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Atterberg limits in relation to other properties of fine-grained soils


In soil mechanics the Atterberg limits are the most distinctive and the easiest property of fine-grained soils to measure. As they depend on the same physical factors as the other mechanical properties of soils, the values of the liquid and plastic limits would be a very convenient basis for their prediction. There are many studies concerning the use of the Atterberg limits in soil mechanics; however, their results vary considerably and are not generally applicable. This paper explains the main reasons for the different conclusions in these studies, which do not take into account the following: a) the water in fine-grained soils appears as interparticle and interaggregate pore water as well as adsorbed water onto the surfaces of clay minerals; b) the physical properties of fine-grained soils depend on the quantity of pore water only, because the adsorbed water is tightly tied on the clay’s external and internal surfaces and thus cannot influence to them; c) the quantity of adsorbed water on the external surfaces of the clay minerals in soils depends mostly on the size and the quantity of the clay minerals, while the interlayer water quantity depends mostly on the quantity and the type of the swelling clay minerals in the soil composition and their exchangeable cations. From this it follows that for swelling and non-swelling soils, the uniform relationships between the Atterberg limits (which represent the total quantity of pore water and the adsorbed water onto the external and internal surfaces of clay minerals) and other physical properties does not exist. This paper presents some possibilities for the use of the Atterberg limits in predicting the soil’s other properties for non-swelling and limited-swelling soils.


Atterberg limits; specific surface area; undrained shear strength; compressibility; hydraulic conductivity