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Polidori, E. (2003). Géotechnique 53, No.

4, 397–406

Proposal for a new plasticity chart


This study investigates the consistency limits of the pure Cette étude cherche les limites de consistance de minéraux
clay minerals kaolinite and montmorillonite, and their argileux purs, le kaolin et la montmorillonite, ainsi que de
respective mixtures with fine silica sand in various pro- leurs mélanges respectifs avec du sable siliceux fin dans
portions. Plotting the plasticity index data as a function diverses proportions. Le fait de tracer l’indice de plasticité
of the liquid limit allows the zones where mixtures with comme fonction de la limite liquide permet de définir les
the same clay contents fall to be defined. In particular, zones où les mélanges ayant les mêmes teneurs en argile se
the line corresponding to 50% clay (designated as the situent. En particulier, la ligne correspondant à 50%
0·5C-line) makes it possible to distinguish the points that d’argile (désignée comme la ligne 0,5 C) permet de dis-
lie below the line, namely clay, from the points lying tinguer les points qui se trouvent sous la ligne, nommé-
above the line in the silt zone. The clay zone includes ment l’argile, des points qui se trouvent au-dessus dans la
inorganic soils with clay contents >50%, whereas the silt zone limon. La zone argile comprend des sols inorganiques
zone includes inorganic soils composed of silt and/or sand avec une teneur argileuse égale ou supérieure à >50%
(2–425 ìm) in percentages >50%. A new plasticity chart, alors que la zone limon comprend des sols inorganiques
which aims to classify soils (<425 ìm) using the Atter- composés de limon et/ou de sable (2–425 ìm) en pourcen-
berg limits, is defined herein. It differs from Casagran- tages >50%. Nous définissons ici un nouveau diagramme
de’s plasticity chart, especially in terms of its silt and de plasticité dans le but de classifier les sols (<425 ìm) en
clay zones, whose positions are reversed compared with utilisant les limites Atterberg. Ce diagramme diffère du
Casagrande’s chart. This can be explained by the fact diagramme de plasticité de Casagrande, surtout dans ses
that, contrary to what is commonly believed, in inorganic zones limoneuses et sableuses, dont les positions sont
soils—liquid limits being equal—the plasticity index in- inversées par rapport au diagramme de Casagrande. Ceci
creases as the clay content decreases. Save only a few s’explique par le fait que, contrairement à ce que l’on croit
exceptions, the examples of inorganic soils plotted on the habituellement, dans les sols inorganiques toutes limites
new plasticity chart lie above the 0·5C-line in the silt liquides étant égales - l’indice de plasticité augmente à
zone or below the line in the clay zone when their clay mesure que la teneur en argile diminue. À part quelques
contents are less or greater than 50% respectively. On exceptions, les exemples de sols inorganiques représentés
Casagrande’s plasticity chart, the same soils lie above the sur le nouveau diagramme de plasticité se trouvent au-
A-line in the clay zone, regardless of their clay contents dessus de la ligne 0,5C dans la zone limon ou en dessous
(9·7–100%). Only the kaolinite samples (relatively pure) de cette ligne dans la zone argile quand les teneurs en
lie below the A-line in the silt zone. argile sont supérieures ou inférieures à 50% respective-
ment. Sur le diagramme de plasticité de Casagrande, les
mêmes sols se trouvent au-dessus de la linge A dans la
zone argile, quelle que soit leur teneur argileuse (9,7 à
KEYWORDS: clays; laboratory tests; plasticity; soil classi- 100%). Seuls les échantillons de kaolin (relativement purs)
fication se trouvent en dessous de la ligne A dans la zone limon.

INTRODUCTION charts reported by the various standards for classifying fine

The classification of soils makes it possible to characterise soils have this characteristic in common. The A-line was
solid particles according to their size, shape and mineralogi- defined by Casagrande (1948) empirically on the basis of
cal composition. Some classification methods are based on experimental evidence. According to the ASTM standard
grain size distribution, and the separation limits among the (D2482) (Figs 1 and 8), both inorganic and organic (O) silts
various types can be distinguished on the basis of the and clays are classified as low (L) or high (H) plasticity
standards adopted (ASTM, BS, etc.). Whereas these classifi- according to whether their liquid limit value is lower or
cation methods can be properly applied to coarse soils such higher than 50% respectively. Finally, the low-plasticity silty
as washed sands and gravel, for soils with a high percentage clay group (CL-ML) is defined by plasticity index values
of fine materials the content and type of clay minerals between 4 and 7.
present also take on great importance. The data that define This study was born out of the author’s need to answer
the plasticity of soils (Atterberg, 1911) can be included on the following questions:
Casagrande’s (1932, 1948) plasticity chart, in which the
(a) Why do inorganic soils represented on Casagrande’s
plasticity index, I p , is plotted against the liquid limit, W L .
plasticity chart, with clay fractions (CF , 2 ìm) that
This chart is divided into two zones separated by the A-line
are smaller than their silt and/or sand fractions
[I p ¼ 0:73(W L  20)], allowing us to distinguish the points
(2–425 ìm), lie above the A-line in the clay zone?
that lie above the A-line (inorganic clays, C) from the points
(b) Conversely, why does pure kaolinite lie below the
that lie below the line (silty soils, M). All the plasticity
A-line in the silt zone?
(c) What is the significance of the distance of the points
plotted on Casagrande’s plasticity chart from the
Manuscript received 30 May 2002; revised manuscript accepted 5 A-line?
December 2002.
Discussion on this paper closes 1 November 2003; for further This investigation focuses on soils or the fraction of soils
details see p. ii. with particles ,425 ìm as reported by the standards
 Institute of Applied Geology, Urbino University, Italy. (ASTM, BS, etc.) for determining the Atterberg limits.


(CF ⱖ 50%) U-line
Montmorillonite–sand mixtures
(CF ⬍ 50%)
(CF ⱖ 50%)
Kaolinite–sand mixtures
(CF ⬍ 50%) 80

60 clay fraction (CF) % ⬍ 2 µm

70 A-line
Ip : %

50 CH–OH


50 MH–OH


50 100
0 50 100 150 200
WL: %

Fig. 1. Location on Casagrande’s plasticity chart (ASTM standards) of pure kaolinite and
montmorillonite clay samples and their respective mixtures with fine silica sand (based on data
from Table 1). Values of pure clay minerals taken from Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz (1986). Values of
their respective mixtures with sand calculated as reported by Seed et al. (1964b)

Regarding the classification of soils based on their particle tional to the percentage of clay (,2 ìm) for clay percen-
size, the British Standard (BS 1322), for example, distin- tages that are not too low. The regression line on a graph of
guishes soil types according to the following criteria: liquid limit against clay percentage passes through the origin
clay ¼ soil fraction with particles ,2 ìm; silt ¼ soil fraction of the axes. The same occurs for both the plastic limit, W p ,
with particles 2–60 ìm. Sand is defined here as the only and, as a consequence, for the plasticity index (Seed et al.,
fraction 60–425 ìm. It is known that a soil’s plasticity 1964b). Seed et al. conclude that the linear correlation of
depends essentially on the type and quantity of clay minerals the liquid and plastic limits with the clay content holds until
that are present. These clay minerals can be assessed pre- the volume of the water–clay system becomes greater than
cisely only through mineralogical analysis. In routine assess- the voids of the non-clay fraction in the mixtures.
ments of soil properties, it is usually assumed that the The values of the consistency limits of pure kaolinite and
fraction ,2 ìm (equivalent diameter) is composed entirely montmorillonite clay minerals (from Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz,
of clay minerals. In practice, a part of the fraction ,2 ìm 1986) are shown in Table 1 together with the values of their
can be composed of non-clayey particles. This should only respective mixture with fine silica sand. The Atterberg limits
result in an underestimation of the plasticity of the clay of the mixtures with sand were calculated by the author on
minerals that are present. Thus representing the Atterberg the basis of the data for pure minerals, assuming that, as
limits as a function of the clay content would change the reported by Seed et al. (1964b), the liquid and plastic limits
slope but not the type of function (linear). For example, this are proportional to the clay contents, as follows:
is what occurs when representing the activity, A, of clay C
minerals (A ¼ I p divided by percentage ,2 ìm). Here atten- WL ¼ WL c
tion is directed to the two fractions with different beha- 100
viours: the fraction composed of particles ,2 ìm (clay) and and
the fraction composed of non-clayey particles 2–425 ìm (silt C
and/or sand). In order to show the respective zones on the Wp ¼ Wp c
proposed plasticity chart, inorganic soils with CF > 50% are 100
designated with the term reflecting their main component, where C is the percentage ,2 ìm, W L c is the liquid limit of
clay (C). Inorganic soils, mainly composed of silt and/or the clay fraction only, and W p c is the plastic limit of the
sand (CF , 50%), are simply designated with the term silt clay fraction only. The author has considered mixtures with
(M). a sand content ranging from 10% to a maximum value of
In Fig. 1, the data reported in Table 1 are plotted on
DATA AND DISCUSSION Casagrande’s plasticity chart. Note that pure kaolinite lies in
This study investigates the consistency limits of two pure the low-plasticity silt zone. All the plasticity index values of
clay minerals of kaolinite and montmorillonite, whose prop- the montmorillonite mixtures lie in the high-plasticity clay
erties are reported in the literature (Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz, zone near the U-line. The U-line shown in the ASTM
1986), and their respective mixtures with fine silica sand in standard should represent the upper limit for natural soils.
various proportions. Previous studies on the index properties (U-line equation, vertical at W L ¼ 16 to I p ¼ 7, I p ¼ 0:9
of clay–silica sand mixtures (e.g. Seed et al., 1964b; (W L  8).) It can be maintained that the mixtures (Table 1)
Nagaraj et al., 1987; Tan et al., 1994; Kumar & Muir Wood, composed chiefly of sand (.50%) also lie in the clay zone
1999) reached the conclusion that the liquid limit is propor- when they are plotted on Casagrande’s plasticity chart.
Table 1. Values of the consistency limits of pure kaolinite and montmorillonite clay
minerals (from Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz, 1986). The values of their respective mixtures
with fine silica sand, in various proportions, were calculated as reported by Seed et al.
Samples Percentage ,2 ìm

30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Kaolinite WL : % 13·5 18·0 22·5 27·0 31·5 36·0 40·5 45
Wp : % 8·7 11·6 14·5 17·4 20·3 23·2 26·1 29
Ip: % 4·8 6·4 8·0 9·6 11·2 12·8 14·4 16
Montmorillonite WL : % 61·5 82·0 102·5 123·0 143·5 164·0 184·5 205
Wp : % 10·5 14·0 17·5 21·0 24·5 28·0 31·5 35
Ip: % 51·0 68·0 85·0 102·0 119·0 136·0 153·0 170

Analysing the data reported in Fig. 1, it can be concluded that are increasingly expandable as the clay content de-
that, for montmorillonite, the value of the plasticity index creases. In other words, for a given liquid limit value, a drop
corresponding to 100% CF constitutes an outer edge of the in the clay content is accompanied by an increase in
zone of the mixtures with high clay contents (>50%), and the plasticity index, and as a consequence the ratio
the point corresponding to the mixture with 50% clay marks (A ¼ I p divided by percentage ,2 ìm), which defines the
the boundary between the zone of mixtures with a high clay activity of clay minerals (Lambe, 1951; Skempton, 1953),
content (CF > 50%) and the area of mainly sandy mixtures increases. For example, for a mixture (Fig. 2) with a liquid
(CF , 50%). The same observation can be made regarding limit of 61·5% to have a clay content of less than 30%, it
the kaolinite data. would need to contain a more expandable montmorillonite
Connecting the kaolinite data points with the data points than the one considered here.
of montmorillonite containing the same percentage of clay, On Casagrande’s plasticity chart, for a given liquid limit
the zones where mixtures with the same CF lie are defined value, the soils lying above the A-line in the clay zone
(Fig. 2). In particular, the lines corresponding to 100% and (drawn by Casagrande) show higher plasticity index values
50% CF, designated by the author as the C-line and the than the silts below the A-line. As I p ¼ W L  W p , the
0·5C-line respectively, define the zone of mixtures with values of the plastic limit of the clays (soils with
CF > 50%. The zone of mainly sandy mixtures (CF , 50%) CF > 50%) should be less than the values for silt (soils with
is found above the 0·5C-line. particles 2–425 ìm . 50%) with the same liquid limit,
Note that the silt group (CF , 50%) is located above the contrary to what has been shown in this study and in
clay group (CF > 50%). A mixture with higher silt and/or previous studies (Seed et al., 1964b). In order for the silt
sand contents, with the same liquid limit, shows an even zone to lie under the clay zone (Casagrande’s plasticity
higher plasticity index because it must contain clay minerals chart), the values of the plasticity index of the mixtures

Ip (CF ⱖ 50%) C-line 100
Montmorillonite–sand mixtures
Ip (CF ⬍ 50%)
Ip (CF ⱖ 50%) 90
Kaolinite–sand mixtures
Ip (CF ⬍ 50%) 80
Wp Montmorillonite–sand mixtures
120 Wp Kaolinite–sand mixtures

60 clay fraction (CF) % ⬍ 2 µm

Ip; Wp: %

0.5C-line 50
80 (Casagrande)



30 30
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220
WL: %

Fig. 2. Plasticity index, Ip , and plastic limit, Wp, as functions of liquid limit, WL, based on data
reported in Table 1. The dashed lines define the zone where mixtures having the same clay fraction
(CF) lie
(Fig. 2) with CF , 100% should lie under the C-line. In this soils ,425 ìm using the Atterberg limits. New lines are
case, the values of the plastic limit of the mixtures plotted defined in the chart. The C-line and the 0·5C-line are the
in Fig. 2 should increase as the clay content decreases, lines on which the plasticity index values should lie as a
contrary to what occurs. function of the liquid limit of the inorganic samples that
In Fig. 3, several plastic limit and plasticity index values contain 100% CF and 50% CF respectively. The U-line (as
are shown as a function of the liquid limit of the clay in Casagrande’s plasticity chart) constitutes the upper limit
minerals kaolinite and montmorillonite. Their clay content of existence of the soils. The dashed line that unites the
ranges from 82% to 100% (Table 2). The data were obtained point with coordinates (20, 0) with the point (60, 20·6)
from previous studies (Seed et al., 1964a; Mesri & Cepeda- generally represents the lower limit of existence for inorgan-
Diaz, 1986; Wasti & Bezirci, 1986; Rao et al., 1989; Di ic soils. Precisely, it is on point (60, 20·6) that the lowest
Maio & Fenelli, 1994; Kumar & Muir Wood, 1999; Feng, value of the plasticity index (against W L ) of the pure clay
2000; Lemos & Vaughan, 2000) and from studies now in mineral (kaolinite) having the lowest activity value should
progress. The A-line of Casagrande and the C-line, which is lie, whereas the values of the plasticity index of this clay
the regression line of the plasticity index values of the mineral mixed with silica silt and/or sand (2–425 ìm)
samples with CF ¼ 100%, are also shown. The scatter in the should lie on the dashed line. As quartz and feldspar
plastic limit and plasticity index values (with CF ¼ 100%) produced non-plastic mixtures with water, even when ground
can probably be attributed to the limited precision of the to clay size (Casagrande, 1932), their presence in soils
standard methods for determining the plastic limit. For lowers the activity values. Inorganic soils with very low
example, Whyte (1982) reported that the plastic limit of a activity values (as a function of the activity of pure clay
clay determined in different laboratories ranged from 19% to mineral(s) and the content of the non-clay particles ,2 ìm)
39%, with an average plastic limit of 23%. In Table 2, for may also fall under the dashed line in the organic soils zone
example, the plastic limit of kaolinite is sometimes greater (or on the extension of the C-line, when non-clay particles
than that of montmorillonite. Both the pure clay minerals 2–425 ìm are not present in the soils). The lines have been
considered in this study (from Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz, 1986) defined on the basis of available data. The respective equa-
appear to have a rather low plastic limit. In fact, the value tions are shown in Fig. 4. The values of the equations may
of the intersection with the y axis of the C-line in Fig. 2 is be confirmed or slightly modified on the basis of further
greater than that of the C-line in Fig. 3, whereas both tests with new experimental data (Polidori, in preparation).
C-lines have an equal slope (0·96). In agreement with the All the plasticity index values of the inorganic soils with
data shown in Fig. 2, the plasticity index values of the CF , 100% should lie above the C-line (see Fig. 2). The
samples with a CF , 100% lie above the C-line. Further- 0·5C-line allows us to distinguish the points that fall below
more, as in Fig. 2, the C-line crosses the A-line of Casa- the line, clays (C), from the points lying above the line in
grande. The lowest plasticity index values, corresponding to the silt zone (M). The clay zone is found between the C-line
kaolinite, lie below the A-line (in the silt zone according to and the 0·5C-line, and inorganic soils with CF > 50%
Casagrande). should be found here. The silt zone is located between the
0·5C-line and the U-line, and inorganic soils composed of
silt and/or sand (2–425 ìm) . 50% should lie here. These
NEW PLASTICITY CHART zones can be broken down into groups with low or high
The new plasticity chart is shown in Fig. 4 and is based plasticity (according to the ASTM standard when the liquid
on Fig. 2. The chart aims to classify the soils or fraction of limit value is less than or greater than 50% respectively). As


Ip (CF ⫽ 100%)
Ip (CF ⬍ 100%)
Ip (CF ⫽ 100%)
Ip (CF ⬍ 100%)

Ip; Wp: %



0 100 200 300 400 500 600
WL: %

Fig. 3. Plasticity index, Ip , and plastic limit, Wp, as functions of liquid limit, WL, of samples of clay
minerals, kaolinite and montmorillonite (CF 82–100%), based on data from Table 2. C-line: line of
regression of values of plasticity index of samples with CF 100%. Casagrande’s A-line is also shown
Table 2. Values of the Atterberg limits of the clay minerals kaolinite and montmorillonite
Reference Kaolinite Montmorillonite

% ,2 ìm WL : % Wp : % Ip: % % ,2 ìm WL : % Wp : % Ip: %
Seed et al. (1964a) 95·5 521·5 48 473·5
Mesri & Cepeda-Diaz (1986) 100 45 29 16 100 205 35 170
Wasti & Bezirci (1986) 88 526 38 488
Rao et al. (1989) 100 348 43·9 304·1
Di Maio & Fenelli (1994) 100 57·5 37·8 19·7 100 330·6 55·2 275·4
Kumar & Muir Wood (1999) 95 80 39 41
Feng (2000) – 423 37 386
Lemos & Vaughan (2000) 82 69 38 31
82 72 36 36
Polidori (in prep.) 100 67 38 29 100 204 45 159
100 372 49 323
100 535 56 479


70 C-line
for WL ⬎ 60; Ip ⫽ 0.96 WL ⫺ 37

for WL ⬎ 29; Ip ⫽ 0.96 WL ⫺ 23

U-line MH
for WL ⬎ 16; Ip ⫽ 0.96 WL ⫺ 10
Ip: %


CH C-line




0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
WL: %

Fig. 4. New plasticity chart. C-line, 0·5C-line: lines on which plasticity index, Ip , values should lie as
a function of liquid limit, WL, of inorganic samples that contain 100% CF and 50% CF (<2 ìm)
respectively. U-line: upper limit of existence of soils. CL, CH groups of clays (CF > 50%) with low
and high plasticity respectively. ML, MH groups of silts (2–425 ìm > 50%) with low and high
plasticity respectively. OL, OH organic soils with low and high plasticity respectively. Low
plasticity (L) and high plasticity (H) based on ASTM standard

organic soils have a lower plasticity than inorganic soils with the soil with particles ,425 ìm should correspond. The
the same liquid limit and clay content (Fig. 7), they may lie percentage of clay obtained from the new plasticity chart
in the clay zone or below the C-line, as a function of the should be equal to the clay percentage of grain size distribu-
contents of clay and organic material. tion of the fraction of the soil ,425 ìm (Polidori, in
On the new plasticity chart, for inorganic soils, the preparation). Any possible difference between these two CF
distance of a point from the C-line (see Fig. 2) should be values is probably due mainly to the limited precision of the
inversely proportional to its clay content. The pure clay standard method for determining the plastic limit. The
minerals should lie on the C-line. The inorganic soils that presence of organic material may also account for a plasti-
lie on the 0·5C-line should have a CF ¼ 50%, whereas those city index value that is not proportional to the clay content
that lie at the greatest distance from the C-line, near the (lower). The plasticity index value and the percentage of
U-line, should have the lowest clay contents. This distance clay allow the activity of the clay minerals present in an
allows the calculation of the CF value. In order to determine inorganic soil to be calculated. The value of the activity will
the values of CF more easily, the distance from the C-line to be indicative of the expandability of the clay minerals that
the U-line can be divided with additional lines, as seen for are present.
example in Fig. 2. Furthermore, for inorganic soils, at a The boundary designated as the 0·5C-line should be
given liquid limit value, the plastic limit value (through the equivalent to the A-line on Casagrande’s plasticity chart as it
plasticity index) and the value of the percentage of clay of divides the clay zone from the silt zone. The fundamental
difference is that the respective positions of these two zones proposed plasticity chart in Figs 5–7. These data were
are reversed. obtained from literature (Seed et al., 1964a; Lupini et al.,
1981; Skempton, 1985; Nakase et al., 1988; Burland, 1990;
Di Maio & Fenelli, 1994; Lemos & Vaughan, 2000) and
EXAMPLES OF SOILS PLOTTED ON THE NEW Polidori (unpublished). Only the Atterberg limits (Table 5)
PLASTICITY CHART of the samples in which the percentage of silt (2–60 ìm) is
The data of the plasticity index as a function of the liquid greater than the clay percentage (,2 ìm) and the samples
limits of several natural and artificial soils are shown on the with a CF . 50% were considered. This allowed the samples


(Kaolinite–bentonite) 25–75% sand mixtures
80 (Seed et al., 1964a)
(Illite–bentonite) 50–50% sand mixtures
70 (Seed et al., 1964a)

Kaolinite (CF 82–100%)

Ip: %

20 (Casagrande)

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110

WL: %

Fig. 5. Location on new plasticity chart (see Fig. 4) of artificial inorganic soil mixtures shown in
Table 3. The kaolinite data are reported in Table 2. Casagrande’s A-line is also shown

(CF ⱖ 50%) London clay–Happisburgh till mixtures
(CF ⬍ 50%) (Lemos & Vaughan, 2000)
(CF ⱖ 50%) Bentonite–sand mixtures
(CF ⬍ 50%) (Lupini et al., 1981)
Kaolinite–bentonite mixtures
(Di Maio & Fenelli, 1994)

U-line MH A-line
Ip: %

0.5C-line (Casagrande)



0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225
WL: %

Fig. 6. Location on proposed plasticity chart (see Fig. 4) of natural and artificial inorganic soil
mixtures. The data are reported in Table 4. Casagrande’s A-line is also shown

Natural soils (CF ⬎ 50%)
60 U-line
Natural soils–mixtures (CF ⬍ 50%)

Nat. marine soil–sand mixtures (silt ⬎ CF)

Natural soils (silt ⬎ CF)
Nat. marine soils (CF ⬍ 35%)
Kaolinite–humus mixture
Ip: %


30 OH

20 (Casagrande)



0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
WL: %

Fig. 7. Location on new plasticity chart (see Fig. 4) of several inorganic and organic soils as well as
several mixtures of natural inorganic soils. CF clay fraction (percentage <2 ìm). The data are
reported in Table 5. Casagrande’s A-line is also shown


(CF ⬍ 50%) U-line

Nat. and artificial inorganic soils
(CF ⱖ 50%)
Kaolinite (CF 82 to 100%)

Natural organic soils (CF ⬍ 35%)

Kaolinite–humus mixture

40 CH–OH
Ip: %



20 MH–OH



0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
WL: %

Fig. 8. Location on Casagrande’s plasticity chart (ASTM standard) of soils (with WL < 100%)
plotted on the new plasticity chart in Figs 5–7

to be clearly separated into two groups: those that are the clay zone and the silt zone respectively on Casagrande’s
composed mainly of silt and/or sand (CF , 50%) and those plasticity chart.
composed of clay (CF . 50%). The A-line has also been Figure 5 shows mineral mixtures with various proportions
included in order to show where the same soils would lie on of kaolinite–bentonite or illite–bentonite mixed with sand,
Casagrande’s plasticity chart. As the respective positions of based on the data shown in Table 3. All the mixtures have a
the silt and clay zones are reversed on the two plasticity CF , 50%, ranging from 12% to 47%, and lie in the silt
charts, the points that lie above and below the A-line fall in zone, except for one mixture that falls below the 0·5C-line.
Table 3. Atterberg limits of illite–bentonite–sand mixtures and kaolinite–bentonite–
sand mixtures
Mixture Illite: % Bentonite: CF: % WL : % Wp : % I p : %
% ,2 ìm
50% clay, 50% sand 100 – 26? 30·1 15·2 14·9
(Seed et al., 1964a) 90 10 24 31·8 18·6 13·2
80 20 27 38·4 19·5 18·9
60 40 30 56·4 22·0 34·4
40 60 39 74·2 26·1 48·1
20 80 44 139·3 27·3 112·0
– 100 47 230·5 28·0 202·5
Kaolinite: Bentonite: CF: % WL : % Wp : % I p : %
% % ,2 ìm
25% clay, 75% sand 100 – 12 – – –
(Seed et al., 1964a) 90 10 12·5 22 17·3 4·7
80 20 14·5 30·8 19·8 11
60 40 16·5 45·4 16·9 28·5
40 60 19·5 66·4 19 47·4
20 80 21·5 84·5 20 64·5
– 100 24 105 19·5 84·5

In the same figure, the plasticity index values are also 5–7 lie in the silt zone and the clay zone when their clay
plotted as a function of the liquid limit (Table 2) of kaolinite contents are less than or greater than 50% respectively. As
(relatively pure). All the samples lie below the 0·5C-line in the contents of the possible particles .425 ìm in the soils
the clay zone. shown in Table 5 are generally unknown, the percentages of
Figure 6 shows the mixtures of the clay mineral kaoli- clay that can be obtained from the new plasticity chart (as a
nite–bentonite, bentonite–sand, and the mixtures of the function of the distance of the plotted points from the
natural soils London clay–Happisburgh till (Table 4). Note C-line) referring to soil particles ,425 ìm may be slightly
that the mixtures with CF . 50% are located in the clay greater than those presented in Table 5, which refer to total
zone, except for one mixture that lies below the C-line in soil. This is because a sample also composed of non-clay
the zone of organic soils. The mixtures with a CF , 50% particles .425 ìm has a grain size distribution that is differ-
lie above the 0·5C-line in the silt zone. ent from the grain size distribution of the fraction of soil
Figure 7 shows several examples of inorganic and organic (,425 ìm) used for the Atterberg limits. Nevertheless, the
soils and several mixtures (Table 5). Note that the organic exceptions (underestimates or overestimates of I p ) are prob-
soils, as they have lower plasticity than inorganic soils with ably due mainly to the difficulty of determining the plastic
the same liquid limit and clay content, may even lie below limit.
the C-line. The natural marine organic soils that are shown Figure 8 shows the soils plotted in Figs 5–7 on Casagran-
have CF contents ,35%. de’s plasticity chart. The position of the A-line is such that
With a few exceptions, the inorganic soils shown in Figs the inorganic soils lie above it in the clay zone, regardless

Table 4. Values of the Atterberg limits of bentonite–sand mixtures, kaolinite–bentonite

mixtures and London clay–Happisburgh till mixtures
Reference Bentonite: Sand: % CF: % WL : % Wp : % I p : %
% ,2 ìm
Lupini et al. (1981) 15 85 13 38 21 17
30 70 26 56 20 36
45 55 40 80 23 57
60 40 53 114 28 86
75 25 66 140 36 104
100 – 88 184 48 136
Kaolinite: Bentonite: % CF: % WL : % Wp : % I p : %
% ,2 ìm
Di Maio & Fenelli (1994) 100 – 100 57·5 37·8 19·7
75 25 100 100·9 34·4 66·5
50 50 100 165·3 37·8 127·5
40 60 100 205·5 44·3 161·2
25 75 100 259·2 48·9 210·3
– 100 100 330·6 55·2 275·4
London Happisburgh CF: % WL : % Wp : % I p : %
clay: % till: % ,2 ìm
Lemos & Vaughan (2000) – 100 20 24·1 12 12·1
25 75 29 35·5 14·1 21·4
50 50 35 47·1 18·2 28·9
75 25 45 58 22 36
100 – 58 71 26 45
Table 5. Several values of the Atterberg limits of natural soils, natural soil–sand
mixtures and natural soil mixtures
Mixture Silt: % Clay: % WL : % Wp : % Ip: %
Natural marine soil–sand mixtures 61·6 22·3 55·3 25·9 29·4
(Nakase et al., 1988) 48·7 17·2 42·7 23·3 19·4
39·2 13·4 34·8 20·2 14·6
28·9 9·7 27·6 16·9 10·7
Natural inorganic soils 62 32 42 20 22
(Polidori, unpublished) 70 25 43 21 22
52 20 33 19 14
69 22 45 20 25
70 19 36 19 17
47 13 32 20 12
46 31 43 22 21
Natural marine organic soils 71 25 47 40 7
(Polidori, unpublished) 67 29 43 34 9
74 18 54 32 22
70 28 41 30 11
68 27 44 30 14
63 34 57 36 21
64 25 39 30 9
64 29 54 38 16
Kaolinite–humus mixture Humus 67 93 64 29
(Polidori, unpublished)
Natural inorganic soils – 52 65 32 33
(Lupini et al., 1981) – 63 63 28 35
– 57 72 29 43
– 59 95 34 61
– 57 82 28 54
– 64 68 25 43
– 52 58 26 32
– 60 93 32 61
Natural inorganic soil mixtures, – 20 24 12 12
,425 ìm (Lupini et al., 1981) – 27 36 14 22
– 34 51 18 33
– 40 65 20 45
– 48 73 24 49
Natural inorganic soils (Burland, 1990) – 59 68·5 28·7 39·8
– 53 70·6 28·9 41·7
– 57 70·0 27·0 43·0
– 60 67·8 29·0 38·8
– 62 88 32 56
Natural inorganic soils – 70 57 27 30
(Skempton, 1985) – 52 60 27 33
– 52 64 28 36
– 58 75 29 46
– 55 80 29 51

of their clay contents, which range from 9·7% to 100%. In CONCLUSIONS

addition to organic soils, only samples of kaolinite with A new plasticity chart for classifying soils (or soil frac-
CF 82–100% lie under the A-line in the silt zone. tions) ,425 ìm using their liquid limit and plasticity index
For inorganic soils, the classification of silt or clay is proposed. On this chart (W L , I p ), two straight lines
obtained from the new plasticity chart should be in agree- separate silts, clays and organic soils. The positions of these
ment with the main component (silt or clay) defined by the lines were determined by considering the behaviour of
nomenclature (for example, British Standard) for the grain montmorillonite–sand and kaolinite–sand mixtures. A line
size distribution of the fraction of the soil ,425 ìm. The joining the points for kaolinite and montmorillonite separates
samples with CF 34–49% may be exceptions. Indeed, it clays from organic soils, and a line linking the points for the
might occur that a soil composed, for example, of clay 1 : 1 mixtures separates silts from clays.
¼ 34%, silt (2–60 ìm) ¼ 33% and sand (60–425 ìm) This plasticity chart differs from that proposed by Casa-
¼ 33%, and thus definable by grain size distribution as ‘clay grande (W L , I p ) primarily in that the respective positions of
with . . .’ (on the basis of the respective nomenclature) the silt and clay zones are reversed. Indeed, on the new
should, on the contrary, be classified as silt from a behav- chart, the silt zone is found above the clay zone. On the
ioural standpoint on the proposed plasticity chart. This is basis of what has been demonstrated in this work, and the
because, unlike what occurs for grain size distribution, the examples of inorganic soils shown on the two plasticity
two components silt and sand (equal in terms of behaviour) charts, it can be concluded that the positions of the clay and
are included in the fraction 2–425 ìm. silt zones on Casagrande’s chart are not accurate. Casagran-
de’s chart was defined empirically without considering the tests on clay–gravel mixtures. Géotechnique 49, No. 6,
clay contents in the soils. 727–739.
Plotting inorganic soils (,425 ìm) on the proposed plasti- Lambe, T. W. (1951). Soil testing for engineers. New York: Wiley.
city chart using the Atterberg limits not only classifies these Lemos, L. J. L. & Vaughan, P. R. (2000). Clay-interface shear
soils, but also allows information regarding both the amount resistance. Géotechnique 20, No. 1, 55–64.
Lupini, J. F., Skinner A. E. & Vaughan, P. R. (1981). The drained
and type of clay minerals present (activity) to be obtained. residual strength of cohesive soils. Géotechnique 31, No. 2,
Mesri, G. & Cepeda-Diaz, A. F. (1986). Residual shear strength of
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS clays and shales. Géotechnique 36, No. 2, 269–274.
The research upon which this paper is based was funded Nagaraj, T. S., Murthy, B. R. S. & Bindumadhava, V. (1987). Liquid
by the Italian National Council of Research, GNDCI No. limit determination further simplified. Geotech. Test. J. 12, No.
01·01048·42 4, 302–307.
Nakase, A., Kamei, T. & Kusakabe, O. (1988). Constitutive para-
meters estimated by plasticity index. J. Geotech. Engng Div.,
ASCE 114, No. 4, 844–858.
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