08 Jan, 2024
Simtec Materials Testing Laboratory

Quality assurance is an integral part of any construction project. By ensuring every aspect of a project meets the required industry standards – engineers and contractors can guarantee safety, ensure specifications are met, and avoid costly mistakes.

Laboratory testing of aggregates is one of many construction material testing methods that helps to identify problems that may arise during building works before they can develop into serious issues. This is done by determining the characteristics and likely behaviours of various substances.

In this article, we will explore the importance and benefits of sieve analysis for quality assurance in the field of civil engineering.

Understanding Sieve Analysis of Aggregates

Sieve Analysis, also known as Gradation of Aggregate Testing, is a process used to determine the particle size distribution and likely characteristics of an unbound material. This technique requires splitting a sample through a set of sieves with progressively smaller spaces to separate the particles into segments of various sizes.

As aggregate is the constituent material in many projects such as roads, drainage, concrete, and asphalt design – sieve analysis is an essential part of quality control procedures in civil engineering works. It ensures regulatory compliance, the safety of workers and occupants, and cost-effective project management.

Reporting of Results

During sieve analysis, laboratory technicians use a set of calibrated sieves to produce a graphical representation known as a Particle Size Distribution graph (PSD). This can be drawn and used to classify an in-situ material or verify the compliance of a imported material.

Interpreting these results requires analysis of how the different sized particles are distributed within the material. This information is usually presented as a collective percentage of material that passes each sieve during testing. A flatter curve specifies a well-graded material with a range of particle sizes, while a steeper curve indicates a consistent particle size throughout the material.

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is a professional field that encompasses the design, development, and maintenance of structural works that serve the public. This includes both constructed and naturally built infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, roads, airports, pipelines, sewage systems, railways, canals, dams, forests, wetlands, and more.

The fundamental aim of civil engineering is to make the world an easier and safer place to live. Without it, there would be no safe homes, cohesive road systems, or hospitals. Because of its importance, there are often strict regulations and compliance requirements for designing and executing infrastructure to ensure the safety of the environment, wildlife, and the public.

The Importance of Testing Aggregates for Civil Engineering Works

Improve the Overall Quality

Sieve analysis is used to identify the characteristics and behaviours of a material proposed for usage within an upcoming project.

Particle size distribution is often of crucial importance for understanding the way a material is likely to perform during application. This information allows civil engineers and contractors to select high-quality materials that are appropriate for their intended use and expected conditions.

Enhancing Structural Integrity

Aggregate testing is an important procedure for determining if a material is suitable for its intended use to ensure structural integrity. For example, well graded aggregate with a wide range of particle sizes will perform better when used as a sub base for driveways, roads, patios, and footpaths.

On the other hand, open graded aggregates with a small range of particle sizes are best used as a bedding layer for levelling and a base for hardscapes, and uniform graded aggregates with no difference in particle sizes are more suitable for drainage applications.

Compliance with Quality Standards

Gradation of aggregate testing allows civil engineers to ensure the materials they plan to use in development meet required industry standards and specifications for quality, safety, and performance.

This means that any prospective builds will be more likely to endure the expected conditions of the location. This will minimise the risk of failure such as weathering, settlement , and collapse and prevent harm to the public, environment, and wildlife.

Environmental Sustainability

Using recycled aggregates offers the civil engineering industry a range of benefits, but they must be rigorously tested to ensure they meet the levels of strength and durability required for their intended application.

Sieve analysis ensures all recovered aggregate waste is suitable for recycling. The data gathered can also help to determine what uses and conditions the recycled aggregate will be more appropriate for, allowing civil engineers to ensure the structural integrity of their projects.

Sieve Analysis & Aggregate Testing by Simtec Materials Testing

Simtec Materials Testing provides specialist aggregate testing services from our modern UKAS-accredited laboratory complex in Leicester, including:

  • Particle size distribution
  • Particle density
  • Particle density water absorption
  • Water content
  • Fines content
  • Ten percent fines value
  • Shape index
  • Flakiness index
  • Micro deval
  • Magnesium sulphate soundness
  • Constituent parts of recycled aggregate
  • LA co-efficient

We now hold accreditation for around 60 individual test methods across our organisation, and this is constantly expanding.

For more guidance on aggregate sieve analysis testing, please contact us to discuss your options.