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A H M 531 Permeability test By: Ahmed Essam Mansour

Objective:
• To calculate the coefficient of permeability of a soil sample.

General discussion:
Water flow through soil depends on two main parameters:
• The force that causes the water to flow, a measure of which is the Hydraulic
gradient “ i ” which equals;
*

• Permeability of soil and it is measured by the Hydraulic conductivity “ k ”


which is also called the coefficient of permeability.

These two parameters are directly related to the velocity of flow in Darcy’s law and to the
volumetric rate of flow “ q ”;
*

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In this test the aim is to calculate the coefficient of permeability “ k ” in a soil sample using
available laboratory methods, although the measured coefficient cannot be considered as a
reliable value for the in situ coefficient of permeability for the following reasons:

1. The soil in the permeability device is never in the same state as in the field, it is
always disturbed to some extent.

2. Orientation of the in situ stratum to the flow of water is not duplicate.

3. The head in the test is usually 5 to 10 times of that in the field.

Permeability of soil depends on both the properties of the fluid and the properties of soil. The
viscosity of the fluid is of large effect on the permeability of soil, where higher coefficient of
viscosity will cause lower coefficient of permeability. From the viscosity- permeability
relation, the coefficient of permeability can be related to temperature due to the temperature
effect on viscosity. The higher the temperature is the lower is the viscosity and so the higher
permeability coefficient will be obtained.
Properties of soil such as size and shape have a considerable effect on the coefficient of
permeability “ k ” , where angular and platy particles tend to reduce “ k ” more when rounded
spherical particles exist in the soil.

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A H M 531 Permeability test By: Ahmed Essam Mansour

The coefficient of permeability is also dependent upon the degree of saturation, where
increasing the degree of saturation will increase the coefficient of permeability “ k ”, that’s
why tested samples have to be saturated before starting to take readings and measurements,
and several minutes of flow is applied without taking any measurement till the soil is
saturated.

Voids ratio “ e ” is directly related to the coefficient of permeability “ k ”, where the higher
voids ratio there is in soil, the higher the obtained “ k ” is.
In this test this can be proved by applying one of the suggested tests two times on the same
soil sample, but with compacting it in the second trial so that the voids ratio will be decreased.
In both of the trials “ e ” can be calculated by using Formula 4;
*

Testing methods:

There are two main testing methods used for a laboratory measurement of the coefficient of
permeability “ k ”; the constant head method used for cohesion less soils and the falling head
method used for fine cohesive soils.

• Constant head method:


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In this test a volume of water that pass through soil is
collected in a measured time, where the head that causes
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the flow is known and depending on Darcy’s law the
coefficient of permeability is measured as follows;
*

Figure 1

Note that several volumes are taken at the same fixed time, till it becomes constant or nearly
constant, that give the indication that the soil have been saturated and the flow has become
laminar, so that Darcy’s law can be applied.
This method requires a continuous source of water to preserve the constant head by the help
of an opening in the tank, this will be totally uneconomical especially when the tested soil is
fine and cohesive that a large duration (days) will be needed to collect a small volume. For
that reason the Falling head test was developed.

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A H M 531 Permeability test By: Ahmed Essam Mansour

• Falling head test:


It is also based on Darcy’s law, in this test a known
volume of water is allowed to flow from the tube to the
soil and the time of flow is measured for several trials if
the soil was coarse (in our test), and the coefficient of
permeability “ k ” is measured as follows;
*

Figure 2

Form the obtained formula it is clear that the required laboratory records are the initial height
of water and the final height of water and the time of flow.
This method is economical compared to the constant head method that requires a continuous
source of water.

To avoid disturbance of sample in the permometer, porous


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stone is used above and blow the specimen, which has the
same cross sectional area of the pore stones, so when the water
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flows it will be distributed over the total cross sectional area of
the porous stone before transferring to the soil sample. The
main provision in the porous stone is that its permeability must
be higher that it for the soil.
Note that the height of the porous stones shall not be included
in the length of flow.

Figure 3

Entrapped air must be controlled in the specimen as the affect of such air voids will be large
even for small air bubbles since the sample is small.
Using deaerated water will help in reducing the influence of bubble of air coming out of
solution, other techniques are:
1. The use of water warmer than the soil, so that water cools as it percolates through the
soil and that will attract the air void into solution.
2. The use of large gradient h / L, so that the pressure holds or force the free air into the
solution.

Sample identification:
¾ Light brown sandy sample.

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A H M 531 Permeability test By: Ahmed Essam Mansour

Equipments:

1. Constant head apparatus (Figure 1)

2. Falling head apparatus (Figure 2)

3. Timer

4. Beaker for collecting water

5. Graduated cylinder

Procedures:
Constant head method

1. Weigh the sand + pan before using the sand in the specimen mold.

2. Place the sand specimen into the mold and use porous stone at the bottom and

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top of the specimen. Fix the mold well so that no seepage of water can occur,
grease can be used for this purpose.

The
3. Weigh Civil Engineering
the sand + pan Center
after using the sand in the specimen mold.

4. Attach the specimen to the water source at the bottom of the specimen and
allow the water to pass through the soil till it is saturated.

5. Specify fixed time duration to collect volume of water coming out of the soil
for several trials till the volume becomes constant.

6. Using a ruler measure the length of the soil specimen (representing the length
of flow), the head difference (representing the head loss) and the diameter of
the mold containing the soil sample.

7. Repeat the past procedures again but this time compact the sand in the
specimen.

Falling head method

1. Choose two points on the tube and obtain their height so that the difference
between them is the volume of flow water.

2. Use the timer to measure the time needed for that volume to pass through the
soil sample.

3. Measure the diameter of the tube and the diameter of the sand specimen using
a ruler.

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A H M 531 Permeability test By: Ahmed Essam Mansour

Calculations:

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Discussion and results:


In the constant head method, an unexpected result was obtained from the two trials; that is the
coefficient of permeability of the non compacted sand (higher voids ratio) was smaller than it
for the compacted sand (lower voids ratio), this result is a result of other varying parameters
in the formula such as the length of flow and the head loss.
There was a large difference between the coefficients of permeability obtained from the two
tests, though the same sand under the same circumstances was used, that was unexpected and

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I thing that was caused by errors such as volume reading and time measurement and mainly
the seepage of water out of the mold from the constant head test.

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Improvements:
• The use of a narrower stand pipe in the falling head method will help in
obtaining the difference between the initial head and the final head easily.

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