ASTM International

ASTM D7698 - 11a Standard Test Method for In-Place Estimation of Density and Water Content of Soil and Aggregate by Correlation with Complex Impedance Method


Source: ASTM International

The test method is a procedure for estimating in-place values of density and water content of soils and soil-aggregates based on electrical measurements.

The test method may be used for quality control and acceptance testing of compacted soil and soil aggregate mixtures as used in construction and also for research and development. The minimal disturbance nature of the methodology allows repetitive measurements in a single test location and statistical analysis of the results.


This test method provides an overview of the CIMI measurement procedure using a controlling console connected to a soil sensor unit which applies 3.0 MHz radio frequency to an in-place soil via metallic probes are driven at a prescribed distance apart. This test method does not discuss the details of the CIMI electronics, computer, or software that utilize on-board algorithms for estimating the soil density and water content

It is difficult to address an infinite variety of soils in this standard. This test method does not address the various types of soils on which the CIMI method may or may not be applicable. However, data presented in X3.1 provides a list of soil types that are applicable for the CIMI use.

The procedures used to specify how data are collected, recorded, or calculated in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that generally should be retained. The procedures prescribed in this standard do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the user’s objectives; 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 analytical methods for engineering design.

1. Scope

1.1 Purpose and Application

1.1.1 This test method describes the procedure, equipment, and interpretation methods for estimating in-place soil dry density and water content using a Complex-Impedance Measuring Instrument (CIMI).

1.1.2 CIMI measurements as described in this Standard Test Method are applicable to measurements of compacted soils intended for roads and foundations.

1.1.3 This test method describes the procedure for estimating in-place density and water content of soils and soil-aggregates by use of a CIMI. The electrical properties of soil are measured using a radio frequency voltage applied to soil electrical probes driven into the soils and soil-aggregates to be tested, in a prescribed pattern and depth. Certain algorithms of these properties are related to wet density and water content. This correlation between electrical measurements, and density and water content is accomplished using a calibration methodology. In the calibration methodology, density and water content are determined by other ASTM Test Standards that measure soil density and water content, thereafter correlating the corresponding measured electrical properties to the soil physical properties.

1.1.4 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. The inch-pound units given in parentheses are mathematical conversions which are provided for information purposes only and are not considered standard.

1.1.5 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026 unless superseded by this standard.

1.2 Generalized Theory

1.2.1 Two key electrical properties of soil are conductivity and relative dielectric permittivity which are manifested as a value of complex-impedance that can be determined.

1.2.2 The soil conductivity contributes primarily to the real component of the complex-impedance, and the soil relative dielectric permittivity contributes primarily to the imaginary component of the complex-impedance.

1.2.3 The complex-impedance of soil can be determined by placing two electrodes in the soil to be tested at a known distance apart and a known depth. The application of a known frequency of alternating current to the electrodes enables a measurement of current through the soil, voltage across the electrodes, and the electrical phase difference between the voltage and current waves. Complex-impedance is calculated from these known and measured parameters.

1.2.4 From the determined complex-impedance, an electrical network consisting of a resistor (R) and capacitor (C) connected in parallel are used to represent a model of the soil being tested.

1.2.5 Relationships can be made between the soil wet density and the magnitude of the complex-impedance, and also between the soil water mass per unit measured, and the quotient of the values of C and R using a Soil Model process.

1.2.6 The Soil Model process results in mathematical relationships between the physical and electrical characteristics of the soil which are used for soil-specific calibration of the CIMI.

1.2.7 Refer to Appendix X1 for a more detailed explanation of complex-impedance measurement of in-place soil, and its use in field measurements for the estimation of dry density and water content.

1.3 Precautions

1.3.1 The radio frequencies and output power levels of the CIMI method are such that they are harmless according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

1.3.2 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)

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))
D1556 Test Method for Density and Unit Weight of Soil in Place by Sand-Cone Method
D1557 Test Methods for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Modified Effort (56,000 ft-lbf/ft3 (2,700 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
D4253 Test Methods for Maximum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils Using a Vibratory Table
D4643 Test Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by Microwave Oven Heating
D4718 Practice for Correction of Unit Weight and Water Content for Soils Containing Oversize Particles
D4944 Test Method for Field Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by the Calcium Carbide Gas Pressure Tester
D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data
D7382 Test Methods for Determination of Maximum Dry Unit Weight and Water Content Range for Effective Compaction of Granular Soils Using a Vibrating Hammer

Index Terms

capacitor; compaction; complex-impedance; current; dielectric permittivity; dry density; impedance magnitude; percent compaction; phase; radio frequency; resistor; water content; water mass per unit volume; wet density; voltage; Impedance; In-place density (of soil); Resistors; Voltage; Water content--soil; Capacitors; Density

ICS Code

ICS Number Code 13.080.20 (Physical properties of soil)

DOI: 10.1520/D7698-11A

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