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Laboratory determination of hydraulic conductivity functions for unsaturated cracked fine grained soil

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In geotechnical engineering, measuring the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of fine grained soils can be time consuming and tedious. The various applications that require knowledge of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity

In geotechnical engineering, measuring the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of fine grained soils can be time consuming and tedious. The various applications that require knowledge of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function are great, and in geotechnical engineering, they range from modeling seepage through landfill covers to determining infiltration of water under a building slab. The unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function can be measured using various direct and indirect techniques. The instantaneous profile method has been found to be the most promising unsteady state method for measuring the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function for fine grained soils over a wide range of suction values. The instantaneous profile method can be modified by using different techniques to measure suction and water content and also through the way water is introduced or removed from the soil profile. In this study, the instantaneous profile method was modified by creating duplicate soil samples compacted into cylindrical tubes at two different water contents. The techniques used in the duplicate method to measure the water content and matric suction included volumetric moisture probes, manual water content measurements, and filter paper tests. The experimental testing conducted in this study provided insight into determining the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity using the instantaneous profile method for a sandy clay soil and recommendations are provided for further evaluation. Overall, this study has demonstrated that the presence of cracks has no significant impact on the hydraulic behavior of soil in high suction ranges. The results of this study do not examine the behavior of cracked soil unsaturated hydraulic conductivity at low suction and at moisture contents near saturation.

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  • 2011

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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.

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  • 2011

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Volume change consideration in determining appropriate unsaturated soil properties for geotechnical applications

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Unsaturated soil mechanics is becoming a part of geotechnical engineering practice, particularly in applications to moisture sensitive soils such as expansive and collapsible soils and in geoenvironmental applications. The soil

Unsaturated soil mechanics is becoming a part of geotechnical engineering practice, particularly in applications to moisture sensitive soils such as expansive and collapsible soils and in geoenvironmental applications. The soil water characteristic curve, which describes the amount of water in a soil versus soil suction, is perhaps the most important soil property function for application of unsaturated soil mechanics. The soil water characteristic curve has been used extensively for estimating unsaturated soil properties, and a number of fitting equations for development of soil water characteristic curves from laboratory data have been proposed by researchers. Although not always mentioned, the underlying assumption of soil water characteristic curve fitting equations is that the soil is sufficiently stiff so that there is no change in total volume of the soil while measuring the soil water characteristic curve in the laboratory, and researchers rarely take volume change of soils into account when generating or using the soil water characteristic curve. Further, there has been little attention to the applied net normal stress during laboratory soil water characteristic curve measurement, and often zero to only token net normal stress is applied. The applied net normal stress also affects the volume change of the specimen during soil suction change. When a soil changes volume in response to suction change, failure to consider the volume change of the soil leads to errors in the estimated air-entry value and the slope of the soil water characteristic curve between the air-entry value and the residual moisture state. Inaccuracies in the soil water characteristic curve may lead to inaccuracies in estimated soil property functions such as unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. A number of researchers have recently recognized the importance of considering soil volume change in soil water characteristic curves. The study of correct methods of soil water characteristic curve measurement and determination considering soil volume change, and impacts on the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function was of the primary focus of this study. Emphasis was placed upon study of the effect of volume change consideration on soil water characteristic curves, for expansive clays and other high volume change soils. The research involved extensive literature review and laboratory soil water characteristic curve testing on expansive soils. The effect of the initial state of the specimen (i.e. slurry versus compacted) on soil water characteristic curves, with regard to volume change effects, and effect of net normal stress on volume change for determination of these curves, was studied for expansive clays. Hysteresis effects were included in laboratory measurements of soil water characteristic curves as both wetting and drying paths were used. Impacts of soil water characteristic curve volume change considerations on fluid flow computations and associated suction-change induced soil deformations were studied through numerical simulations. The study includes both coupled and uncoupled flow and stress-deformation analyses, demonstrating that the impact of volume change consideration on the soil water characteristic curve and the estimated unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function can be quite substantial for high volume change soils.

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  • 2013

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Introducing unsaturated soil mechanics to undergraduate students through the net stress concepts

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The purpose of this research was to introduce unsaturated soil mechanics to the undergraduate geotechnical engineering course in a concise and easy to understand manner. Also, it was essential to

The purpose of this research was to introduce unsaturated soil mechanics to the undergraduate geotechnical engineering course in a concise and easy to understand manner. Also, it was essential to develop unsaturated soil mechanics teaching material that merges smoothly into current undergraduate curriculum and with sufficient flexibility for broad adaptation by faculty. The learning material consists of three lecture modules and a laboratory module. The lecture modules introduced soil mechanics for the general 3-phase medium condition with the saturated soil as a special case. The three lecture modules that were developed are (1) the stress state variables for unsaturated soils, (2) soil-water characteristic curves, and (3) axis translation. A PowerPoint presentation was created to present each module in an easy to understand manner so that the students will enjoy the learning material. Along with the lecture modules, a laboratory module was developed that reinforced the key aspects and concepts for unsaturated soil behavior. A laboratory manual was created for the Tempe Pressure Cell and Fredlund SWC-150 device (one-dimensional oedometer pressure plate device) in order to give the instructor and institution a choice of which testing equipment best fits their program. Along with the laboratory manuals, an analysis guide was created to help students with constructing SWCCs from their laboratory. A soil type recommendation was also researched for use in the laboratory module. The soil ensured acceptably short equilibrium times along with a wide range or suction values controllable by both testing equipment (Tempe Pressure Cell and Fredlund SWC-150). A silt type soil material was recommended for the laboratory module. As a part of this research, a smooth transition from unsaturated to saturated condition was demonstrated through laboratory volume change experiments using a silt soil tested in an oedometer-type pressure plate device. Three different experiments were conducted: (1) volume change for unsaturated soils in response to suction and net normal stress change, (2) volume change for saturated soils in response to effective stress change, as determined using unsaturated soils testing equipment, and (3) traditional consolidation tests on saturated soil using a conventional consolidometer device.

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Date Created
  • 2013