Estimating the soil-water characteristic curve using grain size analysis and plasticity index

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The infrastructure is built in Unsaturated Soils. However, the geotechnical practitioners insist in designing the structures based on Saturated Soil Mechanics. The design of structures based on unsaturated soil mechanics

The infrastructure is built in Unsaturated Soils. However, the geotechnical practitioners insist in designing the structures based on Saturated Soil Mechanics. The design of structures based on unsaturated soil mechanics is desirable because it reduces cost and it is by far a more sustainable approach. The research community has identified the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve as the most important soil property when dealing with unsaturated conditions. This soil property is unpopular among practitioners because the laboratory testing takes an appreciable amount of time. Several authors have attempted predicting the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve; however, most of the published predictions are based on a very limited soil database. The National Resources Conservation Service has a vast database of engineering soil properties with more than 36,000 soils, which includes water content measurements at different levels of suctions. This database was used in this study to validate two existing models that based the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve prediction on statistical analysis. It was found that although the predictions are acceptable for some ranges of suctions; they did not performed that well for others. It was found that the first model validated was accurate for fine-grained soils, while the second model was best for granular soils. For these reasons, two models to estimate the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve are proposed. The first model estimates the fitting parameters of the Fredlund and Xing (1994) function separately and then, the predicted parameters are fitted to the Fredlund and Xing function for an overall estimate of the degree of saturation. Results show an overall improvement on the predicted values when compared to existing models. The second model is based on the relationship between the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve and the Pore-Size Distribution of the soils. The process allows for the prediction of the entire Soil-Water Characteristic Curve function and proved to be a better approximation than that used in the first attempt. Both models constitute important tools in the implementation of unsaturated soil mechanics into engineering practice due to the link of the prediction with simple and well known engineering soil properties.