ASTM D5550 - 06

    Standard Test Method for Specific Gravity of Soil Solids by Gas Pycnometer

    Active Standard ASTM D5550 | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.03

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.08


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    Significance and Use

    The specific gravity value is used in many phase relation equations to determine relative volumes of particle, water, and gas mixtures.

    The term soil particle typically refers to a naturally occurring mineral grain that is not readily soluble in water. Therefore, the specific gravity of soils that contain extraneous matter (such as cement, lime, and the like) or water-soluble material (such as salt) must be corrected for the precipitate that forms on the specimen after drying. If the precipitate has a specific gravity less than the parent soil grains, the uncorrected test result will be too low. If the precipitate has a higher specific gravity, then the uncorrected test value will be too high.

    Note 2—Not withstanding the statements on precision and bias contained in this test method: The precision of this test method is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies which meet the criteria of Practice D 3740 are generally considered capable of competent testing. Users of this test method are cautioned that compliance with Practice D 3740 does not ensure reliable testing. Reliable testing depends on several factors; Practice D 3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method covers the determination of the specific gravity of soil solids by means of a gas pycnometer. Particle size is limited by the dimensions of the specimen container of the particular pycnometer being used.

    1.2 Test Method D 854 may be used instead of or in conjunction with this test method for performing specific gravity tests on soils. Note that Test Method D 854 does not require the specialized test apparatus needed by this test method. However, Test Method D 854 may not be used if the specimen contains matter that can readily dissolve in water, whereas this test method does not have that limitation.

    1.3 All measured and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D 6026.

    1.3.1 For purposes of comparing, a measured or calculated value(s) with specifies limits, the measured or calculated value(s) shall be rounded to the nearest decimal or significant digits in the specified limits.

    1.3.2 The procedures used to specify how data are collected/recorded and calculated in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that should generally be retained. The procedures used do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the users objectives; and it is common practice to increase or reduce significant digits of reported data to be commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of this standard to consider significant digits used in analysis methods for engineering design.

    1.4 The values stated in acceptable SI units are to be regarded as the standard. The inch-pound units given in parentheses are for information only.

    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.


    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

    D854 Test Methods for Specific Gravity of Soil Solids by Water Pycnometer

    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 13.080.10 (Chemical characteristics of soil)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil); 41113819(Soil analyzer)


    DOI: 10.1520/D5550-06

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