The study of soil’s mechanical and physical characteristics is the focus of the geotechnical engineering subfield known as soil mechanics. It is a crucial area of civil engineering that helps engineers to create reliable foundation systems for structures like dams, buildings, and bridges. Here, we will discuss soil’s physical and mechanical characteristics, soil classification schemes, and engineering uses for each.
Systems of soil Categorization
In geotechnical engineering, soils are categorized using soil classification systems according to their mechanical and physical characteristics. Here are the most used classification systems:
The Unified Soil Classification
The USCS divides soils into two general categories: coarse-grained and fine-grained, according to how their grains are distributed. Sands and gravels are examples of coarse-grained soils, whereas silts and clays are fine-grained soils.
The USCS further categorizes soils based on their plasticity, which measures a soil’s capacity to be shaped without crumbling. Fine-grained soils are divided into four classes based on their plasticity: organic soils, silts, high-plasticity clays, and low-plasticity clays.
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)
The AASHTO categorization system is comparable to the USCS but is based on a distinct set of standards. Grain size distribution, Atterberg limits, and soil behavior are used to classify soils. The AASHTO system is frequently employed to construct transportation infrastructure like bridges and highways.
The physical attributes of soil
The qualities of soil that can be seen or measured without affecting the soil’s chemical composition are known as its physical attributes. These characteristics include grain size distribution, density, porosity, and water content. A measure of soil porosity is the proportion of void space between soil particles, whereas a measure of soil density is the soil mass per unit volume. The percentage of the soil’s total weight that is made up of the quantity of water that the soil can hold is known as its water content. A soil sample’s distribution of particle sizes is known as the grain size distribution.
The mechanical attributes of soil
The way soil responds to stress is described by its mechanical characteristics. They comprise permeability, compressibility, and shear strength. Shear strength is the capacity of soil to withstand sliding along a weak point, and the capacity of soil to be squeezed under a load is known as compressibility. Lastly, the capacity of soil to permit water to pass through it is permeability.
Designing foundation systems for structures requires considering both the physical and mechanical features of the soil and soil classification systems. Engineers employ the concept of bearing capacity, based on soil mechanics, to ascertain the maximum load that may be applied to the soil without producing failure. This knowledge is used to construct the foundation systems to assure the stability and safety of structures.
Additionally, soil mechanics is vital for designing earth-retaining structures like retaining walls and barriers. Soil mechanics is a concept engineers use to predict the forces that a retaining structure will experience under various loading scenarios as well as the stability of the soil beneath it.
Soil mechanics is an essential component of geotechnical engineering that deals with soil’s physical and mechanical characteristics.