Revised Soil Classification System for Coarse-Fine Mixtures

Junghee Park, Carlos Santamarina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Soil classification systems worldwide capture great physical insight and enable geotechnical engineers to anticipate the properties and behavior of soils by grouping them into similar response categories based on their index properties. Yet gravimetric analysis and data trends summarized from published papers reveal critical limitations in soil group boundaries adopted in current systems. In particular, current classification systems fail to capture the dominant role of fines on the mechanical and hydraulic properties of soils. A revised soil classification system (RSCS) for coarse-fine mixtures is proposed herein. Definitions of classification boundaries use low and high void ratios that gravel, sand, and fines may attain. This research adopts emax and emin for gravels and sands, and three distinctive void ratio values for fines: soft eF|10 kPa and stiff eF|1 MPa for mechanical response (at effective stress 10 kPa and 1 MPa, respectively), and viscous λ⋅eF|LL for fluid flow control, where λ=2log(LL−25) and eF|LL is the void ratio at the liquid limit. For classification purposes, these void ratios can be estimated from index properties such as particle shape, the coefficient of uniformity, and the liquid limit. Analytically computed and data-adjusted boundaries are soil-specific, in contrast with the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS). Threshold fractions for mechanical control and for flow control are quite distinct in the proposed system. Therefore, the RSCS uses a two-name nomenclature whereby the first letters identify the component(s) that controls mechanical properties, followed by a letter (shown in parenthesis) that identifies the component that controls fluid flow. Sample charts in this paper and a Microsoft Excel facilitate the implementation of this revised classification system.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)04017039
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 17 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Support for this research was provided by the KAUST Endowment at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. G. Abelskamp edited the manuscript. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and valuable insights.


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