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Clay Characterization & Water Vapor Sorption–Moving Beyond Atterberg Limits


Dr. Bill Likos shows why vapor sorption is superior to conventional methods for quantifying clay properties.

This webinar summarizes recent research related to geotechnical characterization of clays and clayey soils using measurements of water vapor sorption behavior. Dr. Likos evaluates testing equipment for determining water vapor sorption isotherms.  He also illustrates applications of sorption measurements toward understanding interlayer swelling behavior, classifying expansive clays, and estimating fundamental surface properties such as specific surface area (SSA) and cation exchange capacity (CEC). Dr. Likos advocates sorption-based soil characterization as an alternative to conventional clay characterization approaches commonly used in geotechnical engineering practice such as Atterberg limits. Sorption-based clay characterization is more firmly rooted in fundamental clay compositional properties and relies on measurement techniques that are potentially more systematic, economical, and readily automated.

Topics covered:

  • Fundamentals of mineral-water interactions
  • Techniques for measuring water vapor sorption isotherms
  • Connections between sorption isotherms and clay properties
  • Characterizing specific surface area and cation exchange capacity


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Dr. Bill Likos, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chair of the Geological Engineering Program at University of Wisconsin, has been mining the high-resolution isotherms generated by METER’s Vapor Sorption Analyzer (VSA) to revolutionize clay soil characterization.

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