# Standard penetration test

The standard penetration test (SPT) is an in-situ dynamic penetration test designed to provide information on the geotechnical engineering properties of soil. This test is the most frequently used subsurface exploration drilling test performed worldwide. The test procedure is described in ISO 22476-3, ASTM D1586[1] and Australian Standards AS 1289.6.3.1. The test provides samples for identification purposes and provides a measure of penetration resistance which can be used for geotechnical design purposes. Many local and widely published international correlations which relate blow count, or N-value, to the engineering properties of soils are available for geotechnical engineering purposes.

Standard penetration test N values from a surficial aquifer in south Florida.

## Procedure

The test uses a thick-walled sample tube, with an outside diameter of 50.8 mm and an inside diameter of 35 mm, and a length of around 650 mm. This is driven into the ground at the bottom of a borehole by blows from a slide hammer with a mass of 63.5 kg (140 lb) falling through a distance of 760 mm (30 in). The sample tube is driven 150 mm into the ground and then the number of blows needed for the tube to penetrate each 150 mm (6 in) up to a depth of 450 mm (18 in) is recorded. The sum of the number of blows required for the second and third 6 in. of penetration is termed the "standard penetration resistance" or the "N-value". In cases where 50 blows are insufficient to advance it through a 150 mm (6 in) interval the penetration after 50 blows is recorded. The blow count provides an indication of the density of the ground, and it is used in many empirical geotechnical engineering formulae.

## Purpose

The main purpose of the test is to provide an indication of the relative density of granular deposits, such as sands and gravels from which it is virtually impossible to obtain undisturbed samples. The great merit of the test, and the main reason for its widespread use is that it is simple and inexpensive. The soil strength parameters which can be inferred are approximate, but may give a useful guide in ground conditions where it may not be possible to obtain borehole samples of adequate quality like gravels, sands, silts, clay containing sand or gravel and weak rock. In conditions where the quality of the undisturbed sample is suspect, e.g., very silty or very sandy clay, or hard clay, it is often advantageous to alternate the sampling with standard penetration tests to check the strength. If the samples are found to be unacceptably disturbed, it may be necessary to use a different method for measuring strength like the plate test. When the test is carried out in granular soils below groundwater level, the soil may become loosened. In certain circumstances, it can be useful to continue driving the sampler beyond the distance specified, adding further drilling rods as necessary. Although this is not a standard penetration test, and should not be regarded as such, it may at least give an indication as to whether the deposit is really as loose as the standard test may indicate.

The usefulness of SPT results depends on the soil type, with fine-grained sands giving the most useful results, with coarser sands and silty sands giving reasonably useful results, and clay and gravelly soils yielding results which may be very poorly representative of the true soil conditions. Soils in arid areas, such as the Western United States, may exhibit natural cementation. This condition will often increase the standard penetration value.

The SPT is used to provide results for empirical determination of a sand layer's susceptibility to soil liquefaction, based on research performed by Harry Seed, T. Leslie Youd, and others.

## Correlation with soil mechanical properties

Despite its many flaws, it is usual practice to correlate SPT results with soil properties relevant for geotechnical engineering design. SPT results are in-situ field measurements, and not as subject to sample disturbance, and are often the only test results available, therefore the use of correlations has become common practice in many countries.

An approximate relationship cited in the US Army Corp of Engineers engineering manual publication on sheet pile design developed after Terzaghi and Peck (1948) and Teng (1962), shows in the table below the relationship specifically for SPT N values and bulk density of soil correlated to relative density and referred to in the engineering manual as moist unit weight in pcf units, converted to metric values in the table [2]

Relative Density SPT N value Bulk Density (kg/m³)
Very loose 0 - 4 < 1 600
Loose 5 - 10 1 530 - 2 000
Medium 11 - 30 1 750 - 2 100
Dense 31 - 50 1 750 - 2 245
Very Dense > 50 > 2 100

## Problems with SPT

The Standard Penetration Test recovers a highly disturbed sample, which is generally not suitable for tests which measure properties of the in-situ soil structure, such as density, strength, and consolidation characteristics. To overcome this limitation, the test is often run with a larger sampler with a slightly different tip shape, so the disturbance of the sample is minimized, and testing of structural properties is meaningful for all but soft soils. However, this results in blow counts which are not easily converted to SPT N-values – many conversions have been proposed, some of which depend on the type of soil sampled, making reliance on blow counts with non-standard samplers problematic.

Standard Penetration Test blow counts do not represent a simple physical property of the soil, and thus must be correlated to soil properties of interest, such as strength or density. There exist multiple correlations, none of which are of very high quality.[3] Use of SPT data for direct prediction of liquefaction potential suffers from roughness of correlations and from the need to "normalize" SPT data to account for overburden pressure, sampling technique, and other factors.[4] Additionally, the method cannot collect accurate data for weak soil layers for several reasons:

1. The results are limited to whole numbers for a specific driving interval, but with very low blow counts, the granularity of the results, and the possibility of a zero result, makes handling the data cumbersome.[5]
2. In loose sands and very soft clays, the act of driving the sampler will significantly disturb the soil, including by soil liquefaction of loose sands, giving results based on the disturbed soil properties rather than the intact soil properties.

A variety of techniques have been proposed to compensate for the deficiencies of the standard penetration test, including the Cone penetration test, in-situ vane shear tests, and shear wave velocity measurements.

## References

1. ^ http://www.astm.org/Standards/D1586.htm
2. ^ US Army Corp of Engineers, Engineering Manual EM 1110-2-2504, Table 3-1, dated 31 March 1994>
3. ^ Kulhawy, F. H.; Mayne, P. W. (August 1990). Manual on Estimating Soil Properties for Foundation Design. Ithaca, New York: Electric Power Research Institute. pp. 2–17 to 2–26. EL-6800.
4. ^ Youd, T. L.; Member, Asce, I. M. Idriss, Chair; Fellow, Asce, Ronald D. Andrus, Co-Chair; Arango, Ignacio; Castro, Gonzalo; Christian, John T.; Dobry, Richardo; Finn, W. D. Liam; et al. (2001). "Liquefaction Resistance of Soils: Summary Report from the 1996 NCEER and 1998 NCEER∕NSF Workshops on Evaluation of Liquefaction Resistance of Soils". Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. 127 (10): 297–313. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1090-0241(2001)127:10(817).CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
5. ^ Zatsuwa, Monosagu (2005). "Beware, soft ground and the standard penetration test" (in Japanese). Public Works Research Institute.
Borehole

A borehole is a narrow shaft bored in the ground, either vertically or horizontally. A borehole may be constructed for many different purposes, including the extraction of water, other liquids (such as petroleum) or gases (such as natural gas), as part of a geotechnical investigation, environmental site assessment, mineral exploration, temperature measurement, as a pilot hole for installing piers or underground utilities, for geothermal installations, or for underground storage of unwanted substances, e.g. in carbon capture and storage.

Boring (earth)

Boring is drilling a hole, tunnel, or well in the earth.

Boring is used for various applications in geology, agriculture, hydrology, civil engineering, and mineral exploration. Today, most earth drilling serves one of the following purposes:

return samples of the soil and/or rock through which the drill passes

access rocks from which material can be extracted

access rocks which can then be measured

provide access to rock for purposes of providing engineering supportUnlike drilling in other materials where the aim is to create a hole for some purpose, often the case of drilling or coring is to get an understanding of the ground/lithology. This may be done for prospecting to identify and quantify an ore body for mining, or to determining the type of foundations needed for a building or raised structure, or for underground structures, including tunnels and deep basements where an understanding of the ground is vital to determining how to excavate and the support philosophy. Drilling is also used in vertical and inclined shaft construction.

Clay

Clay is a finely-grained natural rock or soil material that combines one or more clay minerals with possible traces of quartz (SiO2), metal oxides (Al2O3 , MgO etc.) and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure. Clays are plastic due to particle size and geometry as well as water content, and become hard, brittle and non–plastic upon drying or firing. Depending on the soil's content in which it is found, clay can appear in various colours from white to dull grey or brown to deep orange-red.

Although many naturally occurring deposits include both silts and clay, clays are distinguished from other fine-grained soils by differences in size and mineralogy. Silts, which are fine-grained soils that do not include clay minerals, tend to have larger particle sizes than clays. There is, however, some overlap in particle size and other physical properties. The distinction between silt and clay varies by discipline. Geologists and soil scientists usually consider the separation to occur at a particle size of 2 µm (clays being finer than silts), sedimentologists often use 4–5 μm, and colloid chemists use 1 μm. Geotechnical engineers distinguish between silts and clays based on the plasticity properties of the soil, as measured by the soils' Atterberg limits. ISO 14688 grades clay particles as being smaller than 2 μm and silt particles as being larger.

Mixtures of sand, silt and less than 40% clay are called loam. Loam makes good soil and is used as a building material.

Cone penetration test

The cone penetration or cone penetrometer test (CPT) is a method used to determine the geotechnical engineering properties of soils and delineating soil stratigraphy. It was initially developed in the 1950s at the Dutch Laboratory for Soil Mechanics in Delft to investigate soft soils. Based on this history it has also been called the "Dutch cone test". Today, the CPT is one of the most used and accepted soil methods for soil investigation worldwide.

The test method consists of pushing an instrumented cone, with the tip facing down, into the ground at a controlled rate (controlled between 1.5 -2.5 cm/s accepted). The resolution of the CPT in delineating stratigraphic layers is related to the size of the cone tip, with typical cone tips having a cross-sectional area of either 10 or 15 cm², corresponding to diameters of 3.6 and 4.4 cm. A very early ultra-miniature 1 cm² subtraction penetrometer was developed and used on a US mobile ballistic missile launch system (MGM-134 Midgetman) soil/structure design program in 1984 at the Earth Technology Corporation of Long Beach, California.

Geotechnical engineering

Geotechnical engineering is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behavior of earth materials. Geotechnical engineering is important in civil engineering, but also has applications in military, mining, petroleum and other engineering disciplines that are concerned with construction occurring on the surface or within the ground. Geotechnical engineering uses principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials; determine the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials; evaluate stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits; assess risks posed by site conditions; design earthworks and structure foundations; and monitor site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.A typical geotechnical engineering project begins with a review of project needs to define the required material properties. Then follows a site investigation of soil, rock, fault distribution and bedrock properties on and below an area of interest to determine their engineering properties including how they will interact with, on or in a proposed construction. Site investigations are needed to gain an understanding of the area in or on which the engineering will take place. Investigations can include the assessment of the risk to humans, property and the environment from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, soil liquefaction, debris flows and rockfalls.

A geotechnical engineer then determines and designs the type of foundations, earthworks, and/or pavement subgrades required for the intended man-made structures to be built. Foundations are designed and constructed for structures of various sizes such as high-rise buildings, bridges, medium to large commercial buildings, and smaller structures where the soil conditions do not allow code-based design.

Foundations built for above-ground structures include shallow and deep foundations. Retaining structures include earth-filled dams and retaining walls. Earthworks include embankments, tunnels, dikes and levees, channels, reservoirs, deposition of hazardous waste and sanitary landfills. Geotechnical engineers are extensively involved in earthen and concrete dam projects, evaluating the subsurface conditions at the dam site and the side slopes of the reservoir, the seepage conditions under and around the dam and the stability of the dam under a range of normal and extreme loading conditions.

Geotechnical engineering is also related to coastal and ocean engineering. Coastal engineering can involve the design and construction of wharves, marinas, and jetties. Ocean engineering can involve foundation and anchor systems for offshore structures such as oil platforms.

The fields of geotechnical engineering and engineering geology are closely related, and have large areas of overlap. However, the field of geotechnical engineering is a specialty of engineering, where the field of engineering geology is a specialty of geology. Coming from the fields of engineering and science, respectively, the two may approach the same subject, such as soil classification, with different methods.

Geotechnical investigation

Geotechnical investigations are performed by geotechnical engineers or engineering geologists to obtain information on the physical properties of soil earthworks and foundations for proposed structures and for repair of distress to earthworks and structures caused by subsurface conditions. This type of investigation is called a site investigation. Additionally, geotechnical investigations are also used to measure the thermal resistivity of soils or backfill materials required for underground transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, radioactive waste disposal, and solar thermal storage facilities. A geotechnical investigation will include surface exploration and subsurface exploration of a site. Sometimes, geophysical methods are used to obtain data about sites. Subsurface exploration usually involves soil sampling and laboratory tests of the soil samples retrieved.

Surface exploration can include geologic mapping, geophysical methods, and photogrammetry, or it can be as simple as a geotechnical professional walking around on the site to observe the physical conditions at the site.

To obtain information about the soil conditions below the surface, some form of subsurface exploration is required. Methods of observing the soils below the surface, obtaining samples, and determining physical properties of the soils and rocks include test pits, trenching (particularly for locating faults and slide planes), boring, and in situ tests. These can also be used to identify contamination in soils prior to development in order to avoid negative environmental impacts.

Gravel

Gravel is a loose aggregation of rock fragments. Gravel is classified by particle size range and includes size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments. In the Udden-Wentworth scale gravel is categorized into granular gravel (2 to 4 mm or 0.079 to 0.157 in) and pebble gravel (4 to 64 mm or 0.2 to 2.5 in). ISO 14688 grades gravels as fine, medium, and coarse with ranges 2 mm to 6.3 mm to 20 mm to 63 mm. One cubic metre of gravel typically weighs about 1,800 kg (or a cubic yard weighs about 3,000 pounds).

Gravel is an important commercial product, with a number of applications. Many roadways are surfaced with gravel, especially in rural areas where there is little traffic. Globally, far more roads are surfaced with gravel than with concrete or asphalt; Russia alone has over 400,000 km (250,000 mi) of gravel roads. Both sand and small gravel are also important for the manufacture of concrete.

Natchez silt loam

In 1988, the Professional Soil Classifiers Association of Mississippi selected Natchez silt loam soil to represent the soil resources of the State. These soils exist on 171,559 acres (0.56% of state) of landscape in Mississippi.

Nippon Screw Weight System

In the year of 2012 the NARO announced an in-situ ground survey machine, the Nippon Screw Weight System (NSWS), designed to overcome problems with the standard penetration test; The NSWS was developed with the specific aim to encounter the recent weather abnormalities and natural hazard, saving human lives. The creator of NSWS, Kozo Okita, was the member of 311 earthquake disaster committee

of the Japanese Geotechnical Society. The society released a report in June, 2012 proposing to Japanese government a use of NSWS to investigate the 3.11 aftermath.It is compact, weighs 120 kg, and highly-mobile because the wheels are attached, suited to measure the ground in the crowded residential areas. It costs about only half of what used to cost with the conventional SPT test and triaxial compression test. The NARO has released the cost index table.Features for detecting weak spots:

it can measure very soft zones, converted N-value of zero in the ground that had been considered difficult.

It has 1.08 cm interval, far finer than SPT

SPT conducts the test every 50 cm, and 30 cm interval out of 50 cm is tested so the rest, 20 cm, is not measured; that means 40% of an entire hole is unknown. NSWS does not suffer from such a limitation.

NSWS can penetrate the ground diagonally.

NSWS can cut soft gravels.Features for conducting in-situ shear test and sampling at a different hole:

In-situ shear test capability, the result of the joint research with NARO and Okita-Ko Co.,LtdFeatures for conducting Stability Analysis:

NSWS can prepare converted N-value, density, in-situ shear data for Stability Analysis.

Since NSWS enables multi-point surveying due to its diagonal penetration capability and high-mobility. The multiple spots on the weak layers can be analyzed.

Response spectrum

A response spectrum is a plot of the peak or steady-state response (displacement, velocity or acceleration) of a series of oscillators of varying natural frequency, that are forced into motion by the same base vibration or shock. The resulting plot can then be used to pick off the response of any linear system, given its natural frequency of oscillation. One such use is in assessing the peak response of buildings to earthquakes. The science of strong ground motion may use some values from the ground response spectrum (calculated from recordings of surface ground motion from seismographs) for correlation with seismic damage.

If the input used in calculating a response spectrum is steady-state periodic, then the steady-state result is recorded. Damping must be present, or else the response will be infinite. For transient input (such as seismic ground motion), the peak response is reported. Some level of damping is generally assumed, but a value will be obtained even with no damping.

Response spectra can also be used in assessing the response of linear systems with multiple modes of oscillation (multi-degree of freedom systems), although they are only accurate for low levels of damping. Modal analysis is performed to identify the modes, and the response in that mode can be picked from the response spectrum. These peak responses are then combined to estimate a total response. A typical combination method is the square root of the sum of the squares (SRSS) if the modal frequencies are not close. The result is typically different from that which would be calculated directly from an input, since phase information is lost in the process of generating the response spectrum.

The main limitation of response spectra is that they are only universally applicable for linear systems. Response spectra can be generated for non-linear systems, but are only applicable to systems with the same non-linearity, although attempts have been made to develop non-linear seismic design spectra with wider structural application. The results of this cannot be directly combined for multi-mode response.

Sand

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. It is defined by size, being finer than gravel and coarser than silt. Sand can also refer to a textural class of soil or soil type; i.e., a soil containing more than 85 percent sand-sized particles by mass.The composition of sand varies, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz. The second most common type of sand is calcium carbonate, for example, aragonite, which has mostly been created, over the past half billion years, by various forms of life, like coral and shellfish. For example, it is the primary form of sand apparent in areas where reefs have dominated the ecosystem for millions of years like the Caribbean.

Sand is a non-renewable resource over human timescales, and sand suitable for making concrete is in high demand. Desert sand, although plentiful, is not suitable for concrete. 50 billion tons of beach sand and fossil sand is used each year for construction.

Seismic microzonation

Seismic microzonation is defined as the process of subdividing a potential seismic or earthquake prone area into zones with respect to some geological and geophysical characteristics of the sites such as ground shaking, liquefaction susceptibility, landslide and rock fall hazard, earthquake-related flooding, so that seismic hazards at different locations within the area can correctly be identified. Microzonation provides the basis for site-specific risk analysis, which can assist in the mitigation of earthquake damage. In most general terms, seismic microzonation is the process of estimating the response of soil layers under earthquake excitations and thus the variation of earthquake characteristics on the ground surface.Regional geology can have a large effect on the characteristics of ground motion. The site response of the ground motion may vary in different locations of the city according to the local geology. A seismic zonation map for a whole country may, therefore, be inadequate for detailed seismic hazard assessment of the cities. This necessitates the development of microzonation maps for big cities for detailed seismic hazard analysis. Microzonation maps can serve as a basis for evaluating site-specific risk analysis, which is essential for critical structures like nuclear power plants, subways, bridges, elevated highways, sky trains and dam sites. Seismic microzonation can be considered as the preliminary phase of earthquake risk mitigation studies. It requires multi-disciplinary contributions as well as comprehensive understanding of the effects of earthquake generated ground motions on man made structures. Many large cities around the world have put effort into developing microzonation maps for the better understanding of earthquake hazard within the cities.

Silt

Silt is granular material of a size between sand and clay, whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil (often mixed with sand or clay) or as sediment mixed in suspension with water (also known as a suspended load) and soil in a body of water such as a river. It may also exist as soil deposited at the bottom of a water body, like mudflows from landslides. Silt has a moderate specific area with a typically non-sticky, plastic feel. Silt usually has a floury feel when dry, and a slippery feel when wet. Silt can be visually observed with a hand lens, exhibiting a sparkly appearance. It also can be felt by the tongue as granular when placed on the front teeth (even when mixed with clay particles).

Specific storage

In the field of hydrogeology, storage properties are physical properties that characterize the capacity of an aquifer to release groundwater. These properties are storativity (S), specific storage (Ss) and specific yield (Sy).

They are often determined using some combination of field tests (e.g., aquifer tests) and laboratory tests on aquifer material samples. Recently, these properties have been also determined using remote sensing data derived from Interferometric synthetic-aperture radar.

Thixotropy

Thixotropy is a time-dependent shear thinning property. Certain gels or fluids that are thick or viscous under static conditions will flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, sheared or otherwise stressed (time dependent viscosity). They then take a fixed time to return to a more viscous state.

Some non-Newtonian pseudoplastic fluids show a time-dependent change in viscosity; the longer the fluid undergoes shear stress, the lower its viscosity. A thixotropic fluid is a fluid which takes a finite time to attain equilibrium viscosity when introduced to a steep change in shear rate. Some thixotropic fluids return to a gel state almost instantly, such as ketchup, and are called pseudoplastic fluids. Others such as yogurt take much longer and can become nearly solid. Many gels and colloids are thixotropic materials, exhibiting a stable form at rest but becoming fluid when agitated. Thixotropy arises because particles or structured solutes require time to organize. An excellent overview of thixotropy has been provided by Mewis and Wagner.Some fluids are anti-thixotropic: constant shear stress for a time causes an increase in viscosity or even solidification. Fluids which exhibit this property are sometimes called rheopectic. Anti-thixotropic fluids are less well documented than thixotropic fluids.

Trench

A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground that is generally deeper than it is wide (as opposed to a wider gully, or ditch), and narrow compared with its length (as opposed to a simple hole).In geology, trenches are created as a result of erosion by rivers or by geological movement of tectonic plates. In the civil engineering field, trenches are often created to install underground infrastructure or utilities (such as gas mains, water mains or telephone lines), or later to access these installations. Trenches have also often been dug for military defensive purposes. In archaeology, the "trench method" is used for searching and excavating ancient ruins or to dig into strata of sedimented material.

Void ratio

The void ratio of a mixture is the ratio of the volume of voids to volume of solids.

It is a dimensionless quantity in materials science, and is closely related to porosity as follows:

${\displaystyle e={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{S}}}={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{T}-V_{V}}}={\frac {\phi }{1-\phi }}}$

and

${\displaystyle \phi ={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{T}}}={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{S}+V_{V}}}={\frac {e}{1+e}}}$

where ${\displaystyle e}$ is void ratio, ${\displaystyle \phi }$ is porosity, VV is the volume of void-space (such as fluids), VS is the volume of solids, and VT is the total or bulk volume. This figure is relevant in composites, in mining (particular with regard to the properties of tailings), and in soil science. In geotechnical engineering, it is considered as one of the state variables of soils and represented by the symbol e.

Note that in geotechnical engineering, the symbol ${\displaystyle \phi }$ usually represents the angle of shearing resistance, a shear strength (soil) parameter. Because of this, the equation is usually rewritten using ${\displaystyle n}$ for porosity:

${\displaystyle e={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{S}}}={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{T}-V_{V}}}={\frac {n}{1-n}}}$

and

${\displaystyle n={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{T}}}={\frac {V_{V}}{V_{S}+V_{V}}}={\frac {e}{1+e}}}$

where ${\displaystyle e}$ is void ratio, ${\displaystyle n}$ is porosity, VV is the volume of void-space (air and water), VS is the volume of solids, and VT is the total or bulk volume.

Soil
Foundations
Retaining walls
Stability
Earthquakes
Geosynthetics
Numerical analysis

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