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Session 1/12

About the Plastic Properties of the Norwegian Quaternary Clays

Sur les propriétés plastiques des argiles quaternaires de la Norvège

by R. S e l m e r - O l s e n , cand. real., State G eologist, N orw egian G eological Survey, Oslo, N orway

Summary Sommaire

Statistics are given for values of liquid limit, plastic limit, plastic L’auteur présente des données statistiques sur la limite de liqui­
index, percentage of material minus 2 micron, and sorting. Further dité, la limite de plasticité, l’index de plasticité, le pourcentage des
these statistics are compared with our knowledge o f the occurring grains plus petits que 2 microns et le triage. En plus, ces données
clay minerals. sont comparées aux connaissances que nous possédons sur la pré­
sence de minéraux d’argile dans les argiles quaternaires.

¿ /(p u /c / one/ Z/S77/Y Æ v' / a / ( j / / c / r y J c / a y

The m ethods o f analysis for which data are given in this work
" ” " " o rc f/h a rt/ c/ay
are analyses o f particle size distribution according to the areo­
Jtr/e c / o f //0 °C _
Pi PI ¿i
meter m ethod described in A .S .T .M ., and the liquid lim it and \
J tr /e c / o f 2Û ’C \
A /o/ e/r/fic/ _ [ I \
M o /s/u re.
SO% éJVc
F ig .2 A verage R esults on P lastic L im it and Liquid L im it o f Sticky and
U su a l N orw egian C lays in R elation to the D egree o f drying ou t
to w hich the C lays have been Subject before T estin g
M oyen n e des résultats d ’essais sur les lim ites de p lasticité et de
liq u id ité effectués sur des argiles grasses, com m u n es en N o rv èg e,
en fo n ctio n du degré de d essication auq uel les argiles o n t été
soum ises avan t les essais

plastic lim it worked out in accordance with the m ethods therein

described. A ll analyses have been carried out on clays dried
at 110 °C unless otherwise stated. A ny possible N aC l content
has been removed by washing out, until dispersion is possible
for the sedim entation analyses. The sam e dispersion-method
and means o f dispersion have been em ployed for those tests
to which the data is compared.
The difference in the analysing results caused by a drying
Parfic/e size
out o f the clays at 110 °C before the analyses are usually quite
F ig. 1
noticeable. For inform ation a couple o f examples have been
A v era g e R esu lts o f Particle S ize D istrib u tio n A n alyses o f Sticky
and U su a l N o rw eg ia n C lays. Stippled C urves In d icate C lays n ot entered in Figs. 1 and 2. The drying process influences the
dried b efore T estin g , C o n tin u o u s C urves Indicate C lays dried at dispersion-ability and the measurings o f consistency limits, and
110 °C seems to reduce the ability o f the clay particles to bind an
M o y en n e des résultats d ’analyses granulom étriques ob ten u s sur
orientated film o f water round them selves, at any rate for a
des argiles grasses, co m m u n es en N o rv èg e. L es courbes poin -
tillées ind iquent les argiles non séchées avant les essa is, les cou r­ considerable length o f time. It w ould seem as though a serious
bes en plein ind iquent les argiles passées à l’étu v e à 110 °C reduction o f the surface-bound water on the clay minerals in

clay mineral aggregates with mutually well orientated sheet relatively great extent o f variation in the plastic lim it with the
silicates (which must be regarded as very frequently occurring, sam e content o f material less than 2 micron. From this dia­
due to the process o f sedim entation) causes the moisture re­ gram, little reduction seems possible for the relations between
maining between the mineral grains to assume characteristics the clay-mineral contents o f the various clays. For the com m on
reminiscent o f those found in internally-bound water. N orw egian clays containing m ore than 20% material less than
The values found for material o f less than 2 micron in a clay 2 m icron we may establish the follow ing form ula for the plastic
are entered in Fig. 3 as a function o f the plastic limit, and in limit:
Fig. 4 as a function o f the liquid limit. In addition to the u + 98 ± Q
natural clays, divided into clays respectively rich in humus, PL =

Finely crushedpotashFeld'spar
where u is the weight-percentage minus 2 micron, and C\ varies
— sericite between 0 and 35.
— hornblende
— sericite s potashFe/d- In Fig. 4 it appears that there is also a relatively great extent
— calcite
— weathered amphibolite
o f variation for the liquid limit, with the same content o f m a­
x 'Danish te r tia r y days terial less than 2 micron. The humus containing post-glacial
Ko *Weathering p ro d u c t containing
kaolinite and inter-glacial clays is distinguished by high values for the
liquid limit. The finely crushed minerals and the clays poor in
clay minerals are m ore or less grouped am ong the ordinary
clays. For the com m on N orw egian clays the liquid lim it may
be expressed, as a function o f the content o f material less than
2 micron, in the follow ing manner:
_ u + 36 i C2
where C2 varies from 0 to 12.
The graphic representation which best differentiates the
various N orw egian types o f clay seems to be the plastic index
entered as a function o f the content o f material less than 2 m i­
~2o%> cron. This even in relation to other possible com binations
P lastic lim it between u, L L , P L and PI.
In Fig. 5 the plastic index is entered as a function o f material
Fig. 3 R ela tio n b etw een Plastic L im it and W eight-P ercentage o f M a­
terial m inus 2 M icron for various finely crushed M inerals and less than 2 micron, and for the ordinary clays with m ore than
N o rw eg ia n C lays 2 0 % material less than 2 micron the plastic index may be ex­
R a p p o rt entre la lim ite de plasticité et le po u rcen ta g e-p o id s du pressed in the follow ing manner:
m atériau inférieur à 2 m icrons pou r différents m inéraux p u lvé­
risés et des argiles norvégiennes pl u + U ± C 3

poor or w ithout humus, data are given for finely crushed fresh where C3 for the ordinary clays varies between 0 and 7.
minerals which have been separated into different fractions and Clays in which C3 is greater than + 7 are either humus-rich
reassembled so as to be graded at over 1 m icron at least, cor­ clays or inter-glacial clays or sticky clays o f som e other special
responding to the customary graduation for natural clays. In type related to the content o f material less than 2 micron.
Fig. 3 we see that hum us-containing clays, crushed minerals, Clays in which C3 is less than — 7 are more or less o f a type
and clays marked poor in clay minerals have a higher plastic poor in clay minerals. The geographical distribution show s a
lim it than the ordinary N orwegian clays. The latter show a clear connection with the petrographical com position o f the

"Inactive days " <

Ha =W eathering p ro d u c t containg
F in e ly crushedmineraJes: ^ao^iniC:e
F - PotasFe/dspar
S * S ericite
Fig. 4 R e lation betw een L iquid L im it and W eight-
H ■Hornblende P ercen tage o f M aterial m in u s 2 M icron for
SF ■S e r ijite and potash fe ld s p a r various finely crushed M inerals and N o r w e ­
K « Cc.‘. te gian C lays
A * Weo th e re d amphibo/ite R ap p ort entre la lim ite de liq u id ité et le pou r­
c en tage-p oid s du m atériau inférieur à 2 m i­
crons pour différents m inéraux pu lvérisés et
L iquid lim it argiles de la N orvège

~ ti/e c/ays ~ r / 'N orm a/ c/o ’S ' between the clay mineral content and the sorting as to the p o­
rosity’s and the plasticity’s direct dependence on the particle
^ <v ‘' 7 °
size distribution.
i l l ' /
Those types o f soil which have little material less than 2 m i­
OA, . cron, and which chiefly mark the correlation in the diagram,
¡ f t . ' ’* can be divided into tw o types: clay-containing morainic m a­
/ terials and well-sorted clay-containing silt-soil-types o f fluvial
J origin. O f the former only material less than sieve N o . 40
// (0.42 mm) have been used for analyses. Varieties o f soil poor
in clay minerals have, as already mentioned, a high plastic
f /
/ limit. The well-sorted types o f soil o f fluvial origin containing
| *» rs
/7 less than 2 0 % o f material less than 2 micron are also for the
S H /'••/
*S H U..J" /• F ■Finely crushed potashFe/dspar m ost part relatively poor in clay-minerals. In Fig. 6 , therefore,
S' — -— seriate
this kind o f soil appears, one might say for tw o reasons, high
/ H' — —
SF- — »—
se ricte a n d potashFe/dspar
up on the diagram.
-8 2Û / K ' — -—
A - — »—
weathered amphibolite A s the clay-containing plastic morainic material is prin­
x ’ Danish te rtia ry days
4 • Clays containing humus cipally com posed o f rock-varieties having a high content of
Ï 0/ 1Ï
v ■Swedish c/ays
Ka' Weathering p ro d u ct containing kao/inite sheet silicates, the resultant product usually gives for this

' " /or.1 20%
jo% 4o%
1 1
Mv, i<?% /ffû% //a%
1 1 reason great possibilities for a relatively high clay mineral con ­
tent in these badly sorted types o f soil. In addition to this there
P / a s t / c in d e x
is the close packing o f the soil in question. Both these factors
F ig. 5 R e la tio n b etw een P lastic Index and W eight-P ercentage o f M a­
seem to induce a low plastic limit. But when the content o f
terial m inus 2 M icron for various finely crushed M inerals and
N o rw eg ia n C lays material less than 2 micron is less than 1 0 % o f material which
R a p p o rt entre l’ind ice de p la sticité et le p o u rcen ta g e-p o id s du has passed through sieve N o . 40 (0.42 mm), the plastic limit
m atériau inférieur à 2 m icrons pou r différents m inéraux pulvéri­ is again relatively higher. This will appear in Fig. 3, being the
sés et des argiles de la N o rv èg e diagram for the plastic lim it and material less than 2 micron,
and seems to becom e evident in connection with the fact that
rock-surface in those areas from which the clay materials must the content o f clay minerals is, as already stated, a function
presumably have com e. In the m ost notable cases o f clays poor o f rock-varieties o f which the m orainic material is com posed.
in clay minerals the rock-surface in the actual area is entirely In Fig. 7 the liquid limit is entered as a function o f the sorting.
dom inated by rock types with a granitic and quartzitic com ­ It is difficult to discern any clear correlation between sorting
position. On the other hand, certain types o f illite minerals and liquid limit. N o n e the less it appears from this diagram
seem to give a plastic index below the ordinary, although rock and the one for liquid lim it and material less than 2 micron
pow der o f water-free minerals does n ot occur in particularly that the morainic soil types rich in clay have a relatively low
great quantities. (H igh content o f fresh m ica or low content liquid lim it (as well as plastic limit), so that, to a certain extent,
o f chlorides?) a correlation exists.
In Fig. 6 the plastic lim it is entered as a function o f the The diagram for the plastic index and material less than
Ô 75 2 m icron seems, therefore, to be the m ost informative one re­
sorting. Sorting is then defined as S o = lo g —— where Q -h and
Ô 25 garding the relative content o f clay minerals in those types o f
025 are the grain size respectively for the 75% and 25% passage soil which have a low content o f material less than 2 micron.
in the particle-size-distribution curves. The figure indicates a But the function for the com m on N orw egian clays regarding
certain correlation between sorting and plastic limit, well- material o f less than 2 0 % o f material below 2 micron takes
sorted types o f soil having as a rule a higher plastic lim it than another cause, as the water-free minerals gradually take on
those badly sorted. This is due, perhaps, as m uch toconnection more im portance in. relation to the clay minerals above the

F ■Finely crushed potashFeldspar

S • — » — sericte Fig. 6 R elation betw een P lastic L im it and
H • — * — hornblende Sortin g for various finely crushed
S F ' — • — potashFe/dspar a nd seria te
K ' — - — ca /cite M inerals and N orw egian Clays.
Clays Form edoFgranitic Pre-Cambrian G75
? /. rocks and d a ys containing humus Sortin g is defined as lo g —— where
Q i5
Q ,5 and Q 25 are the G rain Size
respectively for the 75% and the
25% P assage in the Particle Size
D istrib u tion Curves
R apport entre la lim ite de plasti­
cité et le « tr ia g e » ob ten u pour
différents m inéraux pulvérisés et
argiles N orvégien n es. Le triage est

défini par l o g — , Q-,-„ et Q .,5 étant

Q 25
M ainly m o ra in ic m a te ria ls
respectivem ent le diam ètre des
grains corresp ondan t aux 75% et
25% du m atériau tam isé dans les
0,2 0,4 courbes de répartition granulo-
S o rtin g m étrique

consistency lim it m easurements, and because N orwegian (Brtidal, 1940). In clay from Strom which is very fat, accord­
plastic types o f soil with little material less than 2 micron ing to N orwegian conditions, Rosenqvist indicates (based upon
( 2 0 %) generally have a relatively low clay mineral content. X-ray, differential thermal, benzidine, and dehydration ana­
Further, even here the occurring variations in illite mineral lyses) that in the fraction under 2 m icron the hydrous mica
types give diffuse bounds. (illite) makes up nearly half o f the material, the balance being
Clay minerals occurring in N orw egian clays have been but m uscovite and water-free minerals (Rosenqvist, 1942).
little examined by means o f m odern investigation m ethods, It has not been possible to prove that N orwegian clays con ­
but certain main features are apparent from what has been tain any appreciable am ount o f minerals, belonging to the
done. m ontm orillonite group.
M icroscopic investigations and chem ical analyses show that Chemical weathered zones in the rock surface containing
the prevailing rocks o f the region in question characterize the kaolinite or m ontm orillonite are o f unfrequent occurrence in
mineral com position o f the coarser fractions o f the clays as Norway. Generally the clay mineral content in the existing
m entioned in the case o f m orainic soils. A n enrichm ent o f weathered rocks is so low that the mineral in question has not
been clearly identified. Further, it is reasonable to assum e that
the unm etam orphic Cambrian-Silurian shales o f the Oslo
region, as in Sweden, contain illite.
Based upon our present know ledge o f com m on N orwegian
clays there is every reason to assum e that the low percentage
am ounts o f existing clay minerals in the N orwegian soils be­
lon g to the illite group (illite, diff. hydrous mica, chlorite, vermi-
culite) and that clay minerals o f the m ontm orillonite group and
the kaolinite group som etim es constitute insignificant am ounts,
which in som e cases are due to pre-glacial weathering o f under­
lying rock. R egionally it should be taken into account that
within the minus 2 m icron fraction considerable variations
occur in the ratio o f the content o f various illite minerals to
that o f sericite, chlorite and water-free minerals.
For one thing this seems to be borne out by the plastic con ­

dition o f N orwegian clays, particularly by the diagram o f
material minus 2 m icron and plastic index. This variation in
the mineral content o f the clay fraction as well as the variations
, • •' •
in illite minerals also seem s to depend upon the typical regional
changes in the m ineralogical com position o f the underlying
rock, and upon conditions governing the transportation and
sedim entation o f the clay minerals and the age and chemical
conditions o f the deposits.
M o r o in e s COjntaining c/ay m/ht ra/s

1 1 1 1
0.2 04 06 Os / /.2 /.4 /6 /a 2 References
S orting
A ckerm an n , E rn st (1948): T h ixotrop ie und F liesseigen sch aften fein k ör­
F ig. 7 R ela tio n betw een Liquid L im it and Sortin g fo r N o rw eg ia n C lays
niger B öd en . G e o lo g isch e R und schau , Bd. X X X V I, pp. 1 0 -2 9 ,
R a p p o rt entre la lim ite de liq uidité et le triage pou r certaines
argiles norvégiennes
B rudal, H olger ( 1940): A m erikanernes m enin g o m n orsk leire. M ed del-
elser fra V egdirektoren, pp. 5 1 -5 3 , O slo.
G oldschm idt, V. M . and Johnsen, E. (1922): G lim m erm ineralen es be-
sheet silicates is found in material under 2 micron. A s the tyd ning so m k alikilde for plan tene. N o r g es geo lo g isk e undersakelse,
particles decrease in size, the biotite becom es chloritized, and vol. 108, pp. 1 -8 9 , O slo.
under 10 micron only chlorite- and sericite-like m etamorphic G oldschm idt, V. M . (1926): U ndersok elser over leirsedim enter. N o rd isk
Jordbruk sforsknin g 1926, 3. kon gress, pp. 4 3 4 -4 4 5 , K obenh avn.
products o f the biotite are found. In material between 2 and
H ougen, H ., K lüver, E ., L e k k e , O . A . (1925): U ndersok elser over norske
10 m icron, feldspar usually predominates. The weathering to ­ leirer V . K jem iske analyser. Statens R ä sto ffk o m ite , p u blikasjon
wards m ica-like minerals has occurred to a highly varying nr. 22, pp. 2 -2 1 , O slo.
degree (Krogh, 1923; Hougen, Kliiver, L ek k e, 1925; Rove, K rogh , I. v. (1923): U ndersok elser over n orske leirer I o g III. Statens
R ä sto ffk o m ite , p u blikasjon nr. 15 o g 19. N o r g es g e o lo g isk e under-
1926; Goldschmidt, 1922 and 1926). Electron-m icroscopic
sokelse, vol. 115, pp. 1 -3 2 o g 119, pp. 1 -5 6 , O slo.
investigations o f som e clays from 0 stfo ld , N orw ay, indicate R osenqvist, Ivan Th. (1942): A n gäen d e norske leirers petrografi. M ed del-
that the fraction under 2 m icron primarily consists o f particles elser fra V egdirektoren 1942, pp. 2 3 -3 0 , O slo.
between 0.2 and 0.05 micron (.Ackermann, 1948). H. G. Byers R osenqvist, Ivan Th. (1946): O m leirers kvik kaktighet. O m leirers plasti-
sitet. M ed delelser fra V egdirektoren 1946, pp. 2 9 -4 0 , O slo.
has investigated fat (sticky) clays from 0 stfo ld . By means o f
R ove, O la f N . (1926): U ndersok elser over n orsk e leirer V I. (P etro-
m odern analytical m ethods it was found that the material grafiske undersokelser.) Statens R ä sto ffk o m ite , p u b lik asjon nr. 23,
under 1 micron was made up prevailingly o f hydrous mica pp. 1 -6 8 , O slo.