In our last blog, we discussed using the CPT to estimate the shear strength of soil, which helps gauge how soil will behave during changes in stress. One important application of this capability is the estimation of soil liquefaction potential, meaning the potential of soil to dramatically lose strength when subjected to changes in stress.
Liquefaction is of particular concern in sandy, saturated soils. Shaking due to an earthquake or other sudden force causes the grains of loosely packed, sandy soils to settle into a denser configuration. If the soil is saturated and the loading is rapid, pore water does not have time to move out of the way of settling soil: pore water pressure rises, effectively pushing the soil grains apart and allowing them to move more freely relative to each other. At this point, the soil can shift and flow like a liquid—hence the name liquefaction.