Monitoring Particle Movement under Compaction using SmartRock Sensor: A Case Study of Granular Base Layer Compaction

Xue Wang, Hai Huang, Erol Tutumluer, Jeb S. Tingle, Shihui Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The quality of base course compaction significantly influences pavement's overall performance. Compared with conventional compaction methods, the intelligent compaction (IC) uses external accelerometers to track pavement responses during compaction and correlates them with pavement layer characteristics to improve the compaction quality. Very few studies have attempted to present interactions of granular materials from the particle level, i.e., how individual particles are responding under the compactive effort. The recent development of a prototype wireless sensor, SmartRock, made tracking the particle movement at meso-scale possible. Accordingly, this paper has the objective of applying the SmartRock sensors to monitor the motion characteristics (i.e., translation and rotation) of granular particles during the compaction process and evaluate the particle response patterns as insights into understanding the compaction mechanism of the unbound aggregate base layer. The experimental site selected was an airport runway test section, designated as the Smart Runway project located in Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Layton, Utah, United States. SmartRocks were embedded at the bottom of the granular base layer to collect particle motion data during compaction. Analysis results indicated that particle's motion behavior was closely related to the compactive effort and material properties. Compaction is a process of gaining interlocking among particles and elasticity in materials, and is achieved through the particle's three-axial angular position arrangement and vertical translation. The particle movement characteristics observed in the granular base were compared to those in asphalt mixtures, which confirmed the unique responses of bound and unbound pavement layer materials. It is suggested that the characteristics of particle rotation behavior during compaction can potentially be used as a control parameter to monitor compaction conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100764
JournalTransportation Geotechnics
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Compaction
  • Granular material
  • Particle movement
  • Particle-scale
  • Wireless sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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