Particle size distribution of Soil by sieve analysis


To determine the particle size distribution of soil as per IS: 2720 (Part 4) – 1985.


i) A set of fine IS Sieves of sizes – 2mm, 600μm, 425μm, 212μm and 75μm
ii) A set of coarse IS Sieves of sizes – 20mm, 10mm and 4.75mm
iii) Weighing balance, with an accuracy of 0.1% of the weight of sample
iv) Oven
v) Mechanical shaker
vi) Mortar with rubber pestle
vii) Brushes
viii) Trays


i) Soil sample, as received from the field, should be dried in air or in the sun. In wet weather, the drying apparatus may be used in which case the temperature of the sample should not exceed 60oC. The clod may be broken with wooden mallet to hasten drying. Tree roots and pieces of bark should be removed from the sample.
ii) The big clods may be broken with the help of wooden mallet. Care should be taken not to break the individual soil particles.
iii) A representative soil sample of required quantity as given below is taken and dried in the oven at 105 to 120oC. 

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i) The dried sample is taken in a tray, soaked in water and mixed with either 2g of sodium hexametaphosphate or 1g of sodium hydroxide and 1g of sodium carbonate per litre of water, which is added as a dispersive agent. The soaking of soil is continued for 10 to 12hrs.
ii) The sample is washed through 4.75mm IS Sieve with water till substantially clean water comes out. Retained sample on 4.75mm IS Sieve should be oven-dried for 24hrs. This dried sample is sieved through 20mm and 10mm IS Sieves.
iii) The portion passing through 4.75mm IS Sieve should be oven-dried for 24hrs. This oven-dried material is riffled and about 200g taken.
iv) This sample of about 200g is washed through 75μm IS Sieve with half litre distilled water, till substantially clear water comes out.
v) The material retained on 75μm IS Sieve is collected and dried in oven at a temperature of 105 to 120oC for 24hrs. The dried soil sample is sieved through 2mm, 600μm, 425μm
and 212μm IS Sieves. Soil retained on each sieve is weighed.
vi) If the soil passing 75μm is 10% or more, hydrometer method is used to analyse soil particle size.


i) Particles passed through 75μm IS Sieve alongwith water are collected and put into a 1000ml jar for hydrometer analysis. More water, if required, is added to make the soil water suspension just 1000ml. The suspension in the jar is vigorously shaken horizontally by keeping the jar in-between the palms of the two hands. The jar is put on the table.
ii) A graduated hydrometer is carefully inserted into the suspension with minimum disturbance.
iii) At different time intervals, the density of the suspension at the centre of gravity of the hydrometer is noted by seeing the depth of sinking of the stem. The temperature of the
suspension is noted for each recording of the hydrometer reading.
iv) Hydrometer readings are taken at a time interval of 0.5 minute, 1.0 minute, 2.0 minutes, 4.0 minutes, 15.0 minutes, 45.0 minutes, 90.0 minutes, 3hrs., 6hrs., 24hrs.
and 48hrs.
v) By using the nomogram given in IS: 2720 (Part 4) – 1985, the diameter of the particles for different hydrometer readings is found out.


After completing mechanical analysis and hydrometer analysis, the results are plotted on a semi-log graph with particle size as abscissa (log scale) and the percentage smaller than the specified diameter as ordinate (see the below table  for sample chart). 

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  1. Loose clots may be broken with hands or rubber tipped pestle.
  2. Soil should be oven dried at 100 +- 5°C for 24 hours before sieve analysis.
  3. The whole set of sieves should be shaken in each direction.
  4. Weigh the retained soil on each sieve carefully.

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