Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Civil Engineering (M.S.C.E.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Rajan Sen, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Abla Zayed, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael J. Stokes, Ph.D.


Downhole Device, Drilling Mud, Drill Fluid, Excavation Stabilization, Wet Construction


Slurry is the fluid within a drilled excavation that is introduced when an excavation is deeper than the water table or where additional stability is needed for loose sandy dry soils. Although construction practices vary greatly throughout the country and the world, slurry levels should be maintained above the existing ground water level by a suitable margin. The most widely used slurry type is mineral slurry formed by mixing dry clay powder with water; either bentonite or attapulgite powder may be used (attapulgite being used in saline water conditions). Regardless of whether the slurry material is mineral, polymer or natural, the construction practice must address the slurry properties to ensure the stability of the excavation is never compromised.

Proper performance of slurries used to stabilize drilled shaft excavations is maintained by assuring the density, viscosity, pH, and sand content stay within specified limits. These limits have been set either by past experience, research findings and/or by manufacturer recommended values. However, field slurry testing is time consuming as all measurements are manually performed. With the overwhelming advances in digital down-hole devices, it is not unreasonable to assume that slurry property tests are equally applicable to this trend. This formed the basis of this project.

The most commonly used test to indicate slurry viscosity is the Marsh Funnel Test which is essentially a timed flow for a fixed volume of slurry to exit a falling head funnel. Using a library of unique pressure versus flow rate responses for a wide range of slurry viscosities, an automated downhole device was designed and tested that incorporated this information to estimate viscosity in the excavation without the need to remove slurry in order to test. Direct measurement of slurry density was also incorporated into the device and the sand content was computed from density and the viscosity where the suspended solids that make up the density stems from both the slurry products and the soil cuttings.