Evaluation of the test procedure for a Rubber Balloon Soil Densitometer
Abstract: A Rubber Balloon Soil Densitometer is one of the essential apparatuses in Geotechnical Engineering to measure the in-place volume of compacted soil to calculate the soil density. In 2019, some renowned institutions and organizations, Vattenfall, Luleå University of Technology, Uppsala University, Lund University, and HydroResearch AB, were involved in a research project. As a part of that research project, a small earth-rockfill dam was built in Älvkarleby, Vattenfall. During the construction of the experimental dam, to test the sufficiency of the degree of compaction in the core layers, the Rubber Balloon Soil Densitometer of the German company called Headquarters of Magdeburger Prüfgerätebau GmbH, in short HMP, was used. However, it was suspected that some of the HMP densitometer test results showed measured volumes of the excavated holes lower than the expectation. Hence, it aroused the necessity to check the correctness of the balloon test apparatus and its test procedure. This thesis topic aims to fulfill that necessity. The objective of this research is to determine whether the volumetric measurements achieved by this apparatus are accurate. If the volumes measured by this apparatus are inaccurate, it is crucial to find the reasons behind the inaccuracy. It is also essential to determine the inaccuracy causes and pursue the solution to obtain precision in volumetric measurement. This thesis topic is vital for engineers and researchers of civil engineering and other departments because concluding the research would help collect better soil density data using an HMP Rubber Balloon Soil Densitometer and other similar densitometers. All the laboratory works of this thesis were conducted at the Soil Laboratory of Luleå University of Technology. At the beginning of the laboratory work, a pit was excavated in a compacted mixed fine-grained silty sand type of soil inside a bucket to conduct a densitometer test. The actual volume of this pit was determined using the water replacement method. The HMP densitometer measured a volume of this pit smaller than its actual volume. Then, the apparatus itself was tested to evaluate its function. It was found that the plexiglass cylinder has different inner circular cross-sectional areas at different heights, which do not match the inner circular cross-sectional area mentioned in the HMP sticker on the plexiglass. As time passes, slight deformation of a plexiglass cylinder is normal and can happen because of temperature, applied pressure, and repetitive usage. The precision in percentage from the actual volume of a pit indicates the stuck air between the pit surface and the rubber balloon during a densitometer test. For engineering purposes, a precision in percentage smaller than one percent can be considered reasonable. The results showed that the actual volume of a pit should be at least around one liter to achieve precision in percentage from the actual volume of the pit smaller than about one percent. Additionally, pits with larger actual volumes have smaller precision in percentages from the actual volumes of the pits. The imperfection of the plexiglass cylinder has a lesser influence on larger pits during a densitometer test. Compacted coarse-grained soil can absorb the stuck air during a densitometer test because of having a sufficient quantity of pores. However, compacted fine-grained soil is so airtight that the soil can not absorb the stuck air. Transparent bowls and non-transparent bowls and a bucket were considered artificial pits of different sizes and shapes in compacted fine-grained soil, and densitometer tests were conducted with them. The results showed that the extended Ucsan bowl had the appropriate shape and size among these artificial pits. Because the average percentage of stuck air inside it was the smallest. However, the topmost diameter of an artificial pit or a real pit should be the same as the inner diameter of the metal ring of the HMP apparatus. Putting two stripes of industrial cleaning cloth perpendicularly inside an artificial or a real pit during a densitometer test was considered a solution to the stuck air problem. After applying this solution for the densitometer tests with all the artificial pits, the results showed that a real pit's appropriate shape and size with this solution should be similar to the extended Ucsan bowl. This was proved at the end of the laboratory work when a pit was excavated through the metal ring of the apparatus in a compacted mixed fine-grained silty sand type of soil inside a bucket to conduct densitometer tests. This pit was given a shape and size similar to the extended Ucsan bowl during excavation. This time, two industrial cleaning cloth stripes were placed perpendicularly inside the pit before the tests. The results showed that almost all the stuck air could be dissipated during a densitometer test by placing two stripes of industrial cleaning cloth perpendicularly inside a pit with a shape and size similar to the Ucsan bowl. During laboratory work, the HMP apparatus continuously measured volumes smaller than the actual volumes in all the densitometer tests.
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