Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, 2014, 2, 296-303
Published Online May 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/jamp
How to cite this paper: Salah, H., Omar, M. and Shanableh, A. (2014) Estimating Unconfined Compressive Strength of Se-
dimentary Rocks in United Arab Emirates from Point Load Strength Index. Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, 2,
Estimating Unconfined Compressive
Strength of Sedimentary Rocks in United
Arab Emirates from Point Load Strength
Hussain Salah, Maher Omar, Abdallah Shanableh
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, UAE
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received February 2014
In this paper, three rock types including Sandstone, Mudstone, and Crystalline Gypsum were part
of a laboratory study conducted to develop a dataset for predicting the unconfined compressive
strength of UAE intact sedimentary rock specimens. Four hundred nineteen rock samples from
various areas along the coastal region of the UAE were collected and tested for the development of
this dataset and evaluation of models. From the statistical analysis of the data, regression equa-
tions were established among rock parameters and correlations were expressed and compared by
the ones proposed in literature.
Sedimentary Rocks, United Arab Emirates, Unconfined Compressive Strength, Point Load Strength
Index, Regression Analysis
A closer look at the development projects and construction boom that occurred in the last decade in the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) gives thoughtful considerations about the construction of such major projects. In every
construction project, geotechnical investigations are carried out to determine how the components of the project
that interact with the soil and rock should proceed. Geotechnical investigations vary in complexity and prices;
some of them require days of sophisticated work, complex procedures to be followed and fortunes of money to
be spent. Therefore, geotechnical engineers thought about devising easier, less sophisticated and cheaper ways
to estimate results of some important geotechnical parameters. Estimation of such parameters is also needed to
overcome sampling and handling problems. Estimation of parameters is typically done through generating em-
pirical correlations that simplify estimation of the values of parameters with considerations to safety and effi-
One of the most important rock parameters is the unconfined compressive strength (UCS). It is used widely in
H. Salah et al.
rock classifications like Rock Mass Rating (RMR), analysis and design of rock related structures. Here, special
sample preparation is involved. In the case of sedimentary rocks, UCS testing becomes harder due to the fact
that the recovered rocks are sometimes of such geometric parameters that they are not allowed by the code to
have the test performed on them, or some rocks fail in the preparation stage before performing the UCS test.
Therefore, the need of a way to determine this important parameter arises. Moreover, due to the lack of informa-
tion on local rocks, the main purpose of this work is to generate empirical relations between UCS of sedimentary
rocks of UAE and the point load strength index Is(50) of these samples. For the sake of fulfillment of this study,
419 samples were collected from different places in the UAE, especially the coastal zone, to statistically relate
UCS with point load strength index.
2. Previous Investigations
An interesting study was conducted by G. Tsiambaos and N. Sabatakakis  on the strength of intact sedimen-
tary rocks, which aimed to find correlations between point load strength index Is(50) with UCS and Hoek-Brown
material constant (mi). In their study, sedimentary rocks from Greece where used. They compared their work to
previous work of Bieniawski and the International Society of Rock Mechanics (ISRM). They concluded that the
relation between point load index and UCS could be presented through three different models. The first linear
model is shown in Figure 1; gave an acceptable value of R2 of 0.75 and their result was similar to the one found
by Bieniawski and the ISRM. The power model was the second one also shown in Figure 1 as the dashed curve.
This model showed a better relationship as R2 was 0.82. The categorized linear model shown in Figure 2 was
Figure 1 . Linear and power models found .
Figure 2 . Categorized correlation .
H. Salah et al.
the third one. They have observed that the point load index could be categorized into three different classes (I, II
and III). For each class a conversion factor was assigned to multiply with the point load strength index value in
order to get the UCS value.
The ASTM D-5731-08 presented a correlation between UCS and Is(50) which is dependent on a site specific
conversion factor (C) to multiply with the point load strength index value in order to get the UCS value. If no
data about (C) was available, the code gives generalized values for (C) acquired from the ISRM suggested me-
thods for determining point load strength. These values are given in Table 1.
Broch and Franklin  found out that for 50 mm diameter cores the uniaxial compressive strength is approx-
imately equal to 24 times the point load index. They also developed a size correction chart so that core of vari-
ous diameters could be used for strength determination. Another study by D’Andrea et al.  relating uniaxial
compression and the point load tests on a variety of rocks. They found the following linear regression model to
correlate the UCS and Is(50).
3. The UCS Test
There are three types of compressive strength tests of rocks as defined by Jaegar et al. ; the first is the UCS
where only the axial load is applied to a rock sample and no lateral loads of any type are applied, mathematically
speaking (σ1 > 0, σ2 = σ3 = 0); the second is the triaxial loading where not only axial loading is applied on the
rock sample, but also equal lateral loading is applied on the other two dimensions, mathematically speaking (σ1 >
σ2 = σ3); the third is the true triaxial loading, similar to triaxial loading but the difference being that lateral loads
are not equal, mathematically speaking (σ1 > σ2 > σ3). Figure 3 illustrates the different compression types: (a)
Implies UCS, (b) implies triaxial loading and (c) implies true triaxial loading.
The UCS test is commonly used as an easy and less sophisticated among all three compression test types.
Other tests are also needed if further understanding of rock failure in semi-natural cases is required. In general,
rock triaxial and true triaxial are seldom performed in the UAE. Testing was performed in accordance with the
American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) code number D2938-02  requirements. Although this
code was withdrawn in the year 2005 by the ASTM, the replacement code number ASTM-D7012-10 , which
is the unconfined compressive strength (UCS) and modulus of elasticity (E) testing procedures, specifies that the
details of the testing procedure is acquired from the withdrawn code and using it is recommended. The follow-
Figure 3 . Different compression states of rocks  .
Table 1. Gen eralized values of (C), .
Core Size (mm) Generalized Value of (C)
H. Salah et al.
ing Equation (1) is used to determine the UCS, Where (Pu) is the ultimate load and (d) is the sample’s diameter:
4. Point Load Test
The ASTM-D5731-08  code gave a clear justification for the use of the point load test. The code started its
justification by giving statements about the time and money spent on performing a UCS test and recommended
the use of simpler in-situ tests of which the point load test was one of them. The code also stated that this test
can be used as an indexing method for rock classification. It is good to mention here that the diametral testing
procedure was used for all cylindrical rock cores cut to perform this test. The point load strength index Is(50) is
determined as per the following Equation (2), where Pu is the failure load and De is the effective diameter which
is the core diameter for diametral test
5. Results and Discussion
In this study, 419 rock samples were collected from various areas along the coastal region of the UAE. A statis-
tical summary of the test results are shown in Table 2.
As many models can be identified, the power model was the best fit to describe the relation between UCS and
Is(50) with an R2 value of 0.68 as shown in Figure 4 for all rock types and strengths (AA). Another model of im-
portance was the linear model; even though it gave lower R2 value of 0.63 but the equation generated is of big
importance for comparison with the standardized equations for the determination of UCS. Other relationships
developed for different soil types and strengths are summarized in Table 3 and some are shown in Figures 5-10.
To evaluate the capabilities of present proposed correlations, generated values were plotted versus measured
values and compared with previous studies. Correlations developed by ASTM/ISRM, Tsiambaos and Sabataka-
kis  were selected for comparison and shown in Figure 11.
Figure 4. All rock types and strengths, (AA).
Table 2. Statistical summary of test results.
Statistic Point Load Strength Index Is(50) (MP a ) UCS (MPa)
Minimum 0.017 0.540
Maximum 1.856 22.606
Mea n 0.434 4.614
Standard Deviation 0.386 3.756
H. Salah et al.
Figure 5. UCS vs. IS (50) relation, AV case.
Figure 6. UCS vs. IS(5 0) relation, AW case.
Table 3. Summary of other relations between UCS and Is(50) (MP a ).
Case Equation: UCS = R2
All types, very weak, (AV) 5.833 √Is(50) 0.73
All types, weak, (AW) 5.414 exp(0.57 Is(50)) 0.69
All strengths Crystalline Gypsum, (CA) 11.08 Is(50) 0.69
Weak Crystalline Gypsum, (CW) 11.24 Is(50) 0.55
All strengths Mudstone, (MA) 6.050 √Is(50) 0.71
Very weak Mudstone, (MV) 5.953 √Is(50) 0.7
All strengths Sandstone, (SA) 7.701 Is(50) 0.72
Very weak Sandstone, (SV) 5.679 √Is(50) 0.8
Weak Sandstone, (SW) 8.170 √Is(50) 0.44
H. Salah et al.
Figure 7. UCS vs. IS(5 0) relation, CA case.
Figure 8. UCS vs. IS(5 0) relation, CW case.
Figure 9. UCS vs. IS ( 5 0) relation, MA case.
UCS = 11.08 Is(50)
UCS = 11.24 I
UCS = 6.050 sqrt(Is(50))
H. Salah et al.
Figure 10. UCS vs. IS(50) relation, SV case.
Figure 11. Comparison with other studies for point load strength index.
A critical review on the correlations shows that generated relationships in this study and Tsiambaos and Sa-
batakakis can predict UCS much better than correlation proposed by AST M/I SRM for UAE rocks as it gives
more of a conservative design values. In fact, in comparison to the observed UCS.
Four hundred nineteen rock samples from various areas along the coastal region of the UAE were collected and
tested for the development of this dataset and evaluation of models. From the statistical analysis of the data, re-
gression equations were established among rock parameters and correlations were expressed and compared by
the ones proposed in literature. T hrough a critical review on some recent correlations for UCS prediction, it was
observed that generated relationships for UAE rocks and those from Tsiambaos and Sabatakakis can predict
UCS much better than correlation proposed by ASTM/ISRM as it gives more of a conservative design values.
 Tsiambaos, G. and Sabatakakis, N. (2004) Considerations on Strength of Intact Sedimentary Rocks. Engineering Ge-
UCS = 5.679 sqrt(I
H. Salah et al.
ology, 72, 261 -27 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2003.10.001
 American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (2008) Standard Test Method for Determination of the Point Load
Strength Index of Rock and Application to Rock Strength Classifications, D5731-08.
 Broch, E. and Fr a n kl in , J. (1972) International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences, 9, 669-697.
 D’Andrea, D.V., Fischer, R.L. and Fogelson, D.E. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Report of Investi-
gations. 6702, 1-23.
 Jaeger, J., et al. (2007) Deformation and Failure of Rocks . Fundamentals of Rock Mechanics. 4th Edition, Blackwell
 American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (2002) Standard Test Method for Unconfined Compressive
Strength of Intact Rock Core Specimens, D2938-95(R02).
 American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (2008) Standard Practices for Preparing Rock Core as Cylindrical
Test Specimens and Verifying Conformance to Dimensional and Shape Tolerances, D4543-08.
 American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM ) (2010) Standard Test Method for Compressive Strength and Elas-
tic Moduli of Intact Rock Core Specimens under Varying States of Stress and Temperatures , D7012-10.