Geotechnical and Geological Engineering

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 121–132 | Cite as

Comparison of Methods for Determining Specific-surface Area of Fine-grained Soils

  • D. N. Arnepalli
  • S. Shanthakumar
  • B. Hanumantha Rao
  • D. N. Singh
Original Paper


Characteristics of fine-grained soils primarily depend on their specific-surface area and hence, reliable determination of this parameter is essential. In this context, researchers have employed quite sophisticated instruments (viz., a BET surface area analyzer, the mercury intrusion porosimetry, internal reflectance spectroscopy, X-Ray diffraction and gas pycnometer etc.) and methodologies (viz., sorption of Methylene Blue dye, Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether and p-Nitrophenol) to determine specific-surface area of these soils. However, most of these methodologies are found to be quite tedious, cost and time intensive. Apart from this, the results obtained are contentious due to the inherent limitations associated with either the instruments employed or the basic assumptions made for computing the specific-surface area of the soil. Hence, it becomes mandatory to evaluate the efficiency of these methodologies for determining specific-surface area of fine-grained soils. With this in view, different types of soils were considered in this study and their specific-surface area was determined, by following different methodologies, and the results were evaluated critically. In addition, attempts were made to develop relationships between the basic properties of fine-grained soils (viz., liquid limit, cation-exchange capacity, activity, and free swell index) and the specific-surface area. These relationships will be of immense help to the practicing engineers and research fraternity.


Fine-grained soil Specific-surface area Gas pycnometer BET technique EGME method MB dye method Mercury intrusion porosimetry 



a constant parameter


contact angle between the soil and mercury


wavelength of UV-light


density of the soil measured with He

\( \rho _{{{\text{N}}_{{\text{2}}} }} \)

density of the soil measured with N2




maximum absorbance


activity of the soil


area covered by each molecule of the Methylene blue (MB) dye


area covered by each N2 molecule


Avogadro’s number


a parameter


concentration of the MB dye


concentration of the MB dye solution after 24 h


cation-exchange capacity


initial concentration of the MB dye solution


a constant


optimal amount of the MB absorbed on the soil


amount of the MB absorbed on the soil after 24 h


amount of the MB, initially added to soil


specific gravity of the soil


liquid-solid ratio


liquid limit of the soil


molecular weight of the MB dye


applied pressure


pressure of N2 gas


relative pressure


saturation vapor pressure of N2


plasticity-index of the soil


plastic limit of the soil


specific-surface area


specific-surface area of the soil obtained from air-adsorption method


external specific-surface area of the soil


internal specific-surface area of the soil


shrinkage limit of the soil


specific-surface area of the soil obtained from Langmuir isotherm


specific-surface area, obtained from MB absorption technique


specific-surface area, obtained from the multi-point BET isotherm


specific-surface area, obtained from mercury intrusion porosimetry


free swell index of the soil


specific-surface area, obtained from the single-point BET isotherm


total specific-surface area of the soil


surface tension of Hg




cumulative volume of mercury intruded into the soil


volume of N2 adsorbed at pressure P


air-adsorption capacity of the soil


volume of N2 required for mono-layer formation as per Langmuir isotherm


maximum volume of Hg intruded in the sample


volume of N2 required for mono-layer formation as per multi-point BET isotherm


volume of N2 molecule


weight of the soil


amount of EMGE absorbed on the sample for mono-layer formation


amount of EGME absorbed on the sample


amount of EGME required to cover per square meter of Bentonite


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. N. Arnepalli
    • 1
  • S. Shanthakumar
    • 2
  • B. Hanumantha Rao
    • 2
  • D. N. Singh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Civil EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology BombayMumbaiIndia

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