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JARDINE,R. J., SYMES,M. J. & BURLAND,J. B. (1984). Giotechnique 34, No.

3, 323-340

The measurement of soil stiffness in the

triaxial apparatus


This Paper describes a simple technique for accurately Bien que beaucoup de travail expCrimenta1
measuring the mean local axial strains of triaxial sam- suppltmentaire soit nCcessaire afin de pouvoir tirer
ples over a central gauge length. The technique makes des conclusions g&&ales au sujet du comportement
use of an axial displacement gauge which is a develop- des sols sous des d&formations mineures, les r&hats
ment of one devised by Burland & Symes (1982) p&en& fournillent des observations importantes
which makes use of electrolytic levels. The device can concernant la rigidit dans 1Ctat non-drain&, la
resolve to less than 1 cm over a range of 15 mm, is IinearitC et ICcoulement des sols sous des
simple to mount on the specimen and is not damaged d&formations mineures.
when the sample is taken to failure. The results of
undrained triaxial tests are presented for a wide spec- NOTATION
trum of soil types ranging from sands through intact,
C compliance of loading system =
reconstituted and remoulded low plasticity till, undis-
turbed London clay to intact unweathered chalk. The (A,_+ 4&F
test results show that conventional external measure- C undrained shear strength
ments of displacement contain errors which are fre- El undrained stiffness E,co.ol,-E, at 0.01%
quently so large that their use in the determination of strain, etc.
soil stiffness at working levels of stress is invalid. The F deviator force on sample
errors mainly result from tilting of the sample, bedding KO u~/u, at rest
at the end platens and the effects of compliance in the L E,(,,.l,/E,(o.o,, an index of linearity
apparatus. Although much more experimental work is
Lo length of sample
required before general conclusions can be drawn
LI liquidity index
about the small strain behaviour of soils the results
presented lead to some important observations on the P (a, + 2a,)/3 the mean effective stress
undrained stiffness, linearity and yielding behaviour of PO p at the start of the undrained test
soils at small strains. RI3 relative density
T (0,, - &&(& + &) tilt ratio
Cet article d&it une technique t&s simple pour mes- 6 sample rotation
urer de faGon prCcise les dkformations locales moyen- A, A,, AT, A,,, As, ARB, A,,, components of
nes dtchantillons triaxiaux sur une jauge centrale. La
measured deflexions (see Fig. 1)
technique emploie une jauge de d&placement axial qui
corrected overall axial strain
reprksente une amelioration de celle invent&e par
Burland et Symes (1982) et qui utilise des niveaux larger local axial strain
tlectrolytiques. Lappareil est sensible 2 moins de smaller local axial strain
1 pm sur une longueur de 15 mm. I1 est facile B mean local axial strain
monter sur ltchantillon et reste intact m&me si larger incremental rotation of electrolevel
ICchantillon est dCtruit. Les rCsultats des tests triax- (see Fig. 2(c))
iaux non-drain& sont prCsentCs pour une large gamme smaller incremental rotation of electrolevel
de types de sol, commenqant par des sables, suivis de (see Fig. 2(c))
moraines intactes de faible plasticitt reconstitukes et
vertical effective stresses
remaniCes et de largile de Londres intacte jusqu8 la
radial effective stress
craie intacte non-altCrte par les intempkries. Les
rtsultats des tests montrent que les mesures conven-
tionnelles du d&placement cOrnportent des erreurs qui INTRODUCTION
sont souvent si considerables que les mesures sont ma1
Accurate determination of soil stiffness is
adapt&es pour la d&termination de la rigidit du sol g
difficult to achieve in routine laboratory testing.
des niveaux operationnels de la contrainte. Les erreurs
proviennent principalement du basculement de Conventionally, the determination of the axial
lCchantillon, de la liaison imparfaite au niveau des stiffness of a triaxial sample is based on external
plateaux terminaux et des effects du d&placement de measurements of displacement which include a
lappareil. number of extraneous movements. For example,
the true soil strains developed in triaxial tests
Discussion on this Paper closes on 1 January 1985. can be masked by deflexions which originate in
For further details see inside back cover. the compliances of the loading system and load
* Imperial College of Science and Technology. measuring system. Such equipment compliance


errors add to a variety of sample bedding effects sented, and it is shown that, as expected, routine
to give a poor definition of the stress-strain tests which employ external measurements of
behaviour of the material under test, particularly strain lead to apparent soil stiffnesses which are
over the small strain range. Most triaxial tests much too low. For the purposes of this Paper
therefore tend to give apparent soil stiffnesses only undrained behaviour is considered, since
far lower than those inferred from field be- the no-volume change condition obviates the
haviour. need to measure radial strains. However, in tests
The importance of such errors has long been designed to investigate more general effective
recognized and many diverse techniques have stress behaviour the local measurement of radial
been employed in attempts to improve strain and axial strains is equally important. Symes &
measurements. One solution has been to meas- Burland (1984) describe the use of proximity
ure relative displacement between two reference transducers for radial strain determination and
footings over a central length of a sample using Maswoswe (1984) describes the use of a high
displacement transducers (e.g. Yuen, Lo, Palmer accuracy, submersible, linear variable differen-
& Leonards, 1978; Daramola, 1978; Brown, tial transformer (LVDT) for the same purpose
Austin & Overy, 1980; Costa Filho, 1980). on 38 mm dia. triaxial samples.
Strictly these techniques are suitable only for
very small strain levels, since bulging of the AXIAL STRAIN ERRORS IN TRIAXIAL TESTS
sample will cause the footings to rotate in later In a conventional triaxial test there are several
stages of the test. Although important results sources of movement that develop during shear
have been obtained with such techniques, they testing which may give rise to an overestimate of
are cumbersome and can suffer from jamming the axial strain. One such source is the com-
and damage at large strains. pliance of the loading system itself. For exam-
X-ray and optical methods have also been ple, the construction of a Bishop & Wesley
used to follow reference points within the sam- (1975) cell is such that the lower reference point
ple or on its membrane (Roscoe, Schofield & for the vertical displacement transducer is at-
Thurairajah, 1963; Arthur & Phillips, 1975). tached to the ram while the upper reference
However, the accuracy of these methods is point is located on top of the cell, so that small
limited. but nevertheless significant deflexions accumu-
The resonant column apparatus offers a differ- late from the straining of the rolling Bellofram
ent approach for the determination of the diaphragms. For present purposes the sum of
dynamic stiffness of soils. The technique in- such loading system deflexions will be termed
volves the application of periodic small strain A,,. An internal load cell will also produce a
perturbations to a sample as described by significant deflexion, which is termed A,.
Richart, Woods & Hall (1970). However, the The more important sources of error are il-
technique does not provide direct measurements lustrated in Fig. 1. Some of the deflexions shown
of the elemental behaviour of the soil under test, in this figure may be quantified by careful calib-
since the states of stress and strain vary continu- ration, but large unaccountable errors remain
ously both with time and in their distributions due to
within the sample.
In summary present methods of soil strain (a) the difficulty of trimming a sample so that
measurement have a number of serious limita- the end faces are perpendicular to the verti-
tions. There is an urgent need for a simple but cal axis of symmetry
precise method for the routine measurement of (b) play in the connection between the load cell
the stress-strain behaviour of soil specimens and the sample top cap, and
under controlled stress or strain paths, particu- (c) the inevitable bedding down at the ends of
larly where the soil exhibits high stiffness at the sample, due to local surface ir-
small strains. regularities or voids.
In this Paper a simple technique for accurately
measuring the mean local axial strains during In the testing of rock samples the importance
triaxial testing is described. Local axial strains of such errors has long been recognized, and the
are taken as those developing over a central careful grinding of sample ends combined with
gauge length of the sample. The origins of some the use of ground cylindrical seated platens is
of the more significant strain measurement er- commonly specified (e.g. Vogler & Kovari,
rors which develop in standard testing are ex- 1978). The observation that many rocks fail in a
amined and their magnitudes assessed using the brittle fashion at axial strains of O-l% or less
new techniques. Results of experiments per- has led to the specification of flatness limits of
formed on a wide range of material are pre- +O.Ol mm and parallelism requirements of

around 3 minutes of arc for high quality sample

preparation. The preparation techniques em-
ployed for rock testing are unsuitable for most
soils, and it is probably not possible to approach
the same standards of sample regularity.
Recent work has demonstrated the rather
surprising finding that soils can be equally as
brittle as rocks and that an understanding of
their behaviour at levels of shear strain below
0.05% is very important (see Gens, 1982;
Simpson, ORiordan & Croft, 1979). Indeed, it
is shown in this Paper that K. normally consoli-
dated clays may reach peak strength in the Sample
triaxial apparatus at axial strains as low as compression
0.1%. Moreover, even when the behaviour is
not brittle, the strains prior to yield are usually
very small.
Measures can be taken to reduce the errors
implicit in external strain measurement. The
results obtained from tests carried out on soil
which has been an&tropically consolidated to a
high level of mean effective stress suggest that
these procedures considerably reduce sample
bedding and tilting errors (see Gens, 1982). The
SHANSEP methods of testing soft clays can also Fig. 1. Sources of emx in external strain measure-
be expected to lead to significant improvements ments (+, is the larger of the two shins;
in strain measurement. However, where swelling FL= (ELI + E&3
stages are included in such tests tilting and other
errors may redevelop (Daramola, 1978).
Moreover, it is often desirable to obtain accu- devices to measure axial, radial and shear strains
rate strain measurements in tests which have not in laboratory tests (Symes & Burland, 1984).
involved anisotropic consolidation. The liquid level transducers consist of an
A more satisfactory approach is to make use electrolyte sealed in a glass capsule. In the simp-
of local instrumentation which can be attached lest devices three coplanar electrodes protrude
to a central gauge length of a sample. Symes & into the capsule and are partially immersed in
Burland (1984) have given a description of the the electrolyte. The impedance between the cen-
design of instruments which employ electrolytic tral electrode and the outer ones varies as the
levels to measure combined horizontal shear capsule is tilted. A variety of levels with differ-
strain and axial strain in a hollow cylinder ap- ent sensitivities are commercially available.
paratus. The same principles have been adapted The transducers employed in the triaxial
to develop a vertical displacement measuring strain measurements were supplied by IF0 In-
system for use in a 100 mm dia. triaxial ap- ternational Ltd and have a working range of
paratus (see Burland & Symes, 1982). This *lo. The system was excited using a 5 V a.c.
Paper describes a further development and im- power supply of 4 kHz frequency. The gains
provement of the earier devices which enables were adjusted to give a *3 V full scale output
mean axial strains to be determined to within a which was monitored to *O-l mV with typical
range of +0.002% in triaxial stress path cells scatters of *0.2 mV. The levels are sensitive to
designed for the testing of 38 mm dia. samples. temperature and vibration and should be oper-
ated in still conditions which are temperature
DESCRIBIION OF THE ELECIROLEVEL controlled to within *3C. Under such condi-
GAUGES tions the gauges can be stable over periods of
Cooke & Price (1974) describe the use of weeks.
electrolytic liquid levels for the local measure- The principles of the new axial strain measur-
ments of ground strains around test piles. Their ing systems are essentially similar to those of the
reliability, simplicity and accuracy make these earlier devices in that a hinged arrangement
transducers attractive in a wide variety of appli- converts displacements between two footings
cations, and by mounting the capsules in simple mounted on the sample into a rotation of the
mechanisms it is possible to develop a range of capsule, as shown in Fig. 2(a).

The major difference between the instruments

described in this Paper and the earlier designs
lies in the geometrical configuration which per-
mits their use on 38 mm dia. samples. Fig. 2(b)
shows the construction of the new devices. In
addition to geometrical changes, the hinge
mechanisms have been improved by replacing
the original brass pivots with polylluorotet-
raethylene (PFTE) and by simplifying the con-
struction of the hinges themselves. The capsule
which protects the electrolytic level from the
action of pressure and water is constructed from
stainless steel, as are the tubular arms BC and
AC. The gauges are fully submersible and have
been tested at pressures of up to 1500 kPa. The
Stanless steel tubing electrolevels are mounted in diametrically oppo-
site pairs on a sample using a rapidly curing
contact adhesive which bonds the brass footings
to the membrane. The gauges rely on the radial
effective stresses to anchor the footings to the
sample under test.
It should be noted that if the sample tilts
when loaded the output from each gauge is
made up of a strain component and a tilt com-
ponent, as shown in Fig. 2(c). Provided the
sample is homogeneous the mean axial strain is
given by half the sum of the outputs of a pair of
two diametrically opposed gauges and the tilt is
given by half the difference of the outputs. The
ability to detect sample tilt is a valuable feature
of the gauge.
Jardine & Brooks (1984) have carried out
Hinges A and B Hinge C simultaneous measurements of surface strains
for chalk specimens using foil strain gauges
bonded to the sample and electrolevel gauges
mounted on the membrane. The experiments
showed that, over the considered strain range of
0.15 %, any relative movement between the
membrane and the sample could be neglected.
Moreover, Gens (1982) used an optical tech-
nique to demonstrate that the membrane only
moves in relation to the sample when large
strains are developed.
The resolution and range of the gauge have
been determined by a two-part procedure.
Firstly, routine calibrations were performed over
a displacement range of 15 mm by mounting two
opposing gauges on a micrometer winding frame
graduated to 0.01 mm. A typical displacement
voltage characteristic is presented in Fig. 3. A
third order polynomial regression analysis can
then be used to model the characteristic (with a
typical correlation coefficient of 0.999 99) within
the limits shown. To determine the resolution a
second stage of calibration was carried out by
Fig. 2. (a) Conversion of axfal strain to rotation of mounting a high resolution, small travel, LVDT
electrolevel capsule; (b) constructfon of electrolevel on the central axis of the winding frame so that
gauges; (c) effects of tilting the changes in output could be determined for

Table 1.

Name Material Sample Consolidation OCR PO

preparation details before (initial):
shearing kPa

Rl North Sea clay Reconstituted K,, (see Fig. 6) 1.0 267

R1.4 North Sea clay Reconstituted K, (see Fig. 6) 1.4 206
R2 North Sea clav Reconstituted K, (see Fig. 6) 2.05 158
R4 North Sea cla; Reconstituted K, (see Fig. 6) 3.73 106
R8 North Sea clay Reconstituted K,, (see Fig. 6) 7.4 65
11 North Sea clay Intact Lightly overconsolidated -1.1 474
in situ, then sampled
I2 North Sea clay Intact As above, reconsolidated El.1 508
field stresses
13 North Sea clay Intact Heavily overconsolidated >50 46
in field. Swelled back
after sampling
RMl North Sea clay Remoulded Not consolidated - 10
RM2 North Sea clay Remoulded Not consolidated 43
HRSl Ham river sand Pluviated Isotropically 4 132
R, = 0.149 consolidated
HRS2 Ham river sand Pluviated Isotropically 1 404
R, = 0.848 consolidated
LCl London clay intact Overconsolidated in situ - 226
then sampled
LC2 London clay intact As above - 199
Cl Upper Chalk 1intact Cut from quarry face - 345
isotropically consolidated
c2 Upper Chalk Intact As above - 363

types. Unbonded low plasticity clays are materi- during undrained shear are presented in Fig. 6,
als which may be expected to demonstrate many together with the deduced contours of de-
of the features incorporated into critical state veloped axial strain (the strain shown in this
descriptions of soil behaviour (Schofield & figure is the average strain from diametrically
Wroth, 1968) where stiffness would be princi- opposite pairs of electrolevels). From Fig. 6 two
pally conditioned by the initial stresses and pre- important observations can be made.
consolidation stress level. The London clay sam- First, the effective stress paths followed by the
ples were considered to be typical of weathered tests were initially both nearly vertical and
lower London clay, which is a weakly bonded straight. However, in each case there was a
material that can develop a reorientated fabric certain stress level where the paths sharply de-
on thin shear bands after failure, and thus, when viated and then travelled on to failure. The
tested, often displays a number of characteristics latter portions of the effective stress paths were
which diverge from the predictions of critical taken as representing the post-yield portion of
state soil models (see Lupini, Skinner & Vau- each test. In every test yield was approached
ghan, 1981). The Ham river sand is a uniformly after the development of only very small strains.
graded, angular sand in which stiffness could be Test Rl reached peak deviator stress at an axial
expected to be mainly related to its mode of strain of O.l%, and tests R1.4, R2, R4 and R8
deposition, initial stress and density. In contrast all demonstrated sharp changes in stress path
the intact, unfissured, chalk used for tests Cl direction at axial strains of less than 0.2%. It is
and C2 was a strongly cemented material in important to appreciate that for many practical
which bond type and strength might be expected problems the working stresses will lie on the
to dominate the stress-strain behaviour. vertical portions of the stress paths where the
strains are very small.
Second, the stress path for the normally con-
EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS solidated sample Rl shows brittle behaviour
Reconstituted samples of low plasticity clay with a marked reduction in strength beyond
The effective stress paths followed by the 0.1% strain. Tests carried out by Gens (1980)
reconstituted samples Rl, R1.4, R2, R4 and R8 on another low plasticity clay showed similar


(- -contours of axialStrain%I


150 200 250 300



Fig. 6. North Sea day stress paths for tests Rl, R2, R4. R8

behaviour. Small loops are apparent in the stress haviour is non-linear and at strain levels above
paths for samples R1.4 and R2 close to failure. 1.0% the ratio of E,/c, can be seen to fall to
If, instead of measuring pore pressures at the more familiar levels. While the existence of high
base, a central piezometer probe had been used initial stiffnesses has been postulated to explain
(Hight, 1983) it is probable that these loops anomalies between observed and predicted field
would not have been observed. behaviour (see Simpson et al., 1979) the results
Figure 7(a) shows the stress-strain charac- given in Figs 6 and 7 demonstrate that labora-
teristics of the reconstituted samples of low plas- tory tests are capable of revealing both the high
ticity clay. Again it can be seen that the strains stiffness and the detailed nature of pre-yield
over the initial range of stresses are exceedingly behaviour. The characteristic variation of stiff-
small. In order to allow a meaningful analysis of ness with strain is similar in all tests, but the
the initial stiff zone the strains have been replot- results from tests R1.4 and R2 demonstrate that
ted to a logarithmic scale in Fig. 7(b). The latter lightly overconsolidated clay shows a particularly
figure shows a remarkably consistent trend, with high normalized stiffness at low strain. The data
the strain required to achieve peak strength from tests Rl, R1.4, R2, R4 and R8 are sum-
steadily increasing with OCR. The scatter in the marized in Table 2. The column giving the times
early stages of test R2 was caused by vibrations to reach El = 0.1% strain gives a measure of
from a nearby motor and demonstrates that the the differences between local and external strain
new gauges perform best in a still environment. rates. In each case the local rate slowly in-
In Fig. 7(c) the stiffness characteristics of the creased until, at large strains, it equalled 4.5%
samples are examined by plotting the nor- per day. As discussed later, normal anisotropic
malized secant modulus EJc, up to and includ- consolidation reduced many of the potential er-
ing peak deviator using the same strain axes. rors in external strain measurement.
The use of the secant modulus E, is not meant
to imply that the soil behaviour is strictly elastic, Intact samples of tow plasticity clay
and has merely been taken as a convenient The stress paths for tests 11, 12 and I3 are
measure of soil stiffness. given in Fig. 8(a) where the initial, post-
It is apparent that the initial stiffnesses ob- sampling, effective mean stress for sample I1 is
tained using local instrumentation are very much represented by point A and the reconsolidation
higher than the values commonly measured in effective stress path for sample 12 is given by the
routine soil triaxial testing. The stress-strain be- broken line BC. The initial applied effective

stress for sample 13 is represented by point D.

The axial strains which developed during shear
are indicated in the same figure, and details
of the samples initial conditions are given in
Table 1.
The observed errors in conventional overall i a$
measurements of strain are discussed in a later
section. However, it is of interest to compare the R4
externally and locally measured strains for test asa
0 1 2 3 4
11 since this test is typical of routine high quality
testing of intact samples. The comparison is
shown in Fig. 8(b). It is apparent that the strains
deduced from external measurements of deflex-
ion, even though corrected for load cell and
apparatus compliance, give much larger strains
than the values measured locally on the sample.
Indeed the conventional measurements com-
pletely mask the initial stiff behaviour of the
intact material. These errors are discussed more
fully later.
Referring again to Fig. 8(a), as was the case
for the reconstituted tests, all three intact sam-
ples demonstrate yield with a sharp deviation in 3200
the effective stress path. The post-yield effective
stress path for the anisotropically consolidated
sample 12 differs markedly from that for the
comparable reconstituted sample Rl (see Fig. 6)
whereas the path followed by the heavily over-
consolidated sample 13 is similar to those fol-
lowed by R4 and R8. Ageing, bonding, sampl-
ing, or macrofabric features could all be respon-
sible for such differences. With regard to the
strains, samples I2 and 13, like the reconstituted
samples, yielded at axial strains of 0.1% to
0.2%. In contrast, sample 11, which was tested
unconsolidated undrained, showed a less stiff Fig. 7. Tests Rl, R1.4, R2, R4 and R8: (a)
behaviour between the attainment of 0.1% stress-sti data; (b) stiessstraia data; (c) StsIwss
axial strain and the peak deviator condition. characteristics
The detailed stress-strain characteristics for
tests 11,12 and 13 are shown in Fig. 9 as plots of had not been preloaded, the shapes of the stress
(or-u3)/2 and EJc, against strain on semi- paths and the pattern of strains are similar to
logarithmic axes. A comparison between the those given by the overconsolidated samples of
stress-strain response of samples 11 and 12 intact and reconstituted clay. The detailed
shows that reconsolidation of 12 produced only a stress-strain and stiffness plots are given in Fig.
slight change in stiffness. The values of EJc, for 9 and may be seen to fall in the range extrapo-
11 and 12 fall within the limits of the stiffnesses lated for overconsolidated intact or reconsti-
found from the reconstituted tests (see Fig. tuted samples. Summary parameters for tests
7(b)). The EJc, curve for sample I3 can be seen RMl and RM2 are given in Table 2.
to lie below the band of stiffness values deter-
mined for 8 2 OCR 3 1.0 with reconstituted ma- Tests on London clay, Ham river sand and
terial, but within a range that might be extrapo- chalk
lated for highly overconsolidated samples. The intial conditions for the tests LCl and
Parameters from tests 11, 12 and 13 are given in LC2 (London clay), HRSl and HRS2 (Ham
Table 2. river sand) and the two chalk tests Cl and C2
The stress paths for the two experiments on are given in Table 1.
the remoulded samples RMl and RM2 are The stress paths followed during tests HRSl,
shown in Fig. 8(a), as are the strain levels at HRS2 and Cl and C2 are given in Fig. 10(a),
various stages of the tests. Although the samples which also shows the strain levels at appropriate

Table 2. summaryof test results

Test E, @ 0.01 %: I:(.I)t:

kPa kPa
5 @Jo.01 % 3 @O.Ol % min

Rl 122 2.22 x lo5 1820 830 0.185 38

R1.4 122 4.50 x lo5 3690 2 180 0.270 49
R2 108 359 x lo5 3320 2 270 0.353 52
R4 94 2.26 x 10 2400 2 130 0.386 65
R8 67 1.13x lo5 1690 1740 0.407 105
11 255 5.10x lo5 2000 1080 0.333 100
I2 275 7.43 x lo5 2700 1460 0.187 59
13 173 9.4 x lo4 540 2 030 0.340 126
RMl 39.5 2.6 x lo4 660 2 430 0.331 156
RM2 85.0 9.3 x lo4 1090 2 180 0.278 72
HRSl 1085 2.9 x 10 270 2 200 0.518 90
HRS2 1142 4.9 x lo5 430 1210 0.503 59
LCl 123 1.24x lo5 1010 550 0.371 55
LC2 100 1.20 x lo5 1200 600 0.387 65
Cl 1350 5.7 x lo6 4220 15 500 0.723* 510
c2 1600 4.0 x lo6 2500 11000 0.854* 587

* Since both samples failed at +<O.Ol L was taken here as E,~,.,,,IE,~O.OO,~.

7 r(c.r) corresponds to the time taken to develop E,=O.l % in each test. For a rate of strain of
4.5 % per day tcO.i)would be 32 min.

intervals. The sand experiments showed a stiff water, and neither sample achieved an un-
response to loading over the initial portions of drained critical state condition.
each test but the samples rapidly lost stiffness as The stress paths of the chalk tests Cl and C2
the stress paths approached the dilatant part of are compared in the same figure. The samples
their state boundary surface. After yield the showed stiff behaviour up to brittle failure at
stress paths curved to the right and climbed the a, - 03 equal to 1331 kPa and 1620 kPa respec-
state boundary surface until, at large strains, tively. The failure strains for tests Cl and C2
peak strengths were developed. In both tests were both around 0.075%. The post-failure
failure was initiated by cavitation of the pore- behaviour can be seen to be characterized by a

@ = 30

(Anal strams mdlcaled in %)

(9 + n3)/2. kPa

Fig. 8(a). Intact and remoulded stress paths for tests 11, I2, W, RMl and RM2


Ultlmatec = 255 kPa

__u __-

Local measurements IELI

Overall corrected measurements (~2

Comparison of tuIcu calculaled from ~~ and E

E /c E/C '.
100 FL,
% f&l FL Ir& ,
Apparent linear elasrlc modulus 0 005 2353
Eu = 4.8 X 10 kPa, Eufcu = 188 0.01 2000
0.1 667 172
1.0 147 140

Fig. 8(b). Stress-strain data for test I1

progressive weakening with the effective stresses

roughly following unloading paths.
The stress paths for tests LCl and LC2 are
shown in Fig. 10(b). Both samples showed an
initially stiff response to loading which persisted
up to axial strains of around 0.1%. The stress
paths both deviated to the right after the attain-
ment of 1.0% axial strain until peak strengths
were mobilized at strains of 4.5% and 3.5%
respectively. Both tests showed a steep post-
(al peak loss of strength, and examination of the
samples after testing showed that polished shear
surfaces had formed within the specimens. The
stress-strain and stiffness characteristics for the
\ tests described in this section are summarized in
\ Only test 12 athned
2400 \ peak devtator at an Fig. 11 together with Fig. 12, which summarizes
axial strain below 5%
\ the results of all the tests reported in this Paper.
The plots demonstrate the following main

(a) The chalk samples showed brittle behaviour

with failure occurring at ~~2 0.075%. In
contrast, the London clay and sand samples
failed only after developing large strains.
(b) The chalk tests Cl and C2 gave the highest
Awal strain EC % normalized stiffnesses, which equalled those
(b) of the low plasticity clay at low strains but
Fig. 9. (a) Stress-stain data for tests 11,12,13, RMl exceeded them at strains above 0.0 1% . The
and RM2, (a) stiffness characteristics for tests 11, I2, chalk samples also showed the most linear
13, RMl, RM2 and R2 behaviour.



$ 8OC


(0, + 03)/2 kPa


20 /fA 50

m LC2 120
. O
% . 150

6 10
0.7 i:
&y 04

0.2 02

01 0.1
0 05
i n /,1

175 200 250 300

(cl + 0,)/2: kPa


Fig. 10. (a) Tests on chalk and Ham river sand: stress paths for HRSl, HRs2, Cl and C2; (b) stress pati for
tests LCl and LC2 (axfaf strains: %)

500 O-

400 O-

300 O-


200 O-!

300. 100 O-


Fig. 12. Summary of normafhd s_eS

(c) The London clay tests showed stiffness

characteristics which were similar to that of
heavily overconsolidated or remoulded, low
0 01 01 10 10
plasticity clay.
(d) The normalized stiffness characteristics for
the Ham river sand, experiments HRSl and
HRS2, form a lower bound to all the results,
continuing the trend demonstrated by the
dilatant samples of low plasticity clay in tests
RMl, RM2, 13 and R8.
The test results from all the experiments are
further summarized in Table 2.

Axial strain q: % In the past most laboratory studies of the
stress-strain characteristics of soils have been
hampered by the errors that are inherent in
conventional triaxial testing, particularly for
overconsolidated soils, and comprehensive
studies of soil stiffness at low strains are rare.
The test programme on the low plasticity clay
provides a body of data which can be used for
evaluating the small strain undrained stress-
strain properties of that material. These proper-
ties may then be compared with the limited
number of results from the tests on the London
clay, the chalk and the Ham river sand in order
to highlight some of the factors influencing soil
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 stiffness. More detailed discussions of the small
Ax,alStrainEL %
strain behaviour of London clay and Ham river
sand are given by Costa Filho (1980) and
Fig. 11. (a) Stressstraio data for tests Cl and C2;
(b) stres+stmfn data for tests HRSl and HRS2; (c)
Daramola (1978).
stress-strafn data for tests LCl and LC2; (d) stitbws It is recognized that much more experimental
characteristicsfor tests Cl, C2, HRSl, HRS2, LCl work is required using the new techniques be-
andLC2 fore general conclusions can be drawn.

cell and ram). Four main conclusions can be

12. drawn as follows.
10. (a) For normally, anisotropically, consolidated
8. unconsohdated
samples the corrected strain, E,, is close in
magnitude to the mean local strain.
(b) For overconsolidated samples (e.g. R2, R4,
R8) the agreement between local and over-
all corrected measurements is far less satis-
(cl The difficulties in obtaining accurate load
cell stiffness calibrations can lead to overes-
timates of the stiffness and thus produce
values of FJQ_ less than unity.
(4 For unconsolidated tests on intact or re-
Mean axialstrain
EL:% moulded samples the disagreement between
local and external corrected measurements
Fig. 13. Tests on low pldkfty clay: comparison of
is most severe, and E, can be an order of
internal and external corrected strain measurements
magnitude greater than Ed..

Nevertheiess, the results obtained are suffi- The last observation is emphasized in Fig. 8(b)
ciently encouraging to warrant a preliminary (referred to previously) in which the locally and
discussion since a number of important observa- externally measured strains are plotted against
tions can be made from the data presented in shear stress for test Il. The bedding and other
the previous sections. To develop these points errors implicit in the corrected strain E, give the
the discussion is divided into three main parts illusion of nearly linear straining up to about
0.6% axial strain, while the central portion of
(a) an analysis of the strain errors implicit in the sample was behaving in a much stiffer and
conventional triaxial testing, which will be less linear way. The initial slope of the apparent
based on comparisons between observed stress-strain line corresponds to E,/c,- 190,
differences between the external and inter- which is more than 12 times smaller than the
nal measurements of strain maximum secant EJc, deduced from the local
(b) general features of the observed soil be- strain measurements at 0.05% strain.
haviour at small strains In general the strains measured by each pair
(c) a discussion of the choice of parameters for of electrolevels during a test were dissimilar
the comparison and normalization of the until the average local strain exceeded 0.1%.
experimental data. This can be explained by non-parallelism of the
sample ends, differential bedding and top cap
Errors in conventional stiffness measurements
movements. It should be noted that if the non-
Figure 1 shows that the overall measured parallelism of the ends were to cause the sample
deflexion in a triaxial test is given by to tilt when loaded, then the apparent strains
A=AL+AT+ABT+AS+AeB+A,,, measured by the electrolevel gauges would
equally overestimate the larger local strain .sr.,
Calibration of the load cell and ram characteris- and underestimate the smaller strain E~.~.Al-
tics for the apparatus used in this testing pro- though a number of dual axis gauges would be
gramme showed that their combined compliance required to describe fully the tilt experienced by
c could be taken, approximately, as c = a sample the mean axial strain can be computed
5.4 x 10e4, where c = (A,+ A,,,)/F mm/N and from the data given by a pair of gauges as
F is the deviator force in newtons. Clearly such cc = (E,., + ~&/2. A measure of tilt in relation to
deflexions are most important for strong ma- axial strain is given by the ratio (or., - &,)/(e,, +
terials, so that in tests Cl and C2, for example, f&) = T the tilt ratio. The maximum values ob-
c was around SO times larger than the com- served for this ratio at various mean strains are
pliance of the samples themselves. summarized in Table 3. The results show that
The significance of the remaining terms in the tilting action can be considerable and that
equation (1) may be assessed from Fig. 13 in the use of paired local displacement gauges is
which the local measurements of axial strain, Ed, essential if the stress-strain behaviour below
are plotted against the ratio E,/E~ for all the e,_ = 0.1% is to be observed. For the remoulded
tests on the low plasticity clay (E, is the external samples a ball seating was used and this accen-
strain corrected for the compliance of the load tuated tilting, particularly at large strains.

Table 3. Maximum tilt ratios observed for tests on low plasticity day

Mean axial strain eL: % Tilt ratio T for intact Tilt ratio
and reconstituted samples* T for remoulded

0.005 2.0 2.1

0.01 1.5 1.7
0.05 0.9 2.6
0.1 0.4 2.8
1.0 0.1 0.9

T = (on - H&I(HL, + 0L2).

is negative T can exceed unity.
* For parallel straining f3r1= or and T = 0, and if 19r_~
Summarizing, it is found that even the most ent stress history and/or modes of deposition
careful calibration of the load cell and ram prior to undrained testing will usually have
deflexions is not sufficient to allow external different low strain regions. For example, for
measurements to be used to define the stress- specimen 11, which was sampled and tested un-
strain characteristics of a soil accurately. Fea- consolidated undrained, the small strain region
tures such as bedding of the end platens and lies well below the region observed by shearing
tilting of the sample can lead to serious under- from the K0 swelling line (see Figs 6 and 8).
estimation of soil stiffness. The electrolevel de- However, it is evident from Figs 6 and 14 that
vices described earlier in this Paper offer a sim- the small strain region for undrained compres-
ple means of circumventing the errors which sion can be extensive and the stress paths for
invalidate the measurement of soil stiffness in many engineering problems will be within this
conventional triaxial tests. region.
For ease of comparison and presentation, the
Small srrain behaviour initial undrained stress-strain characteristics
It has been shown that the region of stress may be represented by the following two in-
space within which the tested soils exhibit very dexes relating to stiffness and linearity.
stiff undrained behaviour is generally bounded
by the 0.1% axial strain contour. Such a low
(a) Stiffness is given by the undrained secant
modulus at 0.01% axial strain, E,o.o,,. It
strain region is shown in Fig. 14 for a number of
may be expressed non-dimensionally as
samples which have all been consolidated, under
(E,/c,)~.,,,, (E,lp~)o.ol, etc., as discussed in
K. conditions, to the same maximum stresses
the next section.
before unloading to various overconsolidation
(b) An index of linearity is defined as L =
ratios prior to undrained compression (see also
E,(,,.,JE,(,,.,,,, where EUo.,, is the undrained
Fig. 6). The 0.1% contour coincides with the
secant modulus at 0.1% strain. Straight line
yield point for OCR= 1 but lies below it for
behaviour then gives L = 1.0, and if the
OCR>l. The 0.1% strain contour shown in
modulus decreases with strain L < 1.0.
Fig. 14 is not strictly a yield locus since drained
effective stress paths parallel to, but beneath, it Values of L are given in Table 2 and it can be
(e.g. along the swelling line) could involve yield seen that every test departed from straight line
and large strains. Specimens undergoing differ- behaviour over its small strain range. In general,

stress path
for OCR = 1.0


Fig. 14. Schematic drawiog of upper bound to small strain range for
reconstftuted low plasticity day

clay can be seen to follow approximately the

same relationship, the remoulded tests RMl and
RM2 give values which only correspond to the
most heavily overconsolidated reconstituted
samples. The ratio (EJc,),.,,, ranged between
540 and 3700 for the low plasticity clay and the
normally consolidated tests Rl, I1 and I2 gave
values between 1800 and 2700.
The data for the comparative soils are also
given in Fig. 15 and show that the (E,/c,)~.~,
values for the chalk were similar to the max-
imum given by the North Sea clay. The London
clay results fell roughly in the mid-range but the
Ham river sand tests gave the smallest
c RM2 (EJcJ,.,, values of all.

- LCl
The data from the triaxial tests show that even
RMl with fixed rate of displacement compression
HRS2 HRSl I3-. tests there is a wide range in the ratio EJc, for
. a single clay. The undrained stiffness clearly
depends on strain level, stress history, method of
OCR formation and, probably, strain rate. With other
Fig. 15. summary
of au tests soils mineralogy, grading, macrofabric and
cementation could produce different characteris-
tics. It has, for example, been suggested by Ladd
the values of L increased with overconsolidation et al. (1977) that, in comparable tests, the ratio
ratios, and test Rl (OCR= 1.0) showed the EJc, is higher in lean clays than in more
smallest L value of 0.185. The two chalk speci- plastic soils.
mens showed almost linear behaviour. Although it is convenient to use the ratio
EJc, to compare different soil types and initial
Choice of parameter for normalizing E, conditions, the parameter cannot be considered
It is not, at present, common to carry out to be fundamental since the undrained shear
triaxial tests to determine undrained stiffness for strength also depends on rate, total stress path,
purposes of practical design and analysis. Most sample disturbance and soil macrofabric. In par-
engineers rely on correlations between stiffness ticular, the use of c, can be confusing in soils
and a related, but more readily obtained, which develop orientated, residual, structures in
parameter. For example, Ladd, Foot, Ishihara, thin shear zones.
Schlosser & Poulos (1977) presented stiffness The initial mean effective stress po acting in a
data from SHANSEP tests which are normalized sample has been used as an alternative parame-
by c, plotted against OCR. In their plots E, was ter with which to normalize stiffness measure-
determined over given proportions of shear ments (see Atkinson, 1973; Wroth, 1971).
stress increment rather than the fixed strain While the undrained shear strength depends on
increments used in this work. the conditions of testing, pOcan be measured in
The stiffness data given here in Figs 7(b), 9(b), the laboratory without ambiguity. In the field,
11(c) and 12 have also been normalized with however, po will depend on KO and cannot be
respect to the peak undrained shear strength. calculated with such certainty.
Fig. 15 shows the curve of EJc, at 0.01% axial Figure 16 shows the same data as Fig. 15, but
strain against OCR for the reconstituted low with the stiffness EUo.,,, normalized by pO in
plasticity clay. Results from the other tests re- place of c,. The pattern demonstrated by the
ported here are shown as single points. The reconstituted low plasticity clay is familiar. The
stiffness of the normally consolidated sample Rl normally consolidated tests again showed rela-
is perhaps misleading as the initial behaviour is tively low normalized stiffnesses but the other
probably controlled by the amount of time per- reconstituted, intact and remoulded results fall
mitted for secondary consolidation. However, within a far narrower scatter than the c, nor-
the data show that (EU/c,)o.Ol quickly increased malized result, with (EJp,),,.,, lying between
from the value at OCR = 1 to a maximum at an 1700 and 2400.
OCR of about 1.4, and then steadily reduced The results for the Ham river sand, perhaps
with increasing overconsolidation. Although the fortuitously, plot close to the curve for the re-
stiffness given by the intact samples of the same constituted North Sea clay, but the London clay

results fall distinctly below the full line. The 3000r

chalk tests produced very high (E,/p,),.,,, values
but since their stiffnesses are probably control- c RMl
led by bonding, rather than effective stress,
these values may be arbitrary. 13 +

From the experiments described in this Paper

normalization by p,, would appear to be prefer-
able for uncemented soils. The ratio Eu/po is
seen to be less dependent on method of forma-
tion and stress history than E,/c,, and an effec-
tive stress approach is likely to be more useful
when the small strain laboratory techniques are
applied to drained behaviour.
The work described here deals only with un-
drained stiffness in triaxial compression. It is 1 2 4 6 810 20 40 100
evident that investigations are required into the OCR

more general behaviour of soils in the small Fig. 16. Summary of all tests
strain range, where accurate radial strain meas-
urements would be required, and that the in- The stiffness ratio (E,/c,)~.~~~ was shown to be
fluence of many parameters (including rate and strongly dependent on OCR for the intact and
ageing effects) must also be assessed. reconstituted samples. Lightly overconsolidated
conditions produced the highest values of the
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS ratio, and heavily overconsolidated and re-
A new technique is described for the accurate moulded samples showed the lowest. The alter-
measurement of local axial strains on soil speci- native non-dimensional ratio (E,/p,,),.,, was less
mens in the triaxial apparatus. The strains are sensitive to OCR and method of formation.
measured using an electrolytic level device Normally consolidated samples of intact and
which is simple to use, resolves relative displace- reconstituted samples of the low plasticity clay
ments to less than 1 urn over a range of 15 mm showed the least linear initial behaviour, and
and is not damaged when the sample is taken to gave values of L = (= Euo.,,/E,~,.,,,,) which were
failure. lower than 0.2. Although linearity steadily in-
The new technique was employed in a pro- creased with overconsolidation ratio the largest
gramme of tests principally on a low plasticity value of L recorded for the clay was 0.407.
clay from the North Sea with additional com- The limited number of comparative tests on
parative tests being conducted on Ham river other materials shows that the small strain
sand, London clay and intact chalk, thus cover- characteristics of the low plasticity clay are not
ing a wide spectrum of soil types. unique. The values of (E,/c,)~.~,~ and (Eu/p,,)o.cll
The test results show that conventional exter- for specimens of chalk, sand and London clay
nal measurements of displacement contain er- exceeded the results obtained in conventional
rors which frequently mask the initial stress- tests, and in each case the small strain behaviour
strain characteristics of the soil and invalidate was non linear. The cemented chalk samples
their use in the determination of soil stiffness. showed both the highest normalized stiffness
The errors in the external measurement of dis- and the nearest approximation to linear stress-
placement mainly result from tilting of the sam- strain behaviour.
ple, bedding on the end platens and the effects In summary, the techniques described in this
of compliance in the apparatus. Paper make it possible to detect, simply and
In every test the low plasticity clay showed reliably, mean local axial strains in triaxial tests
highly non-linear, but very stiff, initial be- with a resolution of approximately 0.001%. In
haviour. The attainment of 0.1% axial strain the first programme of tests using the new
generally coincided with a marked loss of stiff- equipment observations have been made of the
ness and could be taken as the limit to the small undrained stress-strain characteristics of soils
strain range. Correlation with the undrained which, without local strain measurements, could
effective stress paths shows that such a range only be inferred from field measurements. Al-
extends over the main part of stress space in though more research is required into the fac-
which soil would usually be considered elastic. tors controlling the stiffness of soils, finite ele-
Such stiff initial behaviour is therefore likely to ment analyses have been carried out using con-
be important in the analysis of many practical stitutive models based on the experimental data,
problems. as described by Jardine, Potts, Fourie & Burland

(1984), which demonstrate that the initial small Gens, A. (1980). Discussion: Design parameters for
strain characteristics of a soil are of great impor- soft clays. Froc. 7th Eur. Conf. Soil Mech., Brigh-
tance in the analysis of engineering problems ton, 1979 4, 25-26.
and the interpretation of in situ tests. Gens, A. (1982). Stress-strain and strength characteris-
tics of a low plasticity clay. PhD thesis, University
Hight, D. W. (1983). Simple piezometer probe for the
The samples of low plasticity clay from the
routine measurement of pore water pressure in
North Sea were provided by BP International triaxial tests on saturated soils. Gkotechnique 32,4,
Ltd and the Authors are grateful to h4r W. J. 315-322.
Rigden for his interest in the work and his per- Jardine, R. J. & Brooks, N. J. (1984). The use of a
mission to publish the results. Thanks are also due new axial displacement gauge for the determina-
to Dr J. H. Atkinson for his helpful comments. tion of rock stiffness. In preparation.
The Authors wish to acknowledge the impor- Jardine, R. J., Potts, D. M., Fourie, A. & Burland, J.
tance of the contribution to this topic of Dr P. B. (1984). The importance of small strain be-
haviour in the analysis of soil structure interaction.
R. Vaughan, who supervised the first small
In preparation.
strain studies conducted by Dr L. C. Costa Filho
Ladd, C. C., Foot, R., Ishihara, K., Schlosser, F. &
and Dr 0. B. Daramola at Imperial College, and Poulos, H. G. (1977). Stress deformation and
also to thank their colleagues who have gener- strength characteristics. Proc. 9th Int. Conf. Soil
ously donated time and practical help to the Mech., Tokyo 3, 293-305.
work described. Mr P. Smith and Mr N. Brooks Lupini, J. F., Skinner, A. E. & Vaughan, P. R. (1981).
both provided particularly valuable contribu- The drained residual strength of cohesive soils.
tions to the work, which was funded by the GPotechnique 31, No. 2, 181-213.
Marine Technology Directorate of the Science Maswoswe, J. (1984). PhD thesis, University of Lon-
don. In preparation.
and Engineering Research Council.
Richart, F. E., Woods, J. D. & Hall, J. R. 1970.
Vibrations of soils and foundations. New Jersey:
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