How to Determine the Liquid Limit of a Soil

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The liquid limit is defined as the minimum moisture content at which a soil will flow upon application of a very small shearing force. When a soil becomes a viscous fluid, the soil will begin to flow under its own weight and very small amount of energy input, as shown in picture on the right.  The liquid limit is primarily used by civil and geotechnical engineers as a physical property of a soil.  The liquid limit allows engineers to classify soils into their applications.  For instance one soil may have applications in sub-bases of roads, where another soil may be better suited for foundations of buildings.  To determine the liquid limit of a soil engineers use the testing procedure outlined on this website.




Muddy tracks

Train tracks north of Seattle, WA, in January of 1997, mud swept a freight train into Puget Sound. (Photgraph by Mike Siegel, The Seattle Times.)


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