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Bearing Capacity of Roads, Railways and Airfields – Loizos et al.

© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-1-138-29595-7

Suitability assessment of soils for pavement subgrade using gyratory

compaction and bearing capacity testing

A. Athanasopoulou & G. Kollaros

Department of Civil Engineering, Democritus University of Thrace, Xanthi, Greece

ABSTRACT:  The quality of subgrade soils influences the design of road structures. The maximum dry
unit weight is used to assess the quality of compacted soil materials. The standard or modified Proctor
tests do not exactly simulate the field compaction mechanism. Standard Proctor compaction curves are
presented, along with curves obtained using the gyratory compactor. The compaction curves are gener-
ally similar, regardless the rate of gyration and gyration angle. For moistures higher than the optimum,
gyratory specimens yielded densities higher than those from the Proctor compaction. Based on this obser-
vation, the gyratory compaction could be considered a feasible means of laboratory compaction. The
difference between the two compaction modes was greater at low moistures. California Bearing Ratio
specimens prepared with dynamic or gyratory compaction had lower values with an increase in moisture
contents and greater in the case of dynamic compaction. Most results confirm theoretical indications or
findings of previous researches.

1  INTRODUCTION In 2006, Browne using a procedure based on the

AASHTO compaction method for hot mix asphalt
Soil encountered in the construction of trans- (AASHTO 2015) has found that the number of
portation infrastructure is densified by different gyrations and the confinement pressure were
mechanical compaction processes. In order to rep- important parameters for the compaction by the
resent more accurately the field compaction con- SGC of soils with different characteristics and
ditions, engineers are seeking for new laboratory moisture contents (Browne 2006).
methods (Vinay et al. 2015, Mokwa 2008). These Generally, the dry unit weights of fine-grained
new testing procedures will replace the commonly soils increase with the increase of the confinement
used Standard and Modified Proctor tests for the pressure (Dantas et al. 2016). For non-cohesive,
determination of the Optimal Moisture Content granular soils an increase in the number of gyra-
(OMC) and Maximum Dry Density (MDD), since tions would bring about an increase in compaction
they do not necessarily represent field compac- dry unit weights (Wite et al. 2007).
tion pressures (static, vibratory or kneading) and An increased number of gyrations yielded
motions (Drnevich et al. 2007). high densification of pavement base or subbase
Though the intend for the development of the unbound materials (Panko et al. 2011). Similar
device called Superpave Gyratory Compactor findings were obtained for subbase materials of an
(SGC) in the decade of 1990 was to test hot asphalt airfield runway (Carry et al. 2014).
mixes, many researchers suggested that it could be In an evaluation of the use of gyratory compac-
used for the compaction of soils in the laboratory tor instead of Proctor compaction for three soils
(Ping et al. 2003). classified as sand SM, silt ML and clay CH accord-
The action of moving wheels transferred on ing to Unified Classification System, the resulting
flexible pavement structures is simulated by the curves were independent of the speed and angle of
simultaneous application of vertical loads and gyration (Perez et al. 2013). However, the gyratory
kneading action (Li et al. 2015). On the other compactor can control different variables leading
hand, specimens prepared with SGC have inter- to the standard compaction curve (Kambel 2013,
nal structure resembling that of soils in highway Kollaros & Athanasopoulou 2016).
projects. The favourable use of gyratory compactors can
When the Superpave Gyratory Compactor is be summarized in that they are more precise and
being used to compact granular soils, shear work, with higher effectiveness than impact hammers,
due to the gyration angle, is applied to the soil thus along with their capability to repeat the testing
complementing the vertical work exerted on the conditions (Harman et al. 2002, Cerni & Camilli
soil sample. 2011, Chen et al. 2015).

An artificial neural network has been used for cal stress via platens to a soil mass inside a cylindri-
modelling compaction parameters from index cal mould 150 mm in diameter. The gyratory speed
properties of soil (Jayan & Sankar 2015). For its was set at 30 rounds per minute (rpm). Whilst the
verification, a set of more than 180 data has been machine kept the platens horizontal and parallel to
employed and OMC and MDD were predicted each other, the mould was gyrated along its longi-
with high accuracy. tudinal axis at a fixed angle of 1.15o (20 milliradi-
Compaction curves using the Standard Proctor ans) relative to the vertical axis.
compaction test as well as those obtained from the The CBR tests on the samples determined the
gyratory compactor in Democritus University of bearing capacity of these materials to be used as
Thrace, Xanthi, Greece, are presented in the fol- subgrades in highway construction works.
lowing sections. In Figure  1, curves representing the grain size
California Bearing Ratio (CBR) specimens were distribution of the soils tested are given. All soil
prepared both with Standard Proctor and gyra- samples tested have been characterized as soils in
tory compaction and the results of their testing the group A-2-4 according to the AASHTO soil
were compared for the two methods. In the gyra- classification system.
tory compactor procedure, the vertical pressure,
the gyration angle, and the number of gyrations
were the controlled variables. 3  RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

In Table  1, the results of the different tests per-

2  MATERIALS AND METHODS formed in the laboratory are listed for the four
soils under investigation. It must be noted that
Four sampling sites in the Municipality of Xanthi, all soils were sampled at the same period in the
Northern Greece, have been chosen in order to year. So, their natural moisture value is indicative
take soil quantities for laboratory testing. The sites of the season of the year (spring). Due to the dis-
are scattered within an area of a radius of about tance between the sampling sites moistures ranged
5 kilometres from the city centre, so as to be rep- between 2.76% and 15.22% for samples S4 and S2
resentative of different prevailing conditions. Soil respectively (the closest and most far located to
samples were assigned the names S1 to S4. Kosynthos River).
On the air dried and pulverized soil samples var- In Table 1 the values of OMC and MDD along
ious tests have been performed including the Atter- with those of CRB tests are also shown. The OMC
berg limits determination, as well as tests for the values ranged from 10.3% (S1) to 16.0% (S2), while
relationship between density and moisture (stand- MDD values were found in the range of 2040 kg/
ard Proctor). For the obtained optimum moisture m3 (S2) to 2280 (S1). The values of CBR have been
content and for three water contents under and obtained using the optimum moisture content
over this value and for the corresponding maxi- found through the Proctor procedure.
mum dry densities, cylindrical specimens have been The highest value for the Linear Shrinkage (LS)
formed using both the dynamic hammer compac- measured has been found for the soil sample S4 as
tion method and the gyratory compaction process. 7.14% along with a high Liquid Limit (LL) (17.9)
With the method of gyratory compaction the which is consistent with the nature of the soil.
assessment of the compact ability of specimens On the other hand, the lowest LS value was
was achieved by the application of a 500 kPa verti- obtained for the S1 sample (1.41%) and the low-
est LL for the S3 sample (14.0). The S2 sample

Table  1.  Properties of the soil specimens subjected to

laboratory tests.

S1 S2 S3 S4

Natural Moisture 7.94 15.22 11.58 2.76

Liquid Limit 19.5 27.0 14.0 26.0
Plastic Limit 14.8 24.5 12.9 17.9
Plasticity Index 4.7 2.5 2.1 8.1
Linear Shrinkage 1.41 6.43 1.43 7.14
AASHTO Classification A-2-4 A-2-4 A-2-4 A-2-4
Optimum Moisture Content 10.3 16.0 14.3 13.5
Maximum Dry Density 2280 2040 2180 2160
Figure  1.  Grain size distribution of the four soils CBR 21.4 4.54 1.39 6.17

presented the maximum and the S3 sample the As the moisture at which the specimen has been
minimum plastic limit (24.5 and 12.9 respectively). compacted increases, the shear is reduced. The
The curves shown in Figure 2 refer to the relation higher shear (127 KN/m2) was observed in the S1
of moisture content and the dry density values for specimen was compacted gyroscopically at 10%
the four soils taking part in the laboratory testing moisture. Finally, the density of the sample speci-
program. mens increases at the end of the rotation cycles.
The water content which corresponds to the More specifically, the higher density (2115 kg/m3)
maximum dry density is called optimum moisture has been observed in the S3 soil specimen com-
content. The part of the soil materials retained on pacted gyroscopically at 13% moisture.
the 4,75 mm sieve (No. 4) has been compacted in The highest CBR value under the gyratory com-
moulds 101.6 mm in diameter in 3 layers. paction conditions was 8.82 for the S3 specimen,
Soil samples have been compacted both dynam- compacted using 7.41% moisture content. The
ically and with the gyratory compactor. Dynamic lower CBR value (0.54) has been recorded by the
compaction is a well known technique for the S2 specimen compacted gyroscopically at 17.48%
improvement of soils since it densifies them using moisture content.
a drop weight. It is obvious that, when the dynamic compac-
In order to get comparable results with the CBR tion was used, the result obtained was sensibly
method, a limitation had been posed to the height better compared to those yielded by the gyratory
of gyratory specimens (117.6 mm); in such a way compactor. More specifically, at the low moistures,
the exactly same height and weight was deter- the difference is greater between the two compac-
mined for the specimens of the two methods. The tion modes. Also, the dynamic method leads to
height of the specimens was reduced initially with higher dry density values for all specimens tested
a higher rate after each rotation cycle. For vari- in all three different moistures used.
ous water contents, the values of the dry density Figures 3 to 6 depict the relationship developed
and CBR have been experimentally defined using between the moisture in the specimens and the
both the dynamic and the gyroscopic compaction recorded CBR values for soils S1 to S4, respec-
efforts. The S1 specimen compacted dynamically tively. The water content is also correlated to the
at 7.84% water content has yielded the maximum dry density of the specimens. In each of these
dry laboratory density (2035  kg/m3), while when graphs, two different pairs of curves are shown
it was compacted dynamically at 18.12% water referring to the way the specimen has been com-
content yielded the lowest dry laboratory density pacted (dynamically or with the use of gyratory
(1688.2 kg/m3). compactor), and to the quantity under considera-
In the case of gyroscopically compacted speci- tion (CBR or dry density).
mens, the maximum and minimum densities were The highest CBR value has been recorded in the
furnished by the S3 and S2 specimens, when they case of the specimen S3 compacted dynamically
were compacted using 13.15% and 7.11% water at 7.9% moisture content and is equal to 55.94.
contents, respectively. The dry density values On the other end of the range of values, the S1
in these cases were 2115  kg/m3 and 1501  kg/m3,

Figure 2.  Moisture content vs. dry density of soil speci- Figure 3.  CBR and dry density as a function of mois-
mens using the Proctor procedure. ture content for S1 sample.

specimen yielded a CBR value equal to 0.16, when
it was compacted dynamically at water content of


Studies on the behaviour of compacted soils

are of great important since those materials are
part of the structure of many civil engineering
projects. the quality of this behaviour can be con-
trolled by the laboratory density of the soils.
The dry unit weight of soils can be a practical
tool for the analysis and further comparison of
gyratory compaction outcome to traditional com-
paction test results.
Figure 4.  CBR and dry density as a function of mois- For the four soils tested in this study, the dry
ture content for S2 sample. densities of the specimens compacted with the
gyratory process yielded almost linear curves
and, for moistures higher than the optimum, have
shown values higher than those derived from the
Proctor compaction. Based on this observation,
the gyratory compaction could be considered a
feasible means of laboratory compaction.
In any case, more evidence based on differ-
ent soil types, and other variables involved in the
procedure such as the number of gyrations, the
confinement pressure the angle of rotation etc is
needed. It is suggested the highest number of gyra-
tions to be used to allow the maximum of soil den-
sification to be achieved.
Bearing in mind the drawbacks of both the
Proctor and gyratory compaction methods, CBR
values have been proved to be a valuable guidance
for the selection of the compaction method to be
used. California Bearing Ratio specimens prepared
Figure  5.  Variation of California Bearing Ratio as a with dynamic or gyratory compaction presented
function of moisture content for S3 sample. lower values with an increase in moisture contents
and were generally greater in the case of dynamic
compaction. The difference was greater at water
contents lower than the optimum moisture.
The use of artificial neural networks is sug-
gested for the prediction of soil optimum moisture
content and maximum dry density values. Because
such an analysis could be easily executed based on
simple soil index parameters, it is thought to be a
useful tool for engineers.
To develop a standardized protocol for the
compaction of soils with the gyratory machine
in laboratory studies, continued research is neces-
sary. The outcome of such efforts would provide
more thorough understanding of soils used in road
projects. In order for the findings of this work to
acquire a universal character more tests are needed
especially on soils with less satisfactory engineer-
ing properties.
Figure 6.  CBR and dry density vs water content for S4 Future studies may lead to a better under-
sample. standing of gyratory compaction mechanism by

comparing dry unit weights or energies of gyratory Kampel, C. 2013. Investigation of compaction char-
compaction to field compaction instead making acteristics of subbase material using the Superpave
this comparison with existing laboratory compac- gyratory compactor. MS in Civil Engineering thesis,
tion procedures. Rowan University.
Kollaros, G. & Athanasopoulou, A. 2016. Characteriza-
tion of pavement subgrade soil using gyratory com-
paction. 3rd International Balkans Conference on
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