ASTM D4643 - 08

    Standard Test Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by Microwave Oven Heating

    Active Standard ASTM D4643 | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.08

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.08


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    Significance and Use

    The water content of a soil is used throughout geotechnical engineering practice both in the laboratory and in the field. The use of Test Method D 2216 for water content determination can be time consuming and there are occasions when a more expedient method is desirable. The use of a microwave oven is one such method.

    The principal objection to the use of the microwave oven for water-content determination has been the possibility of overheating the soil, thereby yielding a water content higher than would be determined by Test Method D 2216. While not eliminating this possibility, the incremental drying procedure described in this test method will minimize its effects. Some microwave ovens have settings at less than full power, which can also be used to reduce overheating.

    The behavior of a soil, when subjected to microwave energy, is dependent on its mineralogical compositions, and as a result no one procedure is applicable for all types of soil. Therefore, the procedure recommended in this test method is meant to serve as a guide when using the microwave oven.

    This test method is best suited for minus No. 4 sized material. Larger size particles can be tested; however, care must be taken because of the increased chance of particle shattering.

    The use of this method may not be appropriate when highly accurate results are required, or the test using the data is extremely sensitive to moisture variations.

    Due to the localized high temperatures that the specimen is exposed to in microwave heating, the physical characteristics of the soil may be altered. Degregation of individual particles may occur, along with vaporization or chemical transition. It is therefore recommended that samples used in this test method not be used for other tests subsequent to drying.

    Note 1—The quality of the results produced by this test method is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D 3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing. Users of this test method are cautioned that compliance with Practice D 3740 does not in itself ensure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D 3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method outlines procedures for determining the water (moisture) content of soils by incrementally drying soil in a microwave oven.

    1.2 This test method can be used as a substitute for Test Method D 2216 when more rapid results are desired to expedite other phases of testing and slightly less accurate results are acceptable.

    1.3 When questions of accuracy between this test method and Test Method D 2216 arise, Test Method D 2216 shall be the referee method.

    1.4 This test method is applicable for most soil types. For some soils, such as those containing significant amounts of halloysite, mica, montmorillonite, gypsum or other hydrated materials, highly organic soils, or soils in which the pore water contains dissolved solids (such as salt in the case of marine deposits), this test method may not yield reliable water content values.

    1.5 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as the standard. No other units of measurement are included in this test method.

    1.6 Refer to Practice D 6026 for guidance concerning the use of significant figures. This is especially important if the water content will be used to calculate other relationships such as moist mass to dry mass or vice versa, wet unit weight to dry unit weight or vice versa, and total density to dry density or vice versa. For example, if four significant digits are required in any of the above calculations, then the water content has to be recorded to the nearest 0.1 %. This occurs since 1 plus the water content (not in percent) will have four significant digits regardless of what the value of the water content is; that is, 1 plus 0.1/100 = 1.001, a value with four significant digits. While, if three significant digits are acceptable, then the water content can be recorded to the nearest 1 %.

    1.7 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use. See Section 7.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids

    D2216 Test Methods for Laboratory Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil and Rock by Mass

    D3740 Practice for Minimum Requirements for Agencies Engaged in Testing and/or Inspection of Soil and Rock as Used in Engineering Design and Construction

    D4753 Guide for Evaluating, Selecting, and Specifying Balances and Standard Masses for Use in Soil, Rock, and Construction Materials Testing

    D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 13.080.40 (Hydrological properties of soil)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil)


    DOI: 10.1520/D4643-08

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