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Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

INTRODUCTION & PHASE SYSTEM


Dr. S. K. Prasad
Professor of Civil Engineering
S. J. College of Engineering, Mysore

1.1 Geotechnical Engineering Why?


1.
2.
3.
4.

We are unable to build castles in air (yet) !


Almost every structure is either built on or built in or built using soil or rock.
Mechanics of Soils and Rocks is the basis of Geotechnical Engineering
Geotechnical problems involve:
Stability
Deformations
Water flow
Soil is an un-cemented aggregate of mineral grains and decayed organic matter
(solid particles) with liquid and gas in the empty space between the solid particles
formed by weathering of rocks in the top surface of earth crust. Fig. 1 represents
a portion of soil mass comprising of solid particles and void space. Void space is
made up of liquid (water) and/or gas (air).

Fig. 1 : Soil mass, a conglomeration of solid particles and void space

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Soil is an important construction material that is


1. Oldest.
2. Cheap or available free of cost many a times.
3. Most complex, yet having interesting properties.
4. Modified to suit the requirements, many a times.
Soil is used
1. to manufacture bricks, Tiles or earthenware.
2. as foundation material.
3. to construct dams and embankments.
4. to fill hollow zones behind retaining walls, low lying areas etc.

1.2 Why soil is complex?


The following properties of soil make it perhaps the most complex construction
material.
1. Porous
2. Polyphasic
3. Permeable
4. Particulate
5. Heterogeneous
6. Anisotropic
7. Non-Linear
8. Pressure Level Dependent
9. Strain Level Dependent
10.Strain Rate Dependent
11.Temperature Dependent
12.Undergoes volume change in shear

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Yet, soil possesses some Interesting properties that relate with human beings,
namely,
1.
2.
3.
4.

Colorful
Sensitive
Possesses Memory
Changes its properties with time

1.3 What is Geotechnical Engineering?


It is an integration of Physics, Earth Science, Solid Mechanics, Geology and
Hydrogeology. Soil Mechanics provides the theoretical basis for describing the
mechanical behaviour of earth materials. Geotechnical Engineering involves
application of theory of soil mechanics to a variety of field problems. For most
other engineering disciplines, the material properties are well-defined or can be
controlled. But, in Geotechnical Engineering, material properties are highly
variable and difficult to measure with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Geotechnical Engineering is among the younger branches of Civil Engineering. Yet,
it has evolved over centuries.
1. Geotechnical Engineering is probably one of the most challenging
engineering disciplines.
2. For a geotechnical engineer, no two days at work are going to be similar.
3. Geotechnical engineering expertise is required in a vast variety of
disciplines that includes the oil and offshore industry.
4. Being a relatively new discipline, there is ample scope for innovation.
5. For a geotechnical engineer, achieving job satisfaction is never a problem.
6. Material properties must be measured for each new construction site.
7. Remember that geotechnical engineers deal with natural materials and
there can be no quality control.

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

8. Ground consists of innumerable variety of particle sizes and minerals.


9. To make matter worse, engineering properties of earth materials are
strongly influenced by their past geological history that is normally
unknown. Climatic conditions also influence these properties.

1.4 Sub-branches in Geotechnical Engineering


The following are the sub-branches of Geotechnical Engineering.
1. Foundation Engineering
2. Deep Excavation
3. Tunneling
4. Earth Pressure and Retaining Structures
5. Earth embankments
6. Stability of Slopes
7. Environmental Geotechniques
8. Earthquake Geotechnical Engineering
9. Ground Improvement technique
10.Rock Mechanics
11.Engineering geology

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Fig. 2 represents the family of Geotechnical engineering.


Foundation
Engg
Earthquake
Geotechnical
Engg.

Environment
al
Geotechnics

Deep
Excavations

Geotechnical
Engg.

Tunneling

Retaining
Structures

Embankment
s
Slopes

Fig. 2 : Family of Geotechnical Engineering


1.5 Distinctions between Fine and Coarse Grained Soils
Soil can be broadly classified in to two types, namely Fine grained soil and
coarse grained soil based on the size, shape and behaviour. Table 1 provides
the important distinctions.
Table 1 : Distinctions between Fine grained soil and coarse grained soil
Fine Grained Soil

Coarse Grained Soil

Size of particle is less than 75 microns

Size of particle is mores than 75 microns

Silt & Clay belong to this group

Sand, Gravel, Cobble, Boulder etc. belong to this


group
Properties are influenced by gravity
Dense packing, particle to particle contact
enable strength
Mostly round, sub-round, angular
Void ratio & water content can not be very high
Consistency (liquid, plastic & shrinkage) limits
are absent

Properties are influenced by surface area


Attraction and bonding between particles
enable strength
Mostly plate-like
Void ratio & water content can be very high
Possess consistency (liquid, plastic &
shrinkage) limits

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

1.6 Soil formation, a geologic Cycle


Soil is formed from rock due to erosion and weathering action. Igneous rock is the
basic rock formed from the crystallization of molten magma. This rock is formed
either inside the earth or on the surface. These rocks undergo metamorphism
under high temperature and pressure to form Metamorphic rocks. Both Igneous
and metamorphic rocks are converted in to sedimentary rocks due to
transportation to different locations by the agencies such as wind, water etc.
Finally, near the surface millions of years of erosion and weathering converts
rocks in to soil.

Fig. 3 : Geological Cycle of Soil


1.7 Soil Mass, a three phase system
Soil mass comprises of solid particles and void space. The void space is filled with
water and/or air. Hence, soil mass comprises of some volume of solid (soil
particles), some volume of liquid (mostly soil water) and some volume of gas (air).
Hence, the total volume of soil mass can be treated as a three phase system.

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

A typical soil mass

S. K. Prasad

Idealisation as three phase system

Soil mass idealized as three phase system

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

W = Weight
V = Volume
s = Soil grains
w = Water
a = Air
v = Voids

Basic terminologies in a three phase system of soil mass

Conversion from three to two phase system


Fig. 4 : Soil mass as three phase system

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

1.8 Basic Definitions


The following are the basic definitions of soil.
1. Water Content ()
2. Void Ratio (e)
3. Porosity (n)
4. Degree of Saturation (S)
5. Air content (Ac)
6. Percentage air voids (na)
7. Bulk Density (b)
8. Dry density (d)
9. Density of soil solids (s)
10.Saturated density (sat)
11.Density of water ()
12.Submerged density (sub)
13.Specific Gravity of Soil Solids (G)
14.Specific Gravity of Soil Mass (Gm)
15. Relative density (Dr)
Each of the above definition is defined with soil represented as three phase
diagram.
1.8.1 Water Content ()
1. It is defined as ratio of weight of water to weight of solids.
2. It is also called Moisture Content.
3. It has no unit. It is expressed in percentage or decimals (for calculation
purpose).
4. It indicates the amount of water present in the voids in comparison with
weight of solids.
5. In dry soil, water content = 0.

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

6. Clayey soil may possess very large water content leading to unfavourable
situation.
7. Water content of soil mass changes with season, being close to zero in
summer and maximum during rainy season.
8. It represents the amount of water present in soil mass. In dry soil, water
content = 0
9. Higher the water content, greater will be the vulnerability, especially in
clayey soil.

1.8.2 Void Ratio (e)


1. It is defined as the ratio of volume of voids to volume of solids
2. It has no unit. It is normally expressed in decimals.
3. It indicates the amount of voids present in a soil mass in comparison with
the amount of solids.
4. Normally, void ratio of clayey soil will be large.
5. The more the void ratio, more loose will be the soil mass and hence, less
strong and less stiff.
6. It is not possible to determine void ratio in the laboratory. Hence, it is
computed from other properties.

1.8.3 Porosity (n)


1. It is defined as the ratio of volume of voids to total volume of soil mass.
2. It has no unit. It is expressed in decimals or percentage.
3. Its value ranges from 0 to 100 % (0 < n < 1).

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

4. Similar to void ratio, it indicates the amount of voids in comparison with


the total volume of soil mass.
5. In some countries, it is more familiar than void ratio. But either can be used
interchangeably in calculation.
6. Like void ratio, porosity is computed and can not be directly determined in
the laboratory.
1.8.4 Degree of Saturation (S)
1. It is defined as the ratio of volume of water to volume of voids.
2. It has no unit. It is usually expressed in percentage.
3. Its value ranges from 0 to 100 % (0 < S < 100 %)
4. It represents the amount of water present in the void space of soil mass.
5. In dry soil, S = 0 and in fully saturated soil S = 100 %. Hence, during summer
S is close to zero, while during rainy season, S is close to 100 %. In partially
saturated soil, S lies between zero to 100 %.
6. It is computed and can not be directly determined in the laboratory.

1.8.5 Air content (Ac)


1. It is defined as the ratio of volume of air to volume of voids.
2. It has no unit. It is usually expressed in percentage.
3. Its value ranges from 0 to 100 % (0 < Ac < 100 %).
4. It represents the amount of air present in the void space of soil mass.
5. In dry soil, Ac is 100 % and in fully saturated soil Ac is 0 %. In partially
saturated soil Ac lies between 0 and 100 %.

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

6. S + Ac = 1
7. It is computed and can not be directly determined in the laboratory.

1.8.6 Percentage air voids (na)


1. It is defined as the ratio of volume of air to total volume of soil mass.
2. It has no unit. It is expressed in percentage.
3. Its value ranges from zero to 100 % (0 < na < 100 %).
4. It represents the amount of air present in the total volume of soil mass.
5. Always na < Ac.
6. It is computed and can not be directly determined in the laboratory.

1.8.7 Bulk Density (b)


1. It is defined as the ratio of total weight to total volume of soil mass.
2. In SI units, it is expressed as kN/m3.
3. Its value normally ranges from 12 to 24 kN/m3.
4. It includes the weights of air, water and solids as a function of total volume
of soil mass. It changes with season, being maximum during rainy season
and minimum in summer.
5. Bulk density of soil mass can be determined experimentally. It is therefore
used to compute other properties such as dry density and void ratio.

1.8.8 Dry density (d)

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

1. It is defined as the ratio of weight of soil solids to total volume of soil mass.
2. In SI units, it is expressed as kN/m3.
3. Dry density will always be less than or equal to bulk density of soil mass.
4. Dry density is independent of season. Hence, it is used in many design
calculations such as safe bearing capacity of soil.
5. Knowing water content and bulk density, dry density can be computed.

1.8.9 Density of soil solids (s)


1. It is defined as the ratio of weight of soil solids to volume of soil solids.
2. In SI units, it is expressed as kN/m3.
3. It is always greater than dry density of soil.
4. It can not be determined experimentally. Hence, it is computed from other
parameters. It is used to calculate other properties such as specific gravity
of soil solids.

1.8.10 Saturated density (sat)


1. It is defined as the ratio of total weight to total volume of soil mass when
the soil is fully saturated. Hence, it is the bulk density of soil mass when S =
1.
2. In SI units, it is expressed as kN/m3.
1.8.11 Density of water ()
1. It is defined as the ratio of weight of water to volume of water.
2. In SI units, it is expressed in kN/m3 and can be taken as 9.8 kN/m3.

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

3. It is used in computation of other quantities.

1.8.12 Submerged density (sub)


1. It is defined as the net weight of weight per volume of soil mass in water.
2. In SI units, it is expressed as kN/m3.
3. It is equal to saturated density minus density of water.
4. sub = sat
5. It is also called buoyant density.
6. In saturated soil, water exerts upward pressure on soil. Net weight of soil
particles acting downward will be actual weight of soil minus weight of
water.

1.8.13 Specific Gravity of Soil Solids (G)


1. It is defined as the weight of soil solids to weight of equal volume of water.
2. Hence, it is the ratio of density of soil solids to density of water.
3. It has no units and is expressed in decimals.
4. Normally, G of most soils varies from 2.6 to 2.75. Organic soils may have G
up to 2.
5. G is determined in the laboratory and is used to compute other parameters
such as void ratio.
6. Many a times, specific gravity means G

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

1.8.14 Specific Gravity of Soil Mass (Gm)


1. It is defined as the weight of soil mass to weight of equal volume of water.
2. It is also called Apparent Specific Gravity.
3. It has no units and is expressed in decimals.
4. Its magnitude is always smaller than that of G.
5. It is less commonly used in calculations.

1.8.15 Relative density (Dr)


1. It is also called Density Index.
2. It has no unit. It is expressed in percentage.
3. Dr ranges from 0 to 100 %.
4. It is applicable for coarse grained soil such as sand and gravel.
5. It indicates whether the insitu density of soil is close to loosest or densest
state.
6. D r =

e max e
e max e min

7. In terms of dry density, relative density is given as follows.

Dr = d max
d

d d min

d max d min

8. When Dr = 1, soil in its densest state and when Dr = 0, soil is in its loosest
state.
Table 2 : Influence of Relative density on Soil State

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Relative Density (%)

State of Soil

0 to 20

Very Loose

20 to 40

Loose

40 to 60

Medium dense

60 to 80

Dense

80 to 100

Very Dense

1.9 Problems and Solutions


Problem 1
A natural soil mass has a bulk density of 18 kN/m3 and water content of 8 %.
Calculate the amount of water required per cubic meter of soil to raise the water
content to 18 %. What will be the degree of saturation at this water content?
Assume void ratio to be constant and take G = 2.7. (July 2006) 8 Marks
Data
b = 18 kN/m3
=8%
G = 2.7
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)
b
= 16.67 kN / m 3
1+
G
e=
1 = 0.587
d

d =

d =

Ws
V

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Hence, for 1 m3 of soil mass, Ws = 16.67 kN


If = 8 %, weight of water = 0.08Ws = 1.33 kN
If = 18 %, weight of water = 0.18Ws = 3 kN
Hence, amount of water required per cu.m of soil = 3 1.33 = 1.67 kN = 167 lt.

G = Se
S = 0.828 = 82.8%
Problem 2
How many cu.m of soil can be formed with void ratio of 0.5 from 100 m3 of soil
having void ratio of 0.7? (Jan 2006) 5 Marks
Data
e1 = 0.7
Vv1 = 0.7Vs
V1 = 100 m3 = Vv1 + Vs = 1.7 Vs
Vs = 58.82 m3
e2 = 0.5
Vv2 = 0.5Vs = 29.41 m3
V2 = Vv2 + Vs = 88.23 m3

Problem 3
A dry soil has a void ratio of 0.65 and specific gravity is 2.8. Find its unit weight.
Water is added to the sample so that its degree of saturation is 55 % without any
change in void ratio. Determine the water content and unit weight. The sample is
then submerged in water. Determine the unit weight when the degree of
saturation is 90 % and 100 %. (Jan 2008) 10 Marks
Data
e = 0.65
G = 2.8
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

d =

S. K. Prasad

G
= 16.63kN / m 3
1+ e

When S = 55 %, = 12.77 %
b = d (1 + ) = 18.75kN / m 3

When S = 90 %, = 20.89 %
When S = 100 %, = 23.21 %

Problem 4
In an earth dam under construction, the bulk unit weight is 16.5 kN/m3 at water
content 11 %. If the water content has to be increased to 15 %, compute the
quantity of water to be added per cu.m of soil. Assume no change in void ratio.
Determine the degree of saturation at this water content. Take G = 2.7. (Jan 2009)
10 Marks.
Data
b =16.5 kN/m3
= 11 %
G = 2.7
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)

d =

b
= 14.86kN / m 3
1+

Wd = 14.86 kN per unit volume


Ww = 1.63 kN per unit volume
e=
S=

d
G
e

1 = 0.78
= 51.92%

Problem 5
An undisturbed specimen of clay was tested in a laboratory and the following
results were obtained. Weight = 2.1 N, Oven dry weight = 1.75 N. Specific Gravity

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

of soil solids = 2.7. What was the total volume of original undisturbed specimen
assuming that the specimen was 50 % saturated? (Model QP) 8 Marks

Data
W = 2.1 N
Ws = 1.75 N
Ww = 0.35 N
G = 2.7
S = 0.5
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)
=

W
= 20%
Ws

= 1.08
S
G
d = = 12.72kN / m 3
1+ e
e=

Ws 1.75 X 10 3
d =
=
= 12.72
V
V

V = 0.1376 X10-3 m3

Problem 6
The maximum and minimum dry unit weights of sand determined in the
laboratory are 21 kN/m3 and 16 kN/m3 respectively. If the relative density of sand
is 60 %, determine the in-situ porosity of the sand deposit. Take G = 2.65. (June
2008) 6 Marks
Data
Dr = 60 % =0.6
dmax = 21 kN/m3
dmin = 16 kN/m3
d = 18.67 kN/m3

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Dr = d max
d
e=
n=

d d min

d max d min

1 = 0.78

e
= 0.44
1+ e

Problem 7
For a soil in its natural state, void ratio, water content and specific gravity are
respectively 0.8, 24 % and 2.68. Determine bulk density, dry density and degree of
saturation. If the soil is completely saturated by adding water, what would be its
water content and saturated density.
Data
e=0.8
= 0.24
G = 2.68
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)
d =

G
= 14.59kN / m 3
1+ e

b = d (1 + ) = 18.09kN / m 3
S=

G
e

= 80.4%

If S =1, =29.85 %
sat = d (1 + ) = 18.95 kN / m 3

Problem 8
In its natural condition, a soil sample has a mass of 22.9 N and a volume of 1.15 X
10-3 m3. After being completely dried in the oven sample weighs 20.35 N. Find
bulk density, water content, void ratio, porosity, degree of saturation, air content,
dry density and percentage air voids.
Data
W = 22.9 N

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

V = 1.15 X 10-3 m3
Ws = 20.35 N
G = 2.7
= 9.8 kN/m3 (assumed)

b =

W
22.9
=
= 19.91 kN / m 3
3
V 1.15 X 10

= 12.53 %
d = 17.7 kN/m3
e=

1 = 0.495

e
= 0.331
1+ e
G
S=
= 68 .35 %
e

n=

Ac = 1 S = 31.65 %
d =

(1 n a )G
1 + G

na = 0.105

Problem 9
A moist sample of soil has a weight of 6.33 N and a volume of 300000 mm3 at a
water content of 11 %. Taking G = 2.68, determine e, S and na. Also determine
water content at which soil gets fully saturated. What will be the unit weight at
saturation?
Data
W = 6.33 N
V = 3X105 mm3
G = 2.68

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

= 11%
w = 9.8 kN/m3
b =

W
= 21.1 kN / m 3
V

b
= 19 kN / m 3
1+
G
e=
1 = 0.38
d

d =

S=

G
e

= 77.6%

If S = 1, then =

e
= 14.18 %
G

sat = d (1 + ) = 21.69 kN / m 3

1.9 Distinction between Mass Density and Unit weight or Weight Density
In geotechnical engineering, it is common to use weight density or unit weight
than mass density. It should be noted that weight density depends on
acceleration due to gravity (g) and hence it is place dependent. However, g does
not change considerably from place to place within the engineering limits.
Commonly, symbol is used to represent mass density and symbol is used to
represent weight density. Further, = * g.
Table 3 : Common mass densities and Unit weights in Geotechnical Engineering
Mass Density
(kg/m3)

Unit weight
(kN/m3)

Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

S. K. Prasad

Bulk

Dry

Soil Solids

Water

Saturated

sat

sat

Submerged

sub

sub

= 1000 kg/m3
= 9800 N/m3 = 9.8 kN/m3