Laboratory of Applied Geology

Short history of the Laboratorio di Geologia Applicata

The Laboratorio di Geologia Applicata (laboratory of applied geology) was created by Prof. Marcello Zalaffi at the end of the 1960s. At the time, the Istituto di Geologia e Paleontologia (Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, now Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Department of Earth Sciences) bought some equipment to conduct in-situ and lab activities with a view to characterising the deposits of the Tiber river plain (near the Fiumicino airport). The equipment would later represent the fundamental part of the laboratory: triaxial cells and control panel (from GEONOR, Norway); numerous oedometers; three direct shear test machines and other geotechnical equipment, including two presses. In the 1970s-1980s, Professors Rinaldo Genevois, Roberto Mortari and Alberto Prestininzi actively cooperated in developing and modernising the laboratory, supported by three technical specialists: Ronconi, Iuzzolini and Mannozzi. Data loggers (Geomatic, manufactured by F. Belladonna, Rome) were also put in place to collect and store experimental data. In the 1990s, the laboratory was refurbished and fitted with a new triaxial panel, as well as with equipment for in-situ and lab tests on rocks. In those years, Professors Giovanni Valentini, Francesca Bozzano and Gabriele Scarascia Mugnozza, together with the above-mentioned Prof. Prestininzi, gave their contribution to the laboratory activities. More recently, after further revamping efforts and acquisition of geophysical equipment for seismometric recording, the laboratory has been used by Professors Salvatore Martino and Carlo Esposito, as well as by Luigi Stedile and Luigi Marino (graduated technical specialists). Finally, since 2010, the laboratory has worked in synergy with the CERI Research Centre (Prediction, Prevention and Mitigation of Geological Risks) of the Sapienza University of Rome. Plenty of students (many of whom have become successful professional geologists) have attended the laboratory to prepare their degree and Ph.D. theses, keeping alive a resource that is vital to the teaching and research activities of the Department of Earth Sciences.

Services provided by the laboratory

The laboratory gives support to the Department’s teaching and research activities concerning the physico-mechanical characterisation of soils and rocks via lab and in-situ tests.
In March 2014, the laboratory started putting in place a Quality Management System (certified by an independent and accredited third party) under the UNI EN ISO 9001 standard and the EN 17025 standard (general organisation and management of the laboratory) and drafting its own Quality Manual. After completing the process, failing technical or infrastructural constraints, the Department will file an application with the Central Technical Service of the Consiglio Superiore dei Lavori Pubblici (Higher Council of Public Works) in order to be authorised for carrying out and certifying tests on soils (Sector A) pursuant to circular- letter no. 7618/STC of 8 Sept. 2010 issued by the same Consiglio. After obtaining the authorisation, the laboratory will publish its fees for third-party services (by the end of 2015).

Services for research and teaching:


Physico-Chemical Characterisation
particle-size analysis of soils [AGI 1994, ASTM D 422-63 (2007)]
weight per unit of volume (AGI 1994, BS 1377, CNR BU XII No. 63)
laboratory determination of water (moisture) content of soil and rock by mass (ASTM D 2216-10, CNR UNI 10008)
specific gravity of soil solids by water pycnometer (ASTM D854-10)
liquid limit, plastic limit and plasticity index of soils (ASTM D4318-10, CNR UNI 10008, BS 137)
shrinkage factors of soils by the wax method (ASTM D4943-08)
rapid determination of carbonate content of soils [ASTM D4373-02 (2007)]
moisture, ash and organic matter of peat and other organic soils (ASTM D2974-13)
laboratory compaction characteristics of soil using standard or modified effort (ASTM D698-12, D1557-12)

Mechanical Characterisation
unconfined compressive strength of cohesive soil (UCS) (ASTM D2166-13)
consolidated drained triaxial compression test (CD) for cohesive soils (ASTM D4767-11, AGI 1994)
consolidated undrained triaxial compression test (CU) (ASTM D4767-11, AGI 1994)
unconsolidated-undrained triaxial compression test (UU) [ASTM D2850-03a (2007)]
test for permeability of granular soils (constant head) [ASTM D2434-68 (2006)]
permeability test, falling head permeameter
permeability test in oedometer cell
permeability test in triaxial cell
test for one-dimensional consolidation properties of soils using incremental loading (ASTM D2435-11)
CBR (California Bearing Ratio) of laboratory-compacted soils (CBR CNR UNI 10009, ASTM D1883-07)
laboratory miniature vane shear test for saturated fine-grained clayey soil (CNR UNI 10009, ASTM D4648-05)
torsional ring shear test to determine drained residual shear strength of cohesive soils (ASTM D6467-13)
direct shear test of soils under consolidated drained conditions (ASTM D3080-11)


water content (ISRM, 1977; ASTM D2216-10)
petrographic description of rocks (ISRM, 1978)
determination of bulk and real density (ISRM, 1977, CNR BU XII no. 63)
measure of total and effective porosity (ISRM, 1977)
laboratory determination of pulse velocities and ultrasonic elastic constants of rock (ISRM, 1978; ASTM D2845-08)
determination of the point load strength index of rock and application to rock strength classifications (ISRM, 1985; ASTM D5731-08)
frost-proof test


quantitative description of discontinuities in rock masses (ISRM, 1978)
determination of the Schmidt hammer rebound hardness: revised version (ISRM, 2009; ASTM D5873-14)
determination of the point load strength index of rock and application to rock strength classifications (ASTM D5731-08, ISRM 1985)
density and unit weight of soil in place by sand-cone or the rubber balloon method (ASTM D1556-07, ASTM D2167-08, AASHTO T205, CNR 22-72)