Calibrations of a high-suction tensiometer

S. D N Lourenço, D. Gallipoli, D. G. Toll, C. E. Augarde, F. D. Evans, G. M. Medero

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    43 Citations (Scopus)


    High-suction tensiometers are able to measure suctions up to 2 MPa. Direct calibration at such high suctions requires the imposition of negative water pressures, which are difficult to achieve using facilities commonly available in soil mechanics laboratories. For this reason, tensiometers are usually calibrated in the positive pressure range, and such calibration is subsequently extra-polated to negative pressures. This paper examines different experimental techniques to assess the accuracy of such extrapolation. Any error in the calibration process would be directly reflected in the measured values of suction, and might be particularly significant (in relative terms) for the measurement of low suctions. In addition, the results of this study show that calibration in the positive range is affected both by the physical configuration of the tensiometer during calibration and by aspects of its design. The paper concludes that linear extrapolation of the calibration from the positive to the negative range is sufficiently accurate provided that calibration is done under conditions that closely match the conditions in which the tensiometer will be used. Owing to structural differences between tensiometers, and also to suction-induced 'calibration hysteresis', at least one check on the accuracy of the extrapolated calibration equation over a range of negative pressure should be performed, even if at low values of suction.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)659-668
    Number of pages10
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


    • Laboratory equipment
    • Laboratory testing
    • Partial saturation
    • Suction


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