Zheng Numerical Modeling
2013

© All Rights Reserved

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Zheng 2013-Numerical Modeling of Wetting-Induced Settlement of Embankments

Zheng Numerical Modeling
2013

© All Rights Reserved

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333

Yewei Zheng1, S.M. ASCE, Kianoosh Hatami2, M. ASCE, P.Eng. and Gerald A.

Miller3, M. ASCE, P.E.

1

Graduate Research Assistant, School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of

Oklahoma, 202 West Boyd Street, Room 334, Norman, OK 73019; zhengyewei@ou.edu

2

(Corresponding Author) Associate Professor, School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science,

University of Oklahoma, 202 West Boyd Street, Room 334, Norman, OK 73019; kianoosh@ou.edu

3

Professor, School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, 202 West

Water infiltration can weaken the embankments, resulting in excessive deformations

and/or embankment slope failure. In this study, the Barcelona Basic Model (BBM)

was implemented in the computer program FLAC (2D) to simulate the behavior of

unsaturated soils. The BBM implementation in FLAC was verified using analytical

results available in the literature. The verified BBM model in FLAC was then used to

simulate the wetting-induced response of an example unsaturated embankment due to

complete saturation as a worst-case scenario for the embankment design. It is shown

that the magnitudes of wetting-induced deformations in the embankment could result

in measurable amount of differential settlement in the embankment and even

embankment slope failure.

INTRODUCTION

Wetting-induced collapse settlement of embankments is a pervasive problem

around the world that leads to costly damages to infrastructure facilities including

roadways and bridges (e.g. the bridge approach slabs and parapet walls, distresses in

the pavement and embankment slope failure). Consequences of embankment collapse

settlement problems cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually in

repair and reconstruction of failed slopes and facilities.

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334

Lawton et al. (1992) determined that nearly all types of compacted soils can be

susceptible to collapse under proper conditions. The compacted fills of embankments

are typically in an unsaturated state. The wetting process of the embankment fill due to

water infiltration can occur as a result of rising of water table, rainfall and/or flooding,

resulting in wetting-induced deformations of embankments.

In this paper, the Barcelona Basic Model (BBM) is used as a constitutive model to

simulate the collapse behavior of unsaturated soils. The BBM is implemented in the

finite difference computer program FLAC (Itasca 2005) and is verified against

published analytical results. The wetting-induced response of an example unsaturated

embankment is then simulated using the verified BBM model in FLAC and the results

are discussed.

IMPLEMENTATION OF BARCELONA BASIC MODEL (BBM) IN FLAC

The Barcelona Basic Model (BBM) proposed by Alonso et al. (1990) is a

constitutive model for unsaturated soils. It is an extension of the Modified Cam-Clay

(MCC) model to include the influence of soil suction on its stiffness and strength.

The BBM includes two independent stress variables: the net normal stress (-ua)

and suction (ua-uw), where is the total stress, ua is the pore-air pressure, and uw is the

pore-water pressure. The implementation of BBM in FLAC is subject to certain

assumptions: the pore-air pressure is assumed to remain constant and equal to zero,

which is true for most practical engineering problems. Therefore, the net normal stress

is expressed as the total stress, and the soil suction is a variable that influences the soil

stiffness and strength.

In the BBM, both the net normal stress and suction can induce strain in the soil.

The incremental strains induced by the net normal stress are divided into two

components: elastic strain (d e) and plastic strain (d p). On the other hand,

incremental strains due to loss of suction (d s) are volumetric elastic strains which are

induced as a result of wetting. Hence, the total strain increment (d) in the soil can be

written as:

d = d e + d p + d s

(1)

Stress-Induced Elastic Strain

The volumetric and deviatoric elastic strain increments due to net stress are

respectively defined as:

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335

d ve =

1

dp

K

(2)

d qe =

1

dq

3G

(3)

where K and G are the soil bulk modulus and shear modulus, respectively.

The yield surface in the p - q plane, f, is defined as:

f = q 2 M 2 ( p + ps )( p0 p ) = 0

(4)

where

ps = ks

(5)

p0

p0* [ (0) ]/[ ( s ) ]

=

(

)

pc

pc

(6)

(7)

In equations 4 through 7, p and q are net mean stress and deviatoric stress, respectively,

M is the slope of the critical state line, s is the matric suction, ps is the soil cohesion at

suction s, po is the preconsolidation pressure at suction s, p*o is the preconsolidation

pressure for saturated condition, pc is a reference pressure, (0) is the slope of the

normally consolidated line (NCL) for saturated condition, (s) is the slope of the NCL

at suction s, is the slope of the swelling line, and r and are parameters that control

the soil stiffness as a result of change in suction.

In the BBM used in this study, an associate flow rule was used to calculate the

plastic volumetric strain increment (dvp). Once the yielding occurs, the evolution of

the preconsolidation pressure is controlled by a hardening law defined as:

dp0*

1+ e

=

d vp

*

p0 (0)

(8)

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336

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Suction-Induced Strain

In a wetting-induced deformation problem, the wetting path is in fact a suction

unloading process. At any point during the analysis, the current suction value is

assumed to be smaller than or equal to the maximum suction s0 ever experienced by

the soil in the past. Hence, the soil remains in the elastic region in the p - s plane during

the course of wetting. Rutqvist et al. (2011) determined the suction-induced strain by

adding an equivalent mean stress increment to the net mean stress. This method was

adopted in this study to determine suction-induced strains in the BBM.

The suction-induced volumetric strain is calculated as (Rutqvist et al. 2011):

d vs =

1

ds

Ks

(9)

Ks =

(1 + e)( s + patm )

(10)

to the suction-induced elastic strain. The equivalent mean stress increment is:

dp s = Kd vs =

K

ds

Ks

(11)

through computational subroutines by adding the equivalent mean stress increment dp

s

to normal stresses xx, yy and zz.

The BBM implementation in FLAC was verified against the data from the

published literature. In studying wetting-induced deformation problems, the wetting

paths are the primary focus of the analysis. Alonso et al. (1990) reported three

well-defined wetting paths AB (1), CD (2) and EF (3) in a BBM model prediction case

study (Case 1) as shown in Figure 1. An ideal reference soil was subjected to isotropic

compression in a triaxial stress space in Case 1. All three stress paths shown start from

Point A which represents an initial net mean stress p = 0.15 MPa and suction s = 0.2

MPa. The wetting processes take place at three different confining pressures: 0.15,

0.35 and 0.6 MPa, resulting in wetting-induced volumetric deformation in the soil.

Geo-Congress 2013

337

0.25

Suction (MPa)

0.20

0.15

E

2

0.10

0.05

0.00

B

0.1

D

0.2

0.3

F

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

2.0

B

Specific Voulme

Model parameters of the reference soil as reported by Alonso et al. (1990) are

summarized in Table 1. An axisymmetric single element model was used to simulate

the triaxial tests on the soil. The isotropic compressive loading was simulated in a

strain-controlled condition in all directions. The wetting path was simulated by

decreasing the soil suction from 0.2 MPa to zero at constant net mean stress.

1.9

2,3

C

1

1.8

3

E

1,2

1.7

FLAC Results

Alonso et al. (1990)

1.6

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

Reported by Alonso et al. (1990)

Figure 2 shows an overall satisfactory agreement between the predicted FLAC

results and Alonsos analytical data (BBM) with respect to both magnitudes and trends.

However, the FLAC results slightly overpredict the collapse volumetric deformation.

Results in Figure 2 also indicate that some swelling occurs as a result of wetting at low

Geo-Congress 2013

338

p0*

Model

G

s

k

r

M

(MPa)

Parameters (MPa)

RSa

10

1

0.2 0.02

0.2

0.008 0.6 0.75

b

CK

3.3

0.82 0.14 0.015 0.055 0.01 1.24 0.26

a

RS: Reference soil (Alonso et al. 1990) used for model verification

b

CK: Compacted kaolin (Josa et al. 1988) used in numerical example

(MPa-1)

12.5

16.4

NUMERICAL EXAMPLE

After the implementation of the BBM in FLAC was verified, the model was used to

study wetting-induced deformations of an example embankment model. A compacted

kaolin soil with well-documented properties (Josa 1988) was selected as the

compacted fill of the example embankment. The compacted kaolin was low to

moderately plastic (wP = 26.9%, wL = 38.7%; USCS Classification: ML). The BBM

model parameters for the compacted kaolin were calibrated by Alonso et al. (1990) as

summarized in Table 1.

The example embankment was 10 m high with a 1V:2H slope. The foundation soil

was assumed to be the same as the embankment fill with a thickness of 5 m in a

saturated condition. Figure 3 shows the finite difference grid of the embankment

geometry in the example. The side boundaries of the model were fixed in the

horizontal direction but allowed for vertical displacement of the embankment. The

bottom boundary was fixed in both horizontal and vertical directions.

The embankment soil was modeled using the BBM with an initial suction value of

200 kPa for which the soil at the foundation level of the embankment was slightly

overconsolidated. A Mohr-Coulomb model was used for the foundation soil with a

saturated friction angle of 21.1. In the first stage of analysis, the foundation soil was

brought to equilibrium under gravitational stresses. The 10 m embankment fill with an

initial suction value of 200 kPa was then constructed on the foundation soil by 5 lifts

and the deformations of the entire model under gravity loading were calculated.

Finally, the wetting-induced deformation of the embankment was calculated by

decreasing the soil suction to zero to represent a completely saturated condition as the

worst-case scenario for the embankment design.

Geo-Congress 2013

339

Embankment-Foundation Model

Results and Discussion

Figures 4 and 5 show displacement vectors in the embankment-foundation model

at equilibriums under self-weight loading and full saturation stages, respectively.

Under self-weight loading, the settlement at the top of the embankment at its centerline

is 51 mm. After the embankment becomes fully saturated, the settlement at the top

(centerline) reaches 154 mm. The wetting-induced deformation in this paper is defined

as the deformation due to wetting beyond the magnitude attained after self-weight

equilibrium. Hence, the predicted wetting-induced settlement at the top of the

embankment at its centerline is 103 mm. Results in Figure 5 indicate that not only the

magnitudes of the displacement vectors increase as a result of wetting, but also the

displacement vectors of the embankment slope tend to move outward. The horizontal

displacement at the toe of the embankment slope reaches 64 mm as compared to a

mere 10 mm under self-weight loading. Excessive lateral deformation of the slope

could result in slope failure. In the example shown in Figure 5, the wetting-induced

horizontal displacement of the embankment slope is fairly large, which indicates a

high probability of embankment slope failure.

Geo-Congress 2013

340

Figure 6 shows velocity vectors and a contour map of shear strain rates within the

embankment following full saturation. The velocity vectors in the embankment also

indicate the tendency of the slope to move outward. The magnitudes of shear strain

rate within the embankment show a coalescing potential slip surface, which together

with a zone of larger strains at the top of the embankment, indicates that the

embankment slope is on the verge of failure.

FIG. 6. Shear Strain Rate and Velocity Vectors in the Embankment after Full

Saturation

Figure 7 shows the settlement of the embankment at the top at different stages of the

analysis. The embankment surface at the center settles approximately 50 mm under

self-weight loading. After the embankment becomes fully saturated, the settlement

reaches approximately 150 mm. The magnitude of the wetting-induced settlement of

the embankment surface is hence approximately 100 mm. Results in Figure 7 also

indicate that after complete saturation of the embankment, the settlement of the

embankment surface at its centerline is approximately 50 mm larger than that at the

edge, resulting in a measurable amount of differential settlement at the top of the

embankment fill. This amount of differential settlement at the top of the embankment

could lead to significant damages to the structures and pavements constructed on the

embankment.

Geo-Congress 2013

341

0

10

Settlement (mm)

100

150

200

Self-Weight

Wetting-Induced

Full Saturation

250

300

10

50

8

6

4

Self-Weight

Wetting-Induced

Full Saturation

2

0

0

100

200

300

400

Settlement (mm)

Figure 8 shows the settlement of the embankment centerline along its height at

different stages of the analysis. These results suggest that the maximum values of the

fully-saturated and self-weight settlement in the embankment both occur at

approximately 6 m above the foundation level. In addition, the magnitude of

wetting-induced settlement increases significantly over the bottom 6 m of the

embankment but stays essentially constant along the remaining top portion of the

embankment (only 5 mm of reduction in magnitude over the top 4 m as compared to

the maximum value). A typical characteristic of unsaturated soils when subjected to

wetting is that they exhibit swelling behavior at low stress levels and collapse at high

stress levels. The magnitude of the net mean stress at 6 m above the foundation level

approximately equals to the preconsolidation pressure of the soil in saturated condition

Geo-Congress 2013

342

as shown in Table 1. In the elastic region, the soil experiences swelling with relatively

small deformations whereas the collapse settlement occurs in the soil at higher

overburden pressures after yielding occurs.

CONCLUSIONS

The Barcelona Basic Model (BBM) describing the elasto-plastic behavior of

unsaturated soils was implemented in FLAC and was verified against analytical results

reported in the literature. The implemented BBM in FLAC showed a promising

capability for use in studying the behavior of unsaturated soils subjected to wetting.

The verified BBM model was used to study the wetting-induced response of an

example embankment constructed using a clayey soil. A fully saturated condition was

assumed as a worst-case scenario for embankment design. The results showed that the

top surface of a 10 m-high embankment could settle by approximately 100 mm after

full saturation. In addition, wetting-induced deformation could also result in a

measurable amount of differential settlement in the embankment fill due to larger net

mean stresses toward the center of the embankment. This differential settlement could

lead to significant damage in the structures and pavements constructed on the

embankment. Furthermore, it was shown that excessive horizontal deformation at the

toe as a result of wetting could lead to slope failure in the embankment.

REFERENCES

Alonso, E. E., Gens, A. and Josa, A. (1990). A constitutive model for partially

saturated soils. Geotechnique, Vol. 40 (3): 405-430.

Itasca Consulting Group, Inc. (2005). Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua (2D)

Version 5.0. Itasca Consulting Group, Inc., Minneapolis.

Josa, A. (1988). Un modelo eslastoplastico para suelos no saturados. Ph.D. Thesis,

Universitat Politencnica de Catalunya, Barcelona.

Lawton, E. C., Fragaszy, R. J. and Hetherington, M. D. (1992). Review of

wetting-induced collapse in compacted soil. Journal of Geotechnical

Engineering, Vol. 118 (9): 1376-1394.

Rutqvist, J., Ijiri, Y. and Yamamoto, H. (2011). Implementation of the Barcelona

Basic Model into TOUGH-FLAC for simulations of the geomechanical behavior

of unsaturated soils. Computers & Geosciences, Vol. 37: 751-762.

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