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Module 1
(Lecture 4)
GEOTECHNICAL PROPERTIES OF SOIL AND OF
REINFORCED SOIL
Topics
4.1 SHEAR STRENGTH
4.1.1 Direct Shear Test
4.1.2 Triaxial Tests
4.2 UNCONFINED COMPRESSION TEST
4.3 COMMENTS ON SHEAR STRENGTH
PARAMETERS
4.1.3 Drained Friction Angle of Granular Soils
4.1.4 Drained Friction Angle of Cohesive Soils
4.4 SENSITIVITY
4.5 SOIL REINFORCEMENT-GENERAL
4.6 CONSIDERATIONS FOR SOIL REINFORCEMENT
4.1.4 Metal Strips
4.1.5 Nonbiodegradable Fabrics
4.1.6 Geogrids
4.7 PROBLEMS

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SHEAR STRENGTH
The shear strength, s, of a soil, in terms of effective stress, is
s = c + tan

[1.82]

Where
= effective normal stress on plane of shearing
c = cohesion, or apparent cohesion
= angle of friction

Equation (82) is referred to as the Mohr-Coulomb failure criteria. The value of c for
sands and normally consolidated clays is equal to zero. For overconsolidated clays, c >
0.
For most day-to-day work, the shear strength parameters of a soil (that is, c and ) are
determined by two standard laboratory tests. They are (a) the direct shear test and (b) the
triaxial test.
Direct Shear Test
Dry sand can be conveniently tested by direct shear tests. The sand is placed in a shear
box that is split into two halves (figure 1.32a). A normal load is first applied to the
specimen. Then a shear force is applied to the top half of the shear box to cause failure in
the sand. The normal and shear stresses at failure are

Figure 1.32 Direct shear test in sand: (a) schematic diagram of test equipment; (b) plot of
test results to obtain the friction angle,

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=

N
A

S=A

Where
A = Area of the failure plane in soil-that is, the area of cross section of the shear box

Several tests of this type can be conducted by varying the normal load. The angle of
friction of the sand can be determined by plotting a graph of s against (= )
s

= tan1

[1.83]

For sands, the angle of friction usually ranges from 26 to 45 , increasing with the
relative density of compaction. The approximate range of the relative density of
compaction and the corresponding range of the angle of friction for various coarsegrained soils is shown in figure 1.33.

Figure 1.33 Range of relative density and corresponding range of angle of friction for
coarse-grained soil (after U. S. Department of the Navy, 1971)
Triaxial Tests
Triaxial compression tests can be conducted on sands and clays. Figure 1.34a shows a
schematic diagram of the triaxial test arrangement. Essentially, it consists of placing a
soil specimen confined by a rubber membrane in a Lucite chamber. An all-round
confining pressure (3 ) is applied to the specimen by means of the chamber fluid
(generally water or glycerin). An added stress () can also be applied to the specimen in
the axial direction to cause failure ( = f at failure). Drainage from the specimen can
be allowed or stopped, depending on the test condition. For clays, three main types of
tests can be conducted with triaxial equipment:

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Figure 1.34 Triaxial test


1. Consolidated-drained test (CD test)
2. Consolidated-undrianed test (CU test)
3. Unconsolidated-undrained test (UU test)
Table 15 summarizes these three tests. For consolidated-drained tests, at failure,
Major Principal effective stress = 3 = f = 1 = 1

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Minor Principal effective stress = 3 = 3

Changing 3 allows several tests of this type to be conducted on various clay specimens.
The shear strength parameters (c and ) can now be determined by plotting Mohrs
circle at failure, as shown in figure 1.34b, and drawing a common tangent to the Mohrs
circles. This is the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope. (Note: For normally consolidated
clay, c 0). At failure

1 = 3 tan2 45 + 2 + 2c tan 45 + 2

[1.84]

Table 15 Summary of Triaxial Tests on Saturated Clays

For consolidated-undrained tests, at failure,


Major Principal total stress = 3 = f = 1
Minor principal total stress = 3

Major principal effective stress = (3 + f ) uf = 1


Minor principal effective stress = 3 uf = 3

Changing 3 permits multiple tests of this type to be conducted on several soil


specimens. The total stress Mohrs circles at failure can now be plotted, as shown in

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figure 1.34c, and then a common tangent can be drawn to define the failure envelope.
This total stress failure envelope is defined by the equation
s = ccu + tan cu

[1.85]

Where ccu and cu are the consolidated-undrained cohesion and angle of friction
respectively (Note: ccu 0 for normally consolidated clays)
Similarly, effective stress Mohrs circles at failure can be drawn to determine the
effective stress failure envelopes (figure 1.34c). They follow the relation expressed in
equation (82).
For unconsolidated-undrained triaxial tests
Major principal total stress= 3 = f = 1
Minor principal total stress = 3

The total stress Mohrs circle at failure can now be drawn, as shown in figure 1.34d. For
saturated clays, the value of 1 3 = f is a constant, irrespective of the chamber
confining pressure, 3 (also shown in figure 1.34d). The tangent to these Mohrs circles
will be a horizontal line, called the = 0 condition. The shear stress for this condition is
s = cu =

f
2

[1.86]

Where
cu = undrained cohesion (or undrained shear strength)

The pore pressure developed in the soil specimen during the unconsolidated-undrained
triaxial test is
u = ua + ud

[1.87]

ua = B3

[1.88]

The pore pressure ua is the contribution of the hydrostatic chamber pressure, 3 . Hence
Where
B = Skempton spore pressure parameter

Similarly, the pore pressure ud is the result of added axial stress, , so

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ud = A

[1.89]

Where
A = Skempton spore pressure parameter
However,

= 1 3

[1.90]

u = ua + ud = B3 + A1 3

[1.91]

u = 3 + A(1 3 )

[1.93a]

Combining equations (87, 88, 89, and 90) gives

The pore water pressure parameter B in soft saturated soils is 1, so

The value of the pore water pressure parameter A at failure will vary with the type of soil.
Following is a general range of the values of A at failure for various types of clayey soil
encountered in nature.

Type of soil

A at failure

Sandy clays

0.5-0.7

Normally consolidated clays

0.5-1

Overconsolidated clays

-0.5-0

Figure 1.35 shows a photograph of laboratory triaxial equipment.

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Figure 1.35 Triaxial test equipment


UNCONFINED COMPRESSION TEST
The unconfined compression test (figure 1.36a) is a special type of unconsolidatedundrained triaxial test in which the confining pressure 3 = 0, as shown in figure 1.36b.
In this test an axial stress, , is applied to the specimen to cause failure (that is, =
f ). The corresponding Mohrs circle is shown in figure 1.36b. Note that, for this case,

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Figure 1.36 Unconfined compression test: (a) soil specimen; (b) Mohrs circle for the
test; (c) variation of q u with the degree of saturation

Major principal total stress = f = q u


Minor principal total stress = 0

The axial stress at failure, f = q u is generally referred to as the unconfined


compression strength. The shear strength of saturated clays under this condition ( = 0),
from equation (82), is
s = cu =

qu
2

[1.93b]

The unconfined compression strength can be used as an indicator for the consistency of
clays.
Unconfined compression tests are sometimes conducted on unsaturated soils. With the
void ratio of a soil specimen remaining constant, the unconfined compression strength
rapidly decreases with the degree of saturation (figure 1.36c). Figure 1.37 shows an
unconfined compression test in progress.

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Figure 1.37 Unconfined compression test in progress (courtesy of Soiltest, Inc., Lake
Bluff, Illinois)
COMMENTS ON SHEAR STRENGTH PARAMETERS
Drained Friction Angle of Granular Soils
In general, the direct shear test yields a higher angle of friction compared to that obtained
by the triaxial test. It also needs to be pointed out that the failure envelope for a given soil
is actually curved. The Mohr-Coulomb failure criteria defined by equation (82) are only
an approximation. Because of the curved nature of the failure envelope, a soil tested at
higher normal stress will yield a lower value of . An example of that is shown in figure
1.38, which is a plot of versus the void ratio, e, for Chattahoochee River sand near
Atlanta, Georgia (Vesic, 1963). These friction angles were obtained from trixial tests.
Note that, for a given value of e, the magnitude of is about 4 to 5 degrees smaller when
the confining pressure 3 is greater than 10 lb/in.2 (69kN/m2 ) compared to that when
3 < 10/in.2

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Figure 1.38 Variation of friction angle with void ratio for Chattachoochee River sand
(after Vesic, 1963)

Figure 1.39 Variation of friction angle with plasticity index for several clays (after
Bjerrum and Simons, 1960)

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Drained Friction Angle of Cohesive Soils


Figure 1.39 shows the drained friction angle , for several normally consolidated clays
obtained by conducting triaxial tests (Bjerrum and Simons, 1960). It can be seen from
this figure that, in general, the friction angle decreases with the increase in plasticity
index. The value of generally decreases from about 37 38 with a plasticity index of
about 10, to about 25 or less with a plasticity index of about 100. Similar results were
also provided by Kenney (1959). The consolidated undrianed friction angle (cu ) of
normally saturated clays generally ranges from 5 20 .
The consolidated drained triaxial tests is described in section 16. Figure 1.40 shows the
schematic diagram of the plot of versus axial strain of a drained triaxial tests for a
clay. At failure, for this test, = f . However, at large axial strain (i.e., ultimate
strength condition),

Figure 1.40 Plot of deviator stress vs. axial strain-drained triaxial test

Major principal stress: 1(ult ) = 3 + ult


Minor principal stress: 3(ult ) = 3

At failure (that is, peak strength), the relationship between 1 and 3 was given by
equation (84). However, for ultimate strength, it can be shown that
1(ult ) = 3 tan2 45 +
Where

r
2

[1.94]

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r = residual drained friction angle

Figure 1.41 shows the general nature of the failure envelopes at peak strength and
ultimate strength (or residual strength). The residual shear strength of clays is important
in the evaluation of long-term stability of new and existing slopes and the design of
remedial measures. The drained friction angles (r ) of clays may be substantially smaller
than the drained peak friction angles. Figure 1.42 shows the variation of r with liquid
limit for some clays (Stark, 1995). It is important to note that

Figure 1.41 Peak and residual strength envelopes for clay

Figure 1.42 Variation of r with liquid limit for some clays (after Stark, 1995)

1. For a given clay, r decreases with the increase in liquid limit.


2. For a given liquid limit and clay-size fractions present in the soil, the magnitude
of r decreases with the increases in the normal effective stress. This is due to the
curvilinear nature of the failure envelope.

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Undrianed Shear Strength, The undrianed shear strength, cu is an important
parameter in the design of foundations. For normally consolidated clay deposits (figure
1.43), the magnitude of cu increases almost linearly with the increase of effective
overburden pressure.

Figure 1. 43 Clay deposit

There are several empirical relations between cu and the effective overburden pressure p
in the field. Some of these relationships are summarized in table 16.

Figure 1.44 Variation of cu /p with liquidity index [based on Bjerrum and Simons (1960)]

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SENSITIVITY
For many naturally deposited clay soils, the unconfined compression strength is much
less when the soils are tested after remolding without any change in the moisture content.
This property of clay soil is called sensitivity. The degree of sensitivity is the ratio of the
unconfined compression strength in an undisturbed state to that in a remolded state, or
St =

q u (undisturbed

q u (remolded )

[1.95]

Table 16 Empirical Equations Related to and Effective Overburden Pressure


Reference

Skempton
(1957)

Relationship

Remarks

cu(VST )
= 0.11 + 0.0037PI
p

For
normally
consolidated clay

PI = plasticity index (%)

cu(VST )
= undrianed shear strenth from vane shear test
(see chapter 3 for details for vane shear test)
Chadler (1988)

cu(VST )
= 0.11 + 0.0037PI
p

pc = preconsolidation pressure

Can be used for


over consolidated
soil
Accuracy 25%

Not valid or
sensitive
and
fissured clays

Jamiolkowski et
al. (1985)
Mesri (1989)
Bjerrum
and
Simons (1960)

cu
= 0.23 0.04
pc

For lightly over


consolidated
clays

cu
= f(LI)
p

See figure 1.44


for
normally
consolidated
clays

cu
= 0.22
p

LI = liquidity index

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[see equation (53b) for definition]


Ladd
et
(1977)

al.

c
pu

overconsolidated

c
pu
normally

consolidated

= (OCR)0.8

OCR = overconsolidation ratio =

pc
p

The sensitivity ratio of most clays ranges from about 1 to 8; however, highly flocculent
marine clay deposits may have sensitivity ratios ranging from about 10 to 80. Some clay
turn to viscous liquids upon remolding, and these clays are referred to as quick clays.
The loss of strength of clay soils from remolding is caused primarily by the destruction of
the clay particle structure that was developed during the original process of
sedimentation.
SOIL REINFORCEMENT-GENERAL
The use of reinforced earth is a recent development in the design and construction of
foundations and earth-retaining structures. Reinforced earth is a construction material
comprising soil that has been strengthened by tensile elements such as metal rods and/or
strips, nonbiodegradable fabrics (geotextiles), geogrids, and the like. The fundamental
idea of reinforcing soil is not new; in fact, it goes back several centuries. However, the
present concept of systematic analysis and design was developed by a French engineer,
H, Vidal (1966). The French Road Research Laboratory has done extensive research on
the applicability and the beneficial effects of the use of reinforced earth as a construction
material. This research has been documented in detail by Darbin (1970), Schlosser and
Long (1974), and Schlosser and Vidal (1969). The test conducted involved the use of
metallic strips as reinforcing material.
Retaining walls with reinforced earth have been constructed around the world since Vidal
began his work. The first reinforced earth retaining wall with metal strips as
reinforcement in the United States was constructed in 1972 in southern California.
The beneficial effects of soil reinforcement derive from (a) the soils increased tensile
strength and (b) the shear resistance developed from the friction at the soil-reinforcement
interfaces. Such reinforcement is comparable to that of concrete structures. Currently,
most reinforced earth design is done with free-draining granular soil only. Thus the effect
of pore water development in cohesive soils, which, in turn, reduces the shear strength of
the soil, is avoided.

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CONSIDERATIONS FOR SOIL REINFORCEMENT
Metal Strips
In most instances, galvanized steel strips are used as reinforcement in soil. However,
galvanized steel is subject to corrosion. The rate of corrosion depends on several
environmental factors. Binquet and Lee (1975) suggested that the average rate of
corrosion of galvanized steel strips varies between 0.025 and 0.050 mm/yr. so. In the
actual design of reinforcement, allowance must be made for the rate of corrosion. Thus
t c = t design + r(life span of structure)
Where

t c = actual thickness of reinforcing strips to be used in construction


t design = thickness of strips determined from design calculations
r = rate of corrosion

Nonbiodegradable Fabrics
Nonbiodegradable fabrics are generally referred to as geotextiles. Since 1970, the use of
geotextiles in construction has increased tremendously around the world. The fabrics are
usually made from petroleum products-polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene. They
may also be made from fiberglass. Geotextiles are not prepared from natural fabrics
because they decay too quickly. Geotextiles may be woven, knitted, or nonwoven.
Woven geotextiles are made of two sets of parallel filaments or strands of yarn
systematically interlaced to form a planar structure. Knotted geotextiles are formed by
interlocking a series of loops of one or more filaments or strands of yarn to form a planar
structure. Nonwoven geotextiles are formed from filaments or short fibers arranged in an
oriented or random pattern in a planar structure. These filaments or short fibers are, in the
beginning arranged into a loose web. They are then bonded by one or a combination of
the following processes:
1. Chemical bonding-by glue, rubber, latex, cellulose derivative, and the like
2. Thermal bonding-by heat for partial melting of filaments
3. Mechanical bonding-by needle punching
Needle-punched nonwoven geotextiles are thick and have high in plane permeability.
Geotextiles have four primary uses in foundation engineering.
1. Drainage: The fabrics can rapidly channel water from soil to various outlets,
thereby providing a higher soil shear strength and hence stability.
2. Filtration: When placed between two sol layers, one coarse grained and the other
fine grained, the fabric allows free seepage of water from one layer to the other.

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However, it protects the fine-grained soil from being washed into the coarsegrained soil.
3. Separation: Geotextiles helps keep various soil layers separate after construction
and during the projected service period of the structure. For example, in the
construction of highways, a clayey subgrade can be kept separate from a granular
base course.
4. Reinforcement: The tensile strength of geofabrics increases the load-bearing
capacity of the soil.
Geogrids
Geogrids are high-modulus polymer materials, such as polypropylene and polyethylene,
and are prepared by tensile drawing. Netlon Ltd. Of the United Kingdom was the first
producer of geogrids. In 1982, the Tensar Corporation, presently Tensar Earth
Technologies, Inc., introduced geogrids in the United States.
The major function of geogrids is reinforcement. Geogrids are relatively stiff netlike
materials with large openings called apertures. These apertures are large enough to allow
interlocking with the surrounding soil and/or rock to perform the function(s) of
reinforcement and/or segregation.
Geogrids generally are of two types: (a) biaxial geogrids and (b) unixial geogrids. Figure
1.45a and 1.45b shows the two types of geogrids just described, which are produced
byTensar Earth Technologies, Inc., Unixial TENSAR grids are manufactured by
stretching a punched sheet of extruded high-density polyethylene in one direction under
carefully controlled conditions. This process aligns the polymers long-chain molecules
in the direction of draw and results in produce with high one-directional tensile strength
and modulus. Biaxial TENSAR grids are manufactured by stretching the punched sheet
of polypropylene n two orthogonal directions. This process results in a product with high
tensile strength and modulus I two perpendicular directions. The resulting grid apertures
are
either
square
or
rectangular.

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Figure 1.45 Geogrids: (a) uniaxial; (b) biaxial (note: 1-longitudinal rib; 2-transverse bar;
3-transverse rib; 4-junction)
The commercial geogrids currently available for soil, reinforcement have nominal rib
thicknesses of about 0.02-0.06 in. (0.5-1.5 mm) and junctions of about 0.1-0.2 in. (2.5-5
mm). The grids used for sol reinforcement usually have apertures that are rectangular or
elliptical in shape. The dimensions of the apertures vary from about 1-6 in. (25-150 mm).
geogrids are manufactured so that the open areas of the grids are greater than 50% of the
total area. They develop reinforcing strength at low strain levels, such as 2% (Carroll,
1988). Table 17 gives some properties of the TENSAR biaxial geogrids currently
available commercially.

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Table 17 Properties of TENSAR Biaxial Geogrids
Geogrid
Property

BX 1000

BX 1100

BX 1200

1 in. (nominal)

1 in. (nominal)

1 in. (nominal)

1.3 in. (nominal)

1.3 in. (nominal)

1.3 in. (nominal)

70% (minimum)

74% (nominal)

77% (nominal)

0.09 in. (nominal)

0.11 in. (nominal)

0.16 in. (nominal)

Aperture size
Machine direction
Cross-machine
direction
Open area
Junction
Thickness
Tensile modulus
Machine direction
Cross-machine
direction

12,500
(minimum)

lb/ft 14,5000
(minimum)

lb/ft 18,500
(minimum)

lb/ft

12,500
(minimum)

lb/ft 20,000
(minimum)

lb/ft 30,000
(minimum)

lb/ft

Material
Polypropylene

97% (minimum)

99% (nominal)

99% (nominal)

Carbon black

2% (minimum)

1% (nominal)

1% (nominal)