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Exploration & Testing
Programs Considering
Geophysics & In-Situ
In-Situ Tests in Borehole
 Various tests may be conducted as supplementary to a ground
investigation carried out by boreholes
 The tests described are generally undertaken as an intergral part of the
drilling operation.
1. Standard Penetration Test
2. Vane Shear Tests
3. Permeability Tests
4. Pressuremeter Tests



In bore holes
1. Standard Penetration Test (SPT)
- Primarily used to assess in-situ properties of granular soils
which cannot be sampled in an undisturbed state
- The Standard Penetration Tests aims to determine the SPT
N value, which gives an indication of the soil stiffness and
can be empirically related to many engineering properties
- Also used to collect disturbed fine grained soils
- A standard split spoon sampler is driven 450mm into the
soil by repeated blows from a 63.5 kg hammer.
Standard Penetration (SPT)
Penetration Number, N: Used in the estimation of f’
and Design of Foundations

Truck Mounted SPT Apparatus. Augering Bore Hole

“One Man Crew”
Standard Penetration Test (SPT)

 140 lb (63.5 kg) Hammer

 30in (76 cm) free fall
 Drive sampler over 18 inches
 Record no. of blows per each 6 inch
 SPT blow count=blows for 2nd 6 inch
penetration + blows for 3rd 6inch penetration
65 kg hammer

760 mm drop
Count the number of blows required anvil
for 300 mm penetration
Blow count

drill rod

split spoon sampler

Standard Penetration Test (SPT)

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still has some

mainly for granular soils; unreliable in clays

N-value correlated to f’, E …

done within bore holes at 1.5 m depth intervals

samples (disturbed) collected in split-spoon sampler

AR = 112%; use
for classification

I.D. = 35 mm
O.D.= 51 mm
Standard Split Spoon
Sampler (SPT)

 Thick wall (0.25in) cylinder

 Sampling tube is split along the length
 Hammered into the ground
Standard Split
Spoon Sampler
Standard Penetration Test (SPT)
Types of SPT Hammers
SPT: Automatic Trip
- The blows required to produce the first 150mm penetration,
termed as seating blows, are usually ignored as it is assumed
that it is disturbed due to drilling process.
- The SPT N is the number of blows required to achieve
penetration from 150-450mm. In other words, the no of
blows required to drive a further 300mm is recorded as the
- After the test, the sample remaining inside the split spoon is
preserved in an airtight container for inspection and
- Interpretation of the test is based on experience and on
correlations suggested by various researches.
 Disadvantages of SPT test:
 Crude
 Inconsistency in the measured resistance due to variation
in impact energy

 Advantages of SPT test:

 Simple, inexpensive & rugged equipment
 Test procedure is easy to execute
 Allow representative samples to be taken
 Suitable for all types of soils & weak rock
 Widely accumulated data & experience for foundation
Reducel Level
No Soil Depth (m) N Value Stiffness Thickness (m)

1 silt 1.5 64.6 0 Very Soft (0-2) 1.5

2 clay 3.0 63.1 2 Very Soft (0-2) 1.5

3 clay 4.5 61.6 0 Very Soft (0-2) 1.5

4 clay 6.0 60.1 0 Very Soft (0-2) 1.5

5 clay 7.5 58.6 0 Very Soft (0-2) 1.5

6 clay 9.0 57.1 3 Soft (2-4) 1.5

7 clay 10.5 55.6 4 Soft (2-4) 1.5

8 clay 12.0 54.1 7 Medium (4-8) 1.5

9 clay 13.5 52.6 10 Stiff (8-15) 1.5

10 clay 15.0 51.1 10 Stiff (8-15) 1.5

11 clay 16.5 49.6 21 Very Stiff (15-30) 1.5

12 clay 18.0 48.1 45 Hard (>30) 1.5

13 clay 19.5 46.6 50 Hard (>30) 1.5

14 clay 21.0 45.1 50 Hard (>30) 1.5

15 clay 22.5 43.6 50 Hard (>30) 1.5

16 clay 30.0 36.1 50 Hard (>30) 7.5

SPT Values vd Depth (m) for BH-A2

SPT N Value
0 10 20 30 40 50 60




15.0 10

Depth (m)





30.0 50

Use of SPT Data
Corrections to SPT Blow Counts

Factors affecting SPT blow count:

 Hammer Efficiency
 Borehole diameter
 Type of sampler
 Rod length
Standard Penetration Test (SPT)
Measured N-values Corrected N60
0 10 20 30 40 50 0 10 20 30 40 50
4 4

ER = 34 (energy ratio)
6 6 Saf ety
55 45
60 Trend

Depth (meters)
Depth (meters)

56 41
41 10

12 63 12

Donut 64 56
14 Saf ety 14
16 16

Data from Robertson, et al. (1983)

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Most Important SPT Correction Factors

N 60 

 hammer efficiency (Em) …. Table 4.3

 bore hole diameter (CB)…….Table 4.4.
 sampler correction (CS) ……Table 4.4
 rod length (CR) ………Table 4.4
(N1)60 = CER CN N
blow count Measured
blow count

Energy correction

SPT Overburden Correction
2000 lb / ft
( N1 )60  N 60 (Customary )
 z

100 kPa
( N1 ) 60  N 60 (SI)
 z
not corrected
for overburden

N60 cu (kPa) consistency visual identification

0-2 0 - 12 very soft Thumb can penetrate > 25 mm

2-4 12-25 soft Thumb can penetrate 25 mm

4-8 25-50 medium Thumb penetrates with moderate


8-15 50-100 stiff Thumb will indent 8 mm

15-30 100-200 very stiff Can indent with thumb nail; not

>30 >200 hard Cannot indent even with thumb


Use with caution; unreliable.

(N)60 Dr (%) consistency
not corrected for
0-4 0-15 very loose
4-10 15-35 loose
10-30 35-65 medium
30-50 65-85 dense
>50 85-100 very dense

Use of SPT Data
Cone Penetration Test (CPT)

 Originally Developed in Netherlands 1930s

 Further developments in 1950s
 “Dutch Cone”
 ASTM D 3441
 Types of CPT devices
 mechanical cone
 electric cone
 piezocone
CPT Truck; Interior
Cone Penetration Testing (ASTM D 5778)
Geostratigraphy by Piezocone Tests, Blytheville,
qt (MPa) fs (kPa) u2 (kPa)
0 10 20 30 40 50 0 100 200 300 400 0 1000 2000 3000
0 0 0
Clayey Silt

5 5 5

10 10 10

15 15 15
Depth (m)

20 20 20 Sand

25 25 25

30 30 30

35 35 35

40 40 40
Cone Penetration Test
Advantages Disadvantages

 Fast and continuous  Electronics must

profiling of strata be calibrated &
 Economical and productive
 No soil samples
 Results not operator-
dependent  Unsuited to
gravelly soils and
 Strong theoretical basis for cobbles.
 Particularly suited to soft

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CPT/CPTu/SCPTu Results
Common to all:
 Tip Resistance (Force/Area)
 Sleeve Resistance (Force/Area)
 Pore-water Pressure
 Shear Wave Velocity
Soil Properties:
Vs, Gmax, Emax, rtot, eo
Sands - f’, Dr, ho’, uo/water table elevation

Clays - su, p’, ch, kh, OCR 58
10 cm2 cross section
friction ratio, fR =  100 %
sleeve friction (fs)
Typically 0 ———— 10%.

granular cohesive

cone resistance (qc)

or tip resistance (qT)
Typical CPT Data
Local Cone
friction resistance
pressure Friction
Dynamic cone Static cone
penetration test penetration test

similar to SPT; hammer driven pushed into the ground @ 2 cm/s

using cone instead of split spoon gives continuous measurements

closed end;
no samples

gives blow counts @ 1.5 m

depth intervals
Simple and rugged.
Better than SPT or SCPT in hard
soils such as dense gravels
As crude as SPT; relies on
correlations based on blow counts

Hollow (split spoon)



Solid (no samples) 63

Schmertmann strain influence methodology
Originally proposed by Schmertmann (1970) and modified by Schmertmann,
Hartmann, and Brown (1978), this method was developed to estimate
foundation settlements in sands. To utilize this method, the subsurface is
broken into layers. Each layerUsehas a constant value of strain and soil modulus.
Settlement is calculated by summing the influence of all layers, as calculated

by equation B-1. '

I z z
C  1  0.5(
Si  C1C2 qnet  q net
C2  1  0.2 log 10 (10t ) Es  2.5qnet
Use of CPT Data
CPT Versus SPT

 CPT: Advantages over SPT

 provides much better resolution, reliability

 versatility; pore water pressure, dynamic soil
 CPT: Disadvantages

 Does not give a sample

 Will not work with soil with gravel
 Need to mobilize a special rig
2. Mackintosh Probes
Vane Shear

Scandinavian Vanes McClelland Offshore Vane

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Vane Shear Test: Direct Measure of s u of clays

Half-turn slip
(allows rod
friction to be

Torque wrench large vane for soft clays; small vane for stiff 78
Vane Shear Test

• Originally developed by Swedish Engineer,

John Olsson in 1920s
• Now Standardized as ASTM D2573
• Specially suited for soft, sensitive clays
• Quick test, used to determine undrained shear
measuring (torque) head

For clays, and mainly for soft clays.

bore hole Measure torque required to quickly
shear the vane pushed into soft clay.

 undrained

h2d torque  undrained shear strength cu

Typical d = 20-100 mm.
soft clay
Vane Shear Test (VST)
Results from Vane Shear Tests
San Francisco Bay Mud, MUNI Metro Station

Vane Strength, suv (kPa) Sensitivity, St

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 0 1 2 3 4 5
0 0

5 5
Depth (meters)

Depth (meters)
10 10

15 15

20 20

25 25

30 30
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Vane Test: Recording Torque versus Rotation

Rod friction Peak vane resistance 83

Vane Shear Test
Advantages Disadvantages
• Assessment of undrained • Limited to soft to stiff
shear strength of clays clays & silts with suv <
200 kPa
• Simple test and equipment
• Raw suv needs empirical
• Measure inplace sensitivity
• Long history of use in
practice for embankments, • Can be affected by sand
foundations, & cuts seams and lenses

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2. Vane Shear Test

 This test is used to estimate the

undrained shear strength of a soil,
and is particularly appropriate for
assessing very soft and sensitive
clays, which can not be tested
accurately in a laboratory as it is
difficult to obtain an undisturbed
 There are 2 types of vane shear
i) Borehole Vane Test
ii) Penetration Vane Test (as
shown in the figure)
Failure surface
Test in Progress
Vane Shear Test
In-situ shear strength of soft clays

Field Vane Showing Failure Surface

-A rod with a four blade vane is
pushed into the ground and
rotated generally at a slow rate
of 6o to 12o per minute.

-Every 15 - 30 secs the torque

force is measured, once
maximum torque has been
reached, the vane is rotated
rapidly for ten revolutions to
induce shear failure.

-After shearing, the slow

rotation rate is resumed to
determine the remoulded shear
strength. The shear strength is
proportional to the torque /
blade diameter.
Vane Shear Test

Rotate the vane

slowly until
failure occurs.
Record the
applied torque
to cause
Vane Shear Test

 Drill test hole

 Insert vane
 Rotate head
 Measure torque
 Relate
resistance to
soil shear
Vane Test: Recording Torque versus Rotation

Rod friction Peak vane resistance 91

Vane Shear Test

 Relationship between Su and applied Torque:

6T f
Su 
7d 3
 Relationship between Su and applied Torque (after
correction factor):

6T f
Su 
7d 3
Advantages and Limitations

- The test itself causes very little disturbance particularly in

sensitive clays
- If carried out in soil that contains laminations of sand or
dense silt, the torque may be misleadingly high
- Presence of roots in organic soils may lead to erroneous
A simple hand-held device for measuring unconfined compressive
strength (qu = 2 cu) of a clay.
very rough
Used in trial pits and samples.

Must for every practicing geotechnical engineer.

Push into the the

clay, and.. strength

Plate Load Test
In-situ Bearing Capacity

Plate Stack at Failure.

Failure Depth = 25 mm
Plate Stack at Beginning
of Test
Plate Load Test
In-situ Bearing Capacity

Graph of Time vs. Settlement. Graph of Applied Load vs.

3 kg/cm2 Load Increment Total Settlement
Plate Load Test
In-situ Bearing Capacity

Plate Load Test Using Dead Load

Plate Load Test

Plate typically
0.3 to 0.5 m diameter

Typical foundation

Plate load test only useful

for small foundations
(where stress “bulb” is
similar between plate and
Plate Load Test
In-situ Bearing Capacity

Bearing Capacity Failure Envelop

Plate Load Test Schematic Foundation Failure

Plate bearing test
Flat Plate Dilatometer (DMT)
Blade, Pressure Panel, Tubing, and Nitrogen

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Flat Plate Dilatometer Test (DMT)
Dilatometer (DMT)

Signal wire &


1 mm gap


60 mm

Flexible steel

95 mm
Records “liftoff” pressure (PA) and
pressure at displacement of 1 mm (PB).
These points indicated by audible signal
(“beep”) from control box
DMT in Piedmont Residuum, Charlotte, NC
0 0 0 0

2 2 2 2

4 4 4 4
Depth (meters)

6 6 6 6

8 8 8 8

10 10 10 10

12 12 12 12

14 Po 14 14 14
P1 Clay Silt
16 16 16 16
0 500 1000 1500 0 1 10 0 200 400 600 800 0 5 10 15

Pressure (kPa) Material Index ID Modulus ED (atm) Horiz. Index KD

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Marchetti Dilatometer Test (DMT)
 Measures “liftoff” pressure
po (A)and pressure at 1mm
expansion p1 (B)
 “Dilatometer” modulus:
ED  (p1 - po) (akin to a
load-deflection curve)
 Use M for settlement
 (Test is like a very simple
pressuremeter test ?)

DMT Results
• Pressure Readings (A, B, C)
Soil Properties:
Sands – f’, E, Dr, mv,
Clays – p’, Ko, su, mv, E, ch, kh

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Dilatometer Test (DMT)
Advantages Disadvantages
• Simple and Robust • Difficult to push in very
Equipment dense materials and not in
• Repeatable and Operator- gravels.
Independent • Primarily established on
• Quick and Economical correlative relationships
• Theoretical Derivations for • Needs calibration for local
elastic modulus, strength, geologies
stress history

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Pressuremeter Test (PMT)
Pressuremeter Test
 Types:
• Inserted into pre-drilled borehole (Ménard type); for rock or very hard
• “Self-boring” pressuremeter (SBP) – drills itself into the ground – for sand or
soft to stiff clays
 Principle:
• membrane inflated – measure inflation pressure and membrane expansion
• plot pressure (p) against “cavity strain” e = r/ro
• obtain shear strength (su) from pressure-strain curve
• obtain stiffness (shear modulus Gur) from unload-reload loop
• for SBP, “liftoff” pressure should be equal to in situ horizontal stress ho
• often affected by disturbance (but still best method of measuring ho)
• where pore pressure transducer built into membrane, can deduce coefficient
of consolidation cv from “holding test” (hold pressure constant and measure
rate of dissipation of excess pore pressure)
 In WA:
• UWA has SBP
• some consultants have versions of non-self boring pressuremeters (high-
pressure pressuremeters for testing in rock)
Pre-Bored Pressuremeters (ASTM D4719)

Menard Pressure Panel Texam Monocell Probe

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PMT Data - Utah DOT Project
5 Limit Pressure, PL
V0 = 1200 cc
Pressure (tsf) 4

Shear Strength
E = elastic modulus
P0 = lift-off pressure

0 200 400 600
Volume Change (cc)
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Pressuremeter Test (PMT)
Advantages Disadvantages
• Theoretically sound in • Complicated
determination of soil procedures – requires
high level of expertise
• Tests larger zone of
soil mass than other • Time consuming
in-situ tests • Delicate – easy to
• Develop stress-strain- damage
shear curves
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PMT Results
• Pressure vs. Volume or Volumetric Strain

Soil Behavior
• Load/Volumetric Displacement

Soil Properties
E, G, mv, su
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In Situ Testing
Perceived applicability of selected test methods in soil, Wroth (1984)
Test ID f su OCR E, G Liquefaction
SPT B C C - - A
Seismic cone B C B C A B
Piezocone A B B A B A
Self boring pressuremeter A A A A A A
Insertion pressuremeter C B B C B C
Dilatometer B C B B B B
Field vane - - A B - -
Screw plate B C B B A B

ID: relative density

A = high applicability, B = moderate applicability, C = limited applicability114
Geophysical Investigations
• Initial Site Exploration/Preliminary Surveys
• Assist with Placement of Borings/In-Situ Tests
• Difficult Locations
• Gravels, Cobbles, Boulders, Debris
• Difficult Terrain
• Contaminated Sites
• Supplementary Exploration
• Observe Variations Between
Borings/Soundings/Outcrop, etc.
• Locate Irregularity

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Common Geophysical Methods
Surface Methods Borehole Methods
• Siesmic Refraction • Crosshole/Downhole
• Spectral-Analysis-of- • Suspension Logger
Surface-Waves (SASW) • Electrical Logging
• Electrical Resistivity • Nuclear Logging
• Electromagnetics (EM) • Optical and Acoustical
• Ground Penetrating Radar Televiewer
• Microgravity
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Geophysical Investigations
• Stratification of Subsurface Materials
• Profile Top of Bedrock
• Depth to Groundwater
• Limits of Types of Soil Deposits
• Rippability of Hard Soil and Rock
• Locate Voids, Buried Utilities, Substructures
• Shear Velocity and Modulus Properties

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Applications of Seismic Reflection & Refraction
Seismic reflection and refraction have numerous potential applications
to a variety of environmental and geotechnical problems, including:
 Depth and characterisation of bedrock surface
 Buried channel definition
 Depth of water table
 Depth and continuity of stratigraphic interfaces
 Rippability determination
 Mapping of faults and other structural features
 Location of karst features

Seismic Reflection
Reflections of sound waves (compression waves) from the subsurface
arrive at the geophones some measurable time after the source pulse. If
we know the speed of sound in the earth and the geometry of the wave
path, we can convert that seismic travel time to depth. By measuring the
arrival time at successive surface locations we can produce a profile, or
cross-section, of seismic travel times. A simple concept.

In practice, the speed of sound in the earth varies enormously. Dry, sand
might carry sound waves at 250 m/s or less. At the other extreme,
unfractured granite might have a velocity in excess of 6,000 m/s.

The more layers between the surface and the layer of interest, the more
complicated the velocity picture. Various methods are used to estimate
subsurface velocities including refraction analysis, borehole geophysical
measurements, estimates from known lithologic properties, and analysis of
reflection times at increasing offsets. Generally, a combination of velocity
estimation methods will give the best results.

Seismic Reflection

Seismic Refraction
When a sound wave crosses an interface between layers of two different
velocities, the wave is refracted. That is, the angle of the wave leaving
the interface will be altered from the incident angle, depending on the
relative velocities. Going from a low-velocity layer to a high-velocity layer,
a wave at a particular incident angle (the "critical angle") will be refracted
along the upper surface of the lower layer. As it travels, the refracted
wave spawns upgoing waves in the upper layer, which impinge on the
surface geophones.

Sound moves faster in the lower layer than the upper, so at some point,
the wave refracted along that surface will overtake the direct wave. This
refracted wave is then the first arrival at all subsequent geophones, at
least until it is in turn overtaken by a deeper, faster refraction. The
difference in travel time of this wave arrival between geophones depends
on the velocity of the lower layer. If that layer is plane and level, the
refraction arrivals form a straight line whose slope corresponds directly to
that velocity. The point at which the refraction overtakes the direct arrival
is known as the "critical distance", and can be used to estimate the depth
to the refracting surface. 121
Seismic Refraction

Seismic Refraction

ASTM D 5777

Note: Vp1 < Vp2

Determine depth t1
to rock layer, zR t2
Vertical Geophones t3
Source t4

Soil: Vp1
zR x4

Rock: Vp2123
Seismic Refraction

“Shortest path not necessarily

the fastest one”

Vertical Geophones

Fastest path is the shortest one

Soil: Vp1

Rock: Vp2124
Fastest path is NOT the shortest one
Geophysical Properties

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Results from Seismic Refraction

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Seismic Refraction

Horizontal Soil Layer over Rock

T ra v e l T im e (s e c o n d s )
xc Vp2  Vp1
zc 
2 Vp2  Vp1
0.015 1
Vp2 = 4880
0.010 m/s

xc = 15.0 m
1 Depth to Rock:
zc = 5.65 m
Vp1 = 1350
t values

0 10 20 30 40 50
Distance From Source (meters)
x values
Surface Wave Tests
Non invasive method based on the geometric dispersion of Rayleigh
waves, which are waves that travel along the ground surface resulting
from a vertical impact or continuous vibration source (like waves in
the sea).
The relationship between velocity of propagation of Rayleigh waves
and frequency can be determined experimentally analysing the
particle motion induced on the ground surface by the propagation.
Seismic waves are generated using either impact sources or vibrators
and are detected using vertical velocity transducers (Geophones). The
recorded ground motion is then analysed in the frequency domain to
estimate the experimental dispersion curve (the relationship between
frequency and velocity).
The experimental dispersion curve is finally used in an inversion
process to estimate the variation with depth of the velocity of
propagation of shear wave, which is linked to the small strain
stiffness of the soil. G  r  V2
o s
The inversion process is based on the numerical propagation of
Rayleigh wave propagation in layered linear elastic media. 128
Electrical Methods
Electrical properties are among the most useful geophysical parameters
in characterizing earth materials. Variations in electrical conductivity (or
its inverse, resistivity) typically correlate with variations in water
saturation, fluid conductivity, porosity, permeability, and the presence of
metal. Depending on the particular site, these variations may be used to
locate contaminant plumes, salt water intrusion, stratigraphic units,
sinkholes, fractures, buried drums and tanks, and any other feature
whose electrical properties contrast with the surrounding earth.
Ground conductivity can be measured either directly, using the galvanic
resistivity method, or inductively, using electromagnetic induction (EM).
Because EM requires no direct contact with the ground surface, data can
be acquired more quickly than with resistivity. Resistivity, however, can
provide better vertical resolution and is generally less sensitive to sources
of "noise" such as fences, buildings and overhead powerlines.

Electrical Resisitivity Measurements

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ElectroMagnetic Induction

Combined 3-D Plot/Contour Map of EM Induction Data

Electromagnetic Conductivity (EM)
Applications of Electrical Methods
EM and Resistivity can be applied to a wide variety of problems
encountered in environmental, groundwater, geotechnical, and archaeological
work, including:
 Location of buried drums, tanks, trenches, and utilities
 Location of landfills and bulk buried materials
 Delineation of contaminant plumes
 Depth of water table and aquifer identification and mapping
 Continuity of stratigraphic interfaces such as clay layers
 Mapping of faults and fractures
 Location of karst features


Source: Eliassen, et al

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