ASTM D6780 / D6780M - 12

    Standard Test Method for Water Content and Density of Soil In situ by Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR)

    Active Standard ASTM D6780 / D6780M | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.08

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.09


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    Significance and Use

    5.1 This test method can be used to determine the density and water content of naturally occurring soils and of soils placed during the construction of earth embankments, road fills, and structural backfills.

    5.2 Time domain reflectometry (TDR) measures the apparent dielectric constant (Procedure A) and the apparent dielectric constant, first voltage drop and long term voltage (V1 and Vf) (Procedure B) of soil. The apparent dielectric constant is affected significantly by the water content and density of soil, and to a lesser extent by the chemical composition of soil and pore water, and by temperature. The first voltage drop and long term voltage (V1 and Vf) are affected significantly by the water content, density, and the chemical composition of the in situ pore water, and to a lesser extent the chemical composition of the soil solids. This test method measures the gravimetric water content and makes use of a different relationship between the electrical properties and water content from Test Method D6565 which measures the volumetric water content.

    5.3 Soil and pore water characteristics are accounted for in Procedure A with two calibration constants and for Procedure B with five calibration constants. The two soil constants for Procedure A are determined for a given soil by performing compaction tests in a special mold as described in Annex A2. The five soil constants for Procedure B are determined in conjunction with compaction testing in accordance with specified compaction procedures, for example, Test Method D698 as described in Annex A3. Both Procedures A and B use Test Method D2216 to determine the water contents.

    5.4 When following Procedure A, the water content is the average value over the length of the cylindrical mold and the density is the average value over the length of the multiple-rod probe embedded in the soil. When following Procedure B, the water content and density is the average values over the length of the multiple-rod embedded in the soil.

    Note 1The quality of the result produced by this standard 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 D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection/etc. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method may be used to determine the water content of soils and the in situ density of soils using a TDR apparatus.

    1.2 This test method applies to soils that have 30 % or less by weight of their particles retained on the 19.0-mm [3/4-in.] sieve.

    1.3 This test method is suitable for use as a means of acceptance for compacted fill or embankments.

    1.4 This test method may not be suitable for organic and highly plastic soils.

    1.5 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

    1.5.1 The method used to specify how data are collected, calculated, or recorded in this standard is not directly related to the accuracy to which the data can be applied in design or other uses, or both. How one applies the results obtained using this standard is beyond its scope.

    1.6 Two alternative procedures are provided.

    1.6.1 Procedure A involves two tests in the field, an in situ test and a test in a mold containing material excavated from the in situ test location. The apparent dielectric constant is determined in both tests.

    1.6.2 Procedure B involves only an in situ test by incorporating the first voltage drop and long term voltage (V1 and Vf ) in addition to the apparent dielectric constant. While the bulk electrical conductivity can be determined from these measurements, it is not needed for the determination of water content and density.

    1.7 The values stated in either SI units or inch-pound units are to be regarded separately as standard. The values stated in each system may not be exact equivalents; therefore, each system shall be used independently of the other. Combining values from the two systems may result in non-conformance with the standard. For additional information consult SI10.

    1.8 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

    D698 Test Methods for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Standard Effort (12 400 ft-lbf/ft3 (600 kN-m/m3))

    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

    D6565 Test Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by the Time-Domain Reflectometry (TDR) Method

    E1 Specification for ASTM Liquid-in-Glass Thermometers

    SI10 Standard for Use of the International System of Units (SI): The Modern Metric System


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 13.080.20 (Physical properties of soil)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil)


    DOI: 10.1520/D6780_D6780M-12

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