If the number of blows was between 15 and 35, remove a portion from the cup perpendicularly
and across the close groove
11. Place the sample in one of the moisture sample and weight it by the use of a digital balance
12. Record the sample
13. Steps 5 through 12 should be executed four times in order to obtain four different sample for
which two have a number of blows between 15 and 25 and two have a number of blows between
25 and 35
14. Place the four moisture cans containing the soil samples in a large pan and place the pan in the
oven for the samples to dry
15. Remove the samples the next day from the oven, weight the mass of the moisture cans with the
sample, and record the data

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Plastic Limit

1. Weight three empty moisture cans and record the data


2. Separate around 20g of the moist soil before initiating the liquid limit experiment to be aside to
dry on a paper towel

3. Divide this soil sample into three equal proportions


4. Squeeze each sample on the palm of your hand with your fingers until ellipsoidal shapes are
obtained
5. Roll one of the three samples at a rate of 80 strokes/minute on a glass plate using the palm of
your hand until its diameter becomes around 1/8 inch.
6. A 1/8 inch diameter is reached when the specimen starts showing signs of crumbling. At that
moment, stop the rolling and kneading.
7. Collect the small crumbled pieces and place it in the moisture can
8. Weight the moisture can with sample and record the data (M2)
9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 for the two remaining samples
10. Place the three moisture can in a large pan and place it in the oven
11. Collect all the moisture cans from the pan the next day from the oven
12. Weight each moisture can with the soil samples and record the data (M3)

Sieve Analysis

1. Weight about 500g soil sample passing sieve no.4 and record the data as Mt to the nearest 0.1g
2. Collect sieves no. 4, 10, 20, 30, 40, 100, 140, 200 and the pan
3. Weight each of the empty sieves collected using a digital balance and record the data
4. Stack the sieves from the largest opening to the smallest which least to a stack of sieves in the
following order: sieves no. 4, 10, 20, 30, 40, 100, 140, 200 and at the end the pan
5. Place the soil into the top sieve and cover
6. Place the stack full of the soil samples into the mechanical sieve shaker and turn the shaker for
about 8 minutes
7. Turn off the shaker and collect each sieve and the pan
8. Weight each sieve as well as the pan with the soil sample on top with a digital balance and
record the data

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

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Data Collected

Liquid Limit

Test No. 1 2 3 4
Can No. 1 2 3 4
Mass of can,
1.7 1.68 1.7 1.68
M (g)
Mass of can +
moist soil, M 36.79 47 41.87 39.84
(g)
Mass of can +
30.12 39.41 34.78 33.04
dry soil M (g)
Water
Content, W 23 20 21 22
(%)
Number of
16 34 27 23
blows
Table 1: Liquid Limit Data

Sample Calculation

In order to determine the Liquid Limit (LL), first we must determine the Water Content W (%) and
round it to the nearest whole number

2 3
= 100
3 1
For Can #1:
36.79 30.12
= 100 = 23%
30.12 1.7
Then after calculating the Water Content for the rest of the cans, we plot W (%) vs. Number of blows, as
seen in question 2

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Plastic Limit

Test No. 1 2 3 Average


Can No. 1 2 3
Mass of can,
1.68 1.67 1.7
M (g)
Mass of can +
moist soil, M 7.14 7.68 9.69
(g)
Mass of can +
6.29 6.72 7.56
dry soil M (g)
Plastic Limit 18 19 36 25

Table 2: Plastic Limit Data

Sample Calculation

In order to calculate the Plastic Limit (PL) we use the following formula and round the answer to the
nearest whole number, then average the answers of all 3 cans:

2 3
= 100
3 1
For can #1:
7.14 6.29
( #1) = 100 = 18%
6.29 1.68
The total Plastic Limit is calculated by averaging all the answers:

(#1) + (#2) + (#3)


=
3
18 + 19 + 36
= = 25 %
3
Now that we have LL and PL we can calculate the Plastic Index:

= = 21.5 25 < 0

Note: The liquid limit is calculated afterwards in the discussion section, but we have used it here to
facilitate calculation
Since PI<0, this soil is non plastic. Or this could be due to errors in the experiment, explained later.

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In Order to facilitate our work and continue with our interpretation of the experiment, we shall disregard
the value of 36, hence the plastic limit of our experiment turns out to be: 18.5%, Hence PI=3

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Sieve Analysis

M = 500.83 g

Mass of Mass of % of mass Cumulative


Sieve
Mass of sieve and retained soil retained on % % finer,
Sieve No. Opening,
Sieve (g) retained on each each sieve, retained, 100-Rn
D(mm)
soil (g) sieve, Mn (g) Rn Rn
4 4.75 474.26 475.21 0.95 0.190 0.190 99.810
10 2 706.17 1001.18 295.01 58.931 59.121 40.879
20 0.85 617.43 696.08 78.65 15.711 74.832 25.168
30 0.6 605.86 624.13 18.27 3.650 78.482 21.518
40 0.425 572.64 588.57 15.93 3.182 81.664 18.336
100 0.26 515.75 564.81 49.06 9.800 91.464 8.536
140 0.106 511.86 535.41 23.55 4.704 96.169 3.831
200 0.075 300.83 315.07 14.24 2.845 99.013 0.987
Pan 280.63 285.57 4.94 0.987 100.000 0.000
500.6 100
Table 3: Sieve Analysis Data

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Discussion and Interpretation

Question 2

Water content (%) vs. Number of blows(log)


24

23

22

21

20

19
1 10 100

Figure 1: Plot of Water content (%) vs. Number of blows (log)

In order to measure the Liquid limit, it is better to use a non logarithmic scale.

W (%) vs Number of Blows


24

23

22

21

20

19
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Figure 2: Water content (%) vs. Number of blows

From the curve we can deduce that LL= 21.5%

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Question 3

This part was already done previously, we have found out that:

PL= 18.5%

PI= 3

Question 4

In order to determine the type of our fine grained soil by the use of the Casagrende chart found in ASTM
D 2487-06 we need to determine PI, the plasticity index, and the liquid limit known as LL. According to
the previous calculations, PI was found to be equal to 3 and LL was found to be equal to 21.5. The
Casagrande chart indicates that for a PI=3 and LL=21.5, the fine-grained soil can be classified as ML or
OL. M stands for Silt, O stands for Organic, and L stands for Low Plasticity.

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Question 5

%Cumulative vs. Sieve size (log)


120.000

100.000

80.000

60.000

40.000

20.000

0.000
0.1 1 10

Figure 3: Cumulative particle size distribution plot on a semi log graph

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Question 6

% Passing Vs. Sieve size (log)


120.000

100.000

80.000

60.000

40.000

20.000

0.000
0.01 0.1 1 10

Figure 4: Sieve Analysis Curve

From the curve above we can determine:


D: The sieve opening at which we have 60% passing = 2.86 mm
D: The sieve opening at which we have 10% passing = 0.175 mm
D: The sieve opening at which we have 30% passing = 1.15 mm

2.86
= = = 16.343
0.175

()
= = 2.642
( )

Cu > 4 and 1< Cc < 3 therefore the soil is well graded.

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CIE 445 Lab Report 2

Question 7

In order to use the USCS flow charts we need to calculate the PI of the soil sample, the distribution of
the particle sizes among the soil, the coefficient of uniformity, and the coefficient of curvature. The
following properties have all been measured and calculated. Since more than 50% of the soil was
retained on No.200 sieve, the flow chart for Classifying Coarse grained Soils should be used. The chart

proceeds in the following way:

Hence, the soil is well graded sand according to USCS flow charts.

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Error Analysis

No experiment is ever made without errors. This time our error led to a major error in the output of the
experiment, leading to a negative plasticity index thus ruining our whole interpretation of the
classification of the soil. However, the errors are mainly due to:

Sieve Analysis:

Mass determination in this experiment might now be as accurate as needed, mainly due to soil
separation through phases. However this error is very minor and the results retrieved are very close to
perfect.

Liquid Limit

The soil placed on the cup isnt exactly 8mm thick, it was made using an approximation
The cutting of the centerline wasnt exactly precise
The rate of blows wasnt exactly at about 2 blows/second
The closure of the centerline wasnt exactly at about 0.5 in
There was a little bit of soil moist remaining in the cup before the complete removal of soil
We have also added a little too much water at the beginning and then put the soil in the oven in
order for it to dry up. This might have caused some distortion of the real result.

Plastic Limit

The shape at the beginning isnt quite ellipsoidal because we have gotten it using our hand,
which isnt quite accurate.
The rate isnt quite accurate (80 strokes per minute)
When we have reached a diameter of 1/8 in, we might not have completely reached it, because it
was mainly due to eye inspection
Using the screw to have a diameter, wasnt quite precise and accurate

Note: All these errors have summed up to lead to a negative plasticity index which have discarded some
results of the whole experiment.

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Conclusion

In our experiment we have basically a couple of conclusions that we got:

The liquid limit of our soil was 21.5%, the plastic limit turned out to be 18.5%, and the Plasticity
index hence equal to 3.
Based on the Casagrende chart, the fine-grained soil can be classified as ML or OL. M stands for
Silt, O stands for Organic, and L stands for Low Plasticity.
Based on the sieve Analysis, we have concluded that our soil is well-graded.
According to USCS flow charts, we can also conclude that our soil is well graded.

References

Eng. Omar El Masri, Handout 2


ASTM D 422-63 (Reapproved 2007)
ASTM D 2487-06
ASTM D 4318 - 05

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