Field installation of an earth pressure cell

Brent Theroux, Joseph F Labuz, Shongtao Dai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


An earth pressure cell (EPC) is a device designed to provide an estimate of normal stress in soil. The practice of designing and manufacturing stress-measurement devices revolves around the study of the interaction between the measuring device and the host material. However, distribution of normal stress is not necessarily uniform across a given surface. Consequently, output from an EPC may be different under soil-loading conditions than under fluid pressure. In addition, depending on the design, as the cell deflects, an arching-type phenomenon may develop. A study was conducted to devise a scheme for calibration of EPCs and to recommend a procedure for field installation. A new testing device was designed to permit the application of uniaxial soil pressure to the EPC by using various types of soil and load configurations. Sensitivities computed from soil calibrations varied from those determined from fluid calibrations by as much as 30 percent. A field installation procedure was developed from model tests. In the laboratory, a thin-walled steel cylinder with a geotextile bottom was filled with uniform silica sand in a medium-dense state, and the EPC was placed within the sand. The entire apparatus (EPC, cylinder, and sand) was carried into the field and installed in the desired locations. The steel cylinder was then removed, leaving the cell, sand, and geotextile behind. Preliminary field data indicate that the soil calibration and placement procedure provide reasonably accurate measurements of the change in vertical stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-19
Number of pages8
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1772
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

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