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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

ATTERBERG LIMIT TEST

OBJECTIVE
 To determine the liquid limit, the plastic limit and the linear shrinkage and plasticity index of
the given soil sample.

MATERIALS AND APPARATUS

Special:
1. Liquid limit device and grooving tool (for liquid limit test)
2. Large glass plate (for plastic limit test)
3. Half cylindrical linear shrinkage mold

General:
1. Distilled water
2. Balance (sensitive to 0.01g)
3. Drying oven with temperature from 1050C to 1100C
4. Desiccator
5. Drying containers with lids
6. Mixing dish or bowl
7. Spatula
8. Sieve of No. 40

Figure 1: Liquid limit device and grooving tools

Figure 2: Other necessary items

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

INTRODUCTION

Water plays an important role in soil mechanics practice when dealing with density, void ratio,
settlement and strength characteristics of either disturbed or undisturbed soils. Fine-grained soils
in particular can be in one of several states depending on the amount of water in the soil. When
water is added to dry soil, the individual particle is covered with adsorbed water forming a thin
film around it. If the addition of water is continued, the thickness of the water film will continue
to increase, thereby facilitating the sliding effect between adjoining particles. Thus it is a fact
that the behaviour of the soil is related to the amount of water in the system.
(Mandal and Divshikar 1995).

THEORY

In 1911, a Swedish agriculture scientist, A. Atterberg defined the boundaries of states in terms of
“limits” as follows. These limits are often called as “Atterberg limits”.
 Liquid limit is the boundary between liquid and plastic state.
 Plastic limit is the boundary between plastic and semi-solid state.
 Shrinkage limit is the boundary between semi-solid and solid state.

Liquid

Plastic
Semi-
Solid solid

Figure 3: Volume Verses Moisture Content

In 1932, A. Casagrande defined those limits more precisely follows:

1. Liquid Limit (LL)


The water content, in percent, required to close the groove along the bottom of the groove after
25 blows, when jarred in a specified manner.

2. Plastic Limit (PL)


The water content at which the soil begins to crumble when rolled into a thread of 3mm in
diameter. Usually PL is calculated as the average of water content determinations.

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

3. Shrinkage Limit (SL)


The water content that is just sufficient to fill the pores when the soil is at the minimum volume,
which will attain by drying.

4. Plasticity Index (PI)


The range of water content which a soil behaves plastically.
Plasticity Index = Liquid Limit – Plastic Limit

PROCEDURE

(i) Liquid Limit Determination

1. The liquid limit apparatus was calibrated to 10mm falling height using the space gauge on
the grooving tool handle.
2. About 100g of moist soil passing through sieve No. 40 was taken and was mixed thoroughly
with distilled water to form a uniform paste.
3. A portion of the paste was placed in the cup of the liquid limit device, the surface was
smoothed off to a maximum depth of ½ inch, and the grooving tool was drawn through the
sample along the symmetrical axis of the cup holding the tool perpendicular to the cup at the
point of contact.
4. The crack handle was turned at a rate of about two revolutions per second, and the number
of blows necessary to close the groove in the soil for a distance of ½ inch was counted.
5. When a consistent value in the range of 10 to 50 blows was obtained, approximately 10g of
soil was taken from the closed groove for a water content determination.
6. Five water content determinations in the range of 10 to 40 blows were obtained by altering
the water of the soil and repeating the steps (2) to (5).

(ii) Plastic Limit Determination

1. About 15g of the moist soil used for the liquid limit test was mixed thoroughly.
2. The soil was rolled on a glass plate with the hand until it is approximately 3mm in diameter.
3. The step (2) was repeated by changing the water content until a 3 mm diameter thread
showed signs of crumbling.
4. The crumbling material obtained in step (3) was taken for the water content determination.
5. Three determinations were obtained which can be averaged to determine the plastic limit, by
repeating the steps (2) to (4).

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

CALCULATIONS

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

RESULTS

 Liquid Limit (LL) = 41.5%

 Plastic Limit (PL) = 19.75%

 Plasticity Index (PI) = 21.75%

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

DISCUSSION

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

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CE281-Geotechnical Engineering I Atterberg Limit Test

CONCLUSION

REFERENCES:

Braja M. Das & Khaled Sobhan (2012) Principles of Geotechnical Engineering, 8th edition,
United States.

Atterberg Limit Test, [Online], Available:


http://www-ce.ccny.cuny.edu/Courses/CE345/L2%20Liquid%20and%20Plastic%20Limit.doc
[29 Aug 2015].

Atterberg Limit Test, [Online], Available:


http://www.ausbale.org/files/Render/Earth/Atterberg%20limit%20test.doc [29 Aug 2015].

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