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Enrico Conte

Abstract: This paper deals with the multidimensional consolidation of unsaturated soils when both the air phase and

water phase are continuous. Following the approach proposed by D.G. Fredlund and his coworkers, the differential

equations governing the coupled and uncoupled consolidation are first derived and then solved numerically. The solu-

tion is achieved using a procedure that depends on the transformation of the field equations by using the Fourier trans-

form. This transformation has the effect of reducing a two- or three-dimensional problem to a problem involving only a

single spatial dimension. The transformed equations are solved using a finite element approximation that makes use of

simple one-dimensional elements. Once the solution in the transformed domain is obtained, the actual solution is

achieved by inversion of the Fourier transform. The time integration process is formulated in a stepwise form. Results

are presented to point out some aspects of the consolidation in unsaturated soils. Moreover, it is shown that the results

obtained using the simple uncoupled theory are of sufficient accuracy for practical purposes.

Key words: coupled consolidation, uncoupled consolidation, unsaturated soils, Fourier transform.

Résumé : Cet article traite de la consolidation multidimensionnelle des sols non saturés quand aussi bien la phase li-

quide que la phase gazeuse sont continues. A partir de la formulation proposée par D.G. Fredlund et ses collaborateurs,

les équations différentielles controlant la consolidation couplée et la consolidation désaccouplée sont d’abord établies et

ensuite sont résolues numériquement. La solution est obtenue par une procédure qui peut compter sur la transformation

des équations de base au moyen de la transformation de Fourier. Cette transformation a l’effet de réduire un problème

à deux ou trois dimensions à un problème unidimensionnel. Les équations transformées sont résolves par la méthode

des éléments finis employant de simples éléments unidimensionnels. Une fois que la solution des équations transfor-

mées est obtenue, la solution réel est dérivée au moyen de la transformation inverse de Fourier. L’intégration par rap-

port au temps est exécutée pas à pas. Des résultats sont présentés pour mettre en évidence quelques caractéristiques de

la consolidation des sols non saturés. En outre, on montre que les résultats obtenus par la simple théorie désaccouplée

de la consolidation sont suffisamment précis pour leur utilisation pratique.

Mots clés : consolidation couplée, consolidation désaccouplée, sols non saturés, transformation de Fourier.

Conte

612

Introduction In the last few decades, there has been a considerable in-

crease in the understanding of the behaviour of unsaturated

The consolidation of cohesive soils as a result of dissipa- soils; as a result, several theoretical and experimental studies

tion of the excess pore pressures generated by external load- have been conducted to analyse the consolidation processes

ing is a problem of considerable concern for geotechnical in such soils (Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993). Unsaturated

engineers. In 1925, Terzaghi presented a simple theory for soils essentially consist of three phases: solid, liquid, and

the analysis of one-dimensional consolidation in saturated gaseous. As first pointed out by Barden (1965), three differ-

soils which is still widely used in practice. Generalization to

ent classes of behaviour may be singled out on the basis of

three dimensions has given rise to two different approaches,

the continuity of the fluid phases: for high values of the de-

which are known as the uncoupled consolidation theory

gree of saturation of the soil, the water phase is continuous

(Rendulic 1936) and the coupled consolidation theory (Biot

and the air phase is discontinuous; for lower values of the

1941). The latter is preferable from a theoretical point of

degree of saturation, both the air phase and the water phase

view because it provides a coupling between the magnitude

may be considered as continuous; lastly, when the degree of

and progress of settlement. The uncoupled approach cannot

saturation is low, the air phase is continuous and the water

model all the aspects of consolidation in saturated soils

phase is discontinuous. Consolidation should be analysed us-

(Schiffman et al. 1969), but it has proved to be useful in

ing a specific approach for each of these three classes. For

practice (Davis and Poulos 1972).

example, when the soil is close to saturation, the air con-

tained in the pores is occluded and cannot flow as a continu-

ous fluid. In these circumstances, the air bubbles and pore

Received 15 April 2003. Accepted 2 February 2004. water behave as a homogeneous compressible fluid flowing

Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at under pore water pressure gradients. As a result, the case of

http://cgj@nrc.ca on 20 August 2004. occluded air may be analysed using essentially the same for-

E. Conte. Faculty of Engineering, University of Calabria, mulation as that for saturated soils provided that pore fluid

87030 Rende, Cosenza, Italy (e-mail: conte@dds.unical.it). compressibility is accounted for. Solutions were proposed by

Can. Geotech. J. 41: 599–612 (2004) doi: 10.1139/T04-017 © 2004 NRC Canada

600 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

Olson (1986) for one-dimensional consolidation and by Although only soil systems under plane-strain conditions are

other authors for two- or three-dimensional conditions (Biot considered in this paper, the procedure could be extended to

1941; Verruijt 1969; Ghaboussi and Wilson 1973; Conte three-dimensional problems as well. The method is also used

1998). In this context, Chang and Duncan (1983) developed to solve the equations governing the uncoupled consolida-

a modified version of the Cam–Clay model to describe the tion in unsaturated soils owing to the application of an exter-

stress–strain behaviour of unsaturated soils. For lower val- nal load. Results are presented to ascertain whether the

ues of the degree of saturation, consolidation analysis is uncoupled approach is able to provide suitably accurate re-

more complex because air and water may flow simulta- sults, despite its greater simplicity compared with the cou-

neously and separately through the soil. A general formula- pled solution. Moreover, some interesting aspects of the

tion for one-dimensional consolidation in which the air and consolidation processes in unsaturated soils are pointed out.

water phases are assumed to be continuous was presented at

almost the same time by Fredlund and Hasan (1979) and Coupled consolidation for unsaturated soils

Lloret and Alonso (1980). This formulation is based on two

continuity equations, one for the water phase and one for the When air and water phases are both continuous, the gov-

air phase, which have to be solved simultaneously to give erning equations for the coupled consolidation in unsatu-

water and air pressures at any time and elevation. In the rated soils are the equilibrium equation and the continuity

method developed by Fredlund and Hasan, the constitutive equations for the two fluid phases. In the present section,

relations proposed by Fredlund and Morgenstern (1976) these equations are derived on the basis of the following

were incorporated. Lloret and Alonso used appropriate state assumptions: (i) small strains occur; (ii) solid particles are

surfaces to define the mechanical behaviour of the soil. In incompressible; (iii) air behaves as an ideal gas; (iv) both air

both solution procedures, the governing equations were flow and water flow are governed by a Darcy-type law;

solved using numerical techniques. Ausilio and Conte (v) the effects of temperature change, air dissolved in water,

(1999) showed that the solution for one-dimensional consol- air flow diffusion, and water vapour movement are disre-

idation may also be expressed in terms of the degree of set- garded; and (vi) dynamic and chemical effects are ignored.

tlement and the average degree of consolidation for both the Moreover, it is supposed that the soil is in a state of equilib-

water phase and the air phase. The three-dimensional con- rium prior to loading and deforms under plane-strain condi-

solidation problem was studied by Dakshanamurthy and tions. Consequently, all the field variables in the following

Fredlund (1980) using an uncoupled approach and by Dak- equations represent excesses over their existing values, and

shanamurthy et al. (1984), who first presented the differen- deformation is restricted to the x–z plane. Following

tial equations of the coupled theory. Lloret et al. (1987) Fredlund and Morgenstern (1976), the constitutive relation

extended the one-dimensional consolidation model proposed for the unsaturated soil structure may be expressed as

by Lloret and Alonso to three dimensions and developed an

dV σ + σz

iterative procedure for solving the field equations. This pro- [1] = m1s d x − ua + m 2s d (ua − uw)

cedure was organized into two stages: the first stage solves V 2

the stress–strain equations, and the second stage solves the

air and water flow equations. An attractive method based on where dV/V is the volume change of a soil element with re-

the state surface approach was also developed by Thomas spect to its initial volume V; σx and σ z are the total normal

and He (1997), who in addition accounted for the effects of stresses in the x and z directions, respectively; m1s and m 2s are

temperature change and water vapour movement. Moreover, the coefficients of volume change of the soil with respect to

Wong et al. (1998) presented a theoretical study on coupled a change in the net normal stress ([(σx + σ z)/ 2] − ua ) and the

consolidation in unsaturated soils which is based on the matric suction (ua − uw), respectively. These latter quantities

three-dimensional formulation proposed by Dakshanamurthy are the stress state variables commonly used to describe the

et al. Nevertheless, Wong et al. assumed that pore-air pres- volume change of unsaturated soils under plane-strain condi-

sure is atmospheric and remains unchanged during consoli- tions. Moreover, ua and uw are the pore-air and pore-water

dation. As a consequence, the air continuity equation was pressure, respectively. Similarly, the constitutive relations for

not considered in the analysis and the solution was obtained the water and air phases are

by solving simultaneously the equilibrium equation and the

dVw σ + σz

water continuity equation via the finite element method. [2] = m1w d x − ua + m 2w d (ua − uw)

In this paper, following the formulation developed by V 2

Dakshanamurthy et al. (1984), a solution is presented for

coupled consolidation in unsaturated soils when both the air dVa σ + σz

[3] = m1a d x − ua + m 2a d (ua − uw)

phase and the water phase are continuous. A numerical pro- V 2

cedure is proposed that allows the solution to a coupled con-

solidation problem to be obtained using the finite element where dVw/ V is the volume change of water in the soil, m1w

method without demanding great computational efforts. The and m 2w are the coefficients of water volume change, dVa / V

procedure makes use of the Fourier transform to formally re- is the volume change of air in the soil, and m1a and m 2a are

move the dependence of the field variables on the spatial co- the coefficients of air volume change. A negative sign is

ordinates in the horizontal plane. As a result, the soil system usually assigned to these coefficients to indicate that an in-

can be discretized using simple one-dimensional elements. A crease in the stress state variables causes a volume decrease.

similar methodology was previously developed by Booker Moreover, the continuity requirement leads to the following

and Small (1982) to analyse consolidation in saturated soils. relations:

Conte 601

[10] σx = ua + s

(εx + a sεv) − 2s (ua − uw)

[5] m 2s = m 2w + m 2a m1 m1

[11] σ z = ua + ( ε z + a s ε v) − (ua − uw)

If the soil is assumed to behave as an isotropic linear elas- m1s m1s

tic material, the normal stresses can be related to the normal

strains and matric suction using the relations proposed by In addition, as known, the shear stress is

Dakshanamurthy et al. (1984): [12] τxz = G γ xz

[6] σx − ua = 2G (εx + a sεv) − β (ua − uw)

where τxz and γ xz are the shear stress and shear strain in the

[7] σ z − ua = 2G (ε z + a sεv) − β (ua − uw) x–z plane, respectively. The shear and normal strains are re-

lated to displacement by the well-known relations

where G is the shear modulus of the soil; εx and ε z are the

normal strains in the x and z directions, respectively; εv is ∂u ∂w ∂u ∂ w

[13] εx = ; εz = ; γ xz = +

the volumetric strain (εv = εx + ε z); a s = ν/(1 − 2ν), where ν ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂x

is Poisson’s ratio of the soil; and β = 2G (1 + ν) /(1 − 2ν)Hs,

where Hs is a modulus relating the change of εv to a change in which u and w denote the components of displacement in

in matric suction. Under plane-strain conditions, we can the x and z directions, respectively. It should be noted that,

write in general, the material parameters in the aforementioned

constitutive relations are functions of the stress state vari-

1 − 2ν ables. Therefore, these relations should be used in an incre-

[8] m1s =

G mental sense. Under the assumptions made and on the basis

of the these relations, the equations governing the coupled

2 (1 + ν)

[9] m 2s = consolidation are (1) the equilibrium equations, (2) the con-

Hs tinuity equation for the water phase, and (3) the continuity

equation for the air phase.

(Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993). Substituting eqs. [8] and [9]

into eqs. [6] and [7] yields

(1) Equilibrium equations — Under plane-strain conditions, the equilibrium equations are:

∂σx ∂τxz

∂x + ∂z = 0

[14] ∂τ ∂σ z

xz + =0

∂x ∂z

which, after substituting eqs. [10]–[13] and rearranging the terms, can be written as

2 2 2

2bs ∂ u + a s ∂ u + ∂ w + bs ∂ u + ∂ w − cs ∂ (ua − uw) + ∂ua = 0

2 2

∂ 2 ∂ 2

∂ ∂ ∂ 2

∂ ∂ ∂x ∂x

x x z x z z x

[15]

2b ∂ 2w + a ∂ 2u + ∂ 2w + b ∂ 2u + ∂ 2w − c ∂ (ua − uw) + ∂ua = 0

s ∂z 2 s 2

s 2 s

∂x ∂z ∂z ∂z ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z

(2) Continuity equation for the water phase — The continuity equation for the water phase requires that the rate of the water

volume change be equal to the net flow of water through a soil element of volume V:

∂ Vw ∂v x ∂v z

[16] − = +

∂t V ∂x ∂z

where t is time; Vw is the volume of water in the soil; and vx and vz indicate the water flow rate across a unit area of the

soil element in the x and z directions, respectively. Introducing Darcy’s law and the relation for the hydraulic head, hw =

z + uw/γw, the term on the right-hand side of eq. [16] becomes

∂v x ∂v z ∂ k ∂u ∂ k ∂u ∂k

[17] + = − w w − w w − w

∂x ∂z ∂x γ w ∂x ∂z γ w ∂z ∂z

where γw is the unit weight of water, and kw is the coefficient of permeability with respect to the water phase. In eq. [17]

the same coefficient of permeability is used for the water flow in the x and z directions, since the soil is assumed to be

isotropic for simplicity. The term on the left-hand side of eq. [16] can be obtained by differentiating the water phase con-

stitutive relation (eq. [2]) with respect to time, under the assumption that the coefficients of volume change remain con-

602 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

stant during consolidation. This assumption may be considered acceptable for practical purposes when the stress

increments are small. Therefore, we can write

∂ Vw ∂ σ + σz ∂

[18] = m1w x − ua + m 2w (ua − uw)

∂t V ∂t 2 ∂t

Substituting eqs. [10] and [11] into eq. [18] and taking into account eq. [13], after some rearrangements the following

equation is obtained:

∂ Vw ∂ ∂u ∂w ∂

[19] = aw + + bw (ua − uw)

∂t V ∂t ∂x ∂z ∂t

where a w = m1w/ m1s and bw = m 2w − m1wm 2s / m1s. Lastly, substituting eqs. [17] and [19] into eq. [16] leads to the continuity

equation for the water phase:

∂ ∂u ∂w ∂ ∂k ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂ 2u ∂ 2uw ∂kw

[20] aw + + bw (ua − uw) = dw w w + w w + fw 2w + +

∂t ∂x ∂z ∂t ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂x ∂z 2 ∂z

(3) Continuity equation for the air phase — The continuity equation for the air phase requires that the rate of air mass change

in the soil be equal to the net air mass flow through the soil element:

∂ ρ aVa ∂Jx ∂J z

[21] − = +

∂t V ∂x ∂z

in which Va is the volume of air in the soil; and Jx and Jz denote the mass rate of air flowing across a unit area of the soil

in the x and z directions, respectively. Jx and Jz can be expressed as

ka ∂ua ka ∂ua

[22] Jx = − ; Jz = −

g ∂x g ∂x

in which g is the acceleration due to gravity; ka is the coefficient of permeability for the air phase; and ρa is the air den-

sity, which is given by the ideal gas law as

[23] ρ a = ηua

where η = ωa /RT , in which ωa is the molecular mass of air; R is the universal gas constant; T indicates the absolute tem-

perature; and ua is the absolute air pressure (i.e., ua = ua + uab + uatm, where uab is the initial air pressure existing in the

soil and uatm is the atmospheric pressure). Because of air compressibility, we can write

∂ ρ aVa ∂ V V ∂ρ a

[24] = ρa a + a

∂t V ∂t V V ∂t

where

Va

[25] = (1 − S ) n

V

in which n is the soil porosity, and S is the degree of saturation of the soil. Substituting eqs. [22], [23], and [24] into

eq. [21] yields the following equation:

∂ Va 1 Va ∂ua 1 ∂ ka ∂ua 1 ∂ ka ∂ua

[26] − = − −

∂t V ua V ∂t ηua ∂x g ∂x ηua ∂z g ∂z

Moreover, using Boyle’s law and taking into account eq. [25], we can write

1 Va 1

[27] = 2 uab(1 − S b ) n b

ua V ua

where uab is the initial absolute air pressure in the soil; and Sb and nb are the initial degree of saturation and the initial po-

rosity of the soil, respectively. The term ∂(Va / V )/∂t can also be expressed as the derivative of the air phase constitutive re-

lation (eq. [3]) with respect to time, under the assumption that the coefficients of volume change remain constant during

consolidation:

∂ Va ∂ σ + σz ∂

[28] = m1a x − ua + m 2a (ua − uw)

∂t V ∂t 2 ∂t

Conte 603

Substituting eqs. [27] and [28] into eq. [26] and taking into account eqs. [10], [11], and [13], after some rearrangements

the partial differential equation for the air phase can be obtained:

∂ ∂u ∂w ∂ ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂ 2u ∂ 2u

[29] aa + + ba (ua − uw) = −ca a + da a a + a a + fa 2a + 2a

∂t ∂x ∂z ∂t ∂t ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂x ∂z

in which

m1a m am s 1 1

aa = , ba = m 2a − 1 s 2 , ca = uab(1 − S b ) n b, da = ,

m1s m1 ua2 ηua g

and

ka

fa =

ηua g

Equations [15], [20], and [29] form the set of differential Fig. 1. Finite element discretization scheme. B, width of founda-

equations governing the coupled consolidation in unsatu- tion; H, thickness of soil layer.

rated soils under plane-strain conditions; they are similar

to those presented by Dakshanamurthy et al. (1984) and

Fredlund and Rahardjo (1993). After solving these equa-

tions, the water and air pressures and the soil displacements

are simultaneously obtained as a function of x, z, and t. It

should be noted that the aforementioned set of equations is,

in general, nonlinear because the soil properties involved de-

pend on the current stress state variables. Moreover, some

coefficients in eq. [29] depend on the absolute air pressure

ua . As a consequence, an iterative procedure should be set up

to find the solution. Nevertheless, when the excess pore-air

pressure is small or, as often occurs, rapidly dissipates dur-

ing consolidation, ua may be considered constant and the use

of such an iterative procedure is not essential. Lastly, with

regard to the boundary conditions, when the soil is subjected

to prescribed surface tractions (Fig. 1), we may put at the Numerical solution

loaded upper surface When considering soil systems of infinite lateral extent,

from a computational point of view it is convenient to trans-

[30] σz = q z and τxz = q x

form the governing differential equations by an application

where qz and qx denote the normal and tangential surface of the Fourier transform. For the field variables involved in

tractions, respectively. Moreover, the base of the soil may be the problem at issue, this transformation and its inverse can

supposed to be rough and rigid be defined, respectively, as

∞

[31] u=0 and w =0 1

[35] (U, W , Uw, Ua ) = ∫ (u, iw, iuw, iua) e−iax dx

2π −∞

or smooth and rigid

[32] τxz = 0 and w =0 ∞

[36] (u, w, uw, ua ) = ∫ (U,−iW,−iUw,−iUa) eiax dα

−∞

permeable

where α is the wave number, which describes the variation

[33] uw = 0 and ua = 0 of the variables in the x direction; and i = (–1)1/2. In

or impermeable eqs. [35] and [36] and in the following equations, the trans-

formed field variables are indicated by an upper case letter.

∂uw ∂ua Moreover, a different transformation formula is used for u

[34] =0 and =0

∂z ∂z and for the other variables for the sake of convenience.

Under the assumption that the coefficients of permeability

In reality, the boundary conditions for the fluid phases are do not change with changes in x and z, after substituting

in general more complex than those expressed by eqs. [33] eq. [36] into eqs. [15], [20], and [29] and rearranging the

and [34]. For example, at the upper surface the influence terms, the equations governing the coupled consolidation in

of the specific climatic conditions should be accounted unsaturated soils are transformed into the following differen-

for. This has not been considered in the present study. tial equations:

© 2004 NRC Canada

604 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

∂W ∂ 2U ∂W

2bs −α 2(1 + α s) U + α a s + bs 2 + α − α cs(Ua − Uw) + αUa = 0

∂z ∂z ∂z

2bs −(1 + α s) ∂ W + α a s ∂U + bs α 2W + α ∂U + cs ∂Ua − ∂Uw − ∂Ua = 0

2

∂z 2

∂z ∂z ∂z ∂z ∂z

[37]

a w α ∂U − ∂ W + bw ∂Uw − ∂Ua − fw α 2Uw − ∂ Uw = 0

2 2

∂t ∂z∂t ∂t ∂t

∂z 2

∂U ∂ 2W

+ ba ∂Uw − ∂Ua − fa α 2Ua − ∂ Ua − ca ∂Ua = 0

2

a a α − 2

∂t ∂z∂t ∂t ∂t ∂z ∂t

The boundary conditions (eqs. [30]–[34]) must also be ex- technique in conjunction with a time integration process,

pressed in terms of Fourier transform. To this end, the fol- where the solution is found from that at the previous time.

lowing transformation formulas can be used for the surface Such a time integration process is appropriate, especially

tractions: when the soil properties have to be updated during consoli-

∞ dation in accordance with the current stress state. In this

1 work, simple quadratic shape functions have been adopted

[38] (Qx , Qz) = ∫ (q x, iq z) e−iax dx

2π −∞ along with a central difference approximation as a time-

marching scheme (Booker and Small 1975). The finite ele-

and ment formulation for eq. [37] leads to a set of algebraic

∞

equations that may be written in matrix form as (Aromataris

2002)

( q x , q z) = ∫ (Qx,−iQz) eiax dα

−∞ [45] CF = R

where Qx and Qz denote the direct Fourier transforms of the where C is a matrix, the terms of which depend on the soil

prescribed surface tractions. Therefore, taking into account properties involved in eq. [37], the thickness of the elements,

eqs. [10]–[13] and [38], eq. [30] gives the wave number α, and the time step ∆t; F is the vector of

∂W the unknown variables that are the nodal transformed dis-

∂W

[39] Qz = Ua + 2bs + a s −αU + − cs(Ua − Uw) placements U and W and the nodal transformed pressures Uw

∂z ∂z and Ua at time t; and R is the vector of the known terms con-

taining the nodal transformed variables at the previous time

and and the prescribed transformed surface tractions. It should

∂U be emphasized that the solution obtained from eq. [45] is a

[40] Qx = bs + αW function of the transform variable α; inversion is therefore

∂z required to recover the original physical variables. In other

In addition, the other boundary conditions (eqs. [31]–[34]) words, the present method works in the wave number do-

take the form main, and consequently the solution requires first that the

external loads be expanded in harmonic components and

[41] U=0 and W =0 then that eq. [45] be solved for each harmonic component to

obtain the nodal transformed displacements and pore pres-

∂U

[42] + αW = 0 and W =0 sures as a discrete function of α. Once these transformed

∂z variables are found, the actual displacements and pore pres-

sures at any desired position can be calculated by numerical

[43] Uw = 0 and Ua = 0

inversion of the Fourier transform (eq. [36]). This procedure

∂Uw ∂Ua has to be used for any time step, as shown in the flow chart

[44] =0 and =0 of Fig. 2. The soil properties involved in the governing equa-

∂z ∂z

tions may be supposed to be constant during consolidation

The main advantage of eq. [37] over the starting equations or be updated at each time step in accordance with the cur-

(eqs. [15], [20], and [29]) is that for a given value of α the rent stress state using appropriate relations and experimental

unknown quantities U, W, Uw, and Ua only depend on z and t. data (Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993; van Genuchten 1980;

From a computational point of view, this makes the solution Fredlund et al. 1994). Although the flow chart in Fig. 2 re-

easier to obtain, since the problem, originally two dimen- fers to an external load that is supposed constant in time,

sional, in effect is reduced to a one-dimensional problem. As loading of more general time–history could be considered.

a consequence, to solve eq. [37] numerically, only the soil In addition, the use of the Fourier transform allows us to ac-

thickness needs to be discretized by a finite number of one- count for an arbitrary spatial distribution of the surface load-

dimensional elements, as shown in Fig. 1. The solution may ing. To simplify the solution, it is also possible to express

be advantageously obtained using the standard finite element the field variables as periodically spaced functions in the

Conte 605

Fig. 2. Solution flow chart for coupled consolidation. Fig. 3. Representation of a strip load by Fourier series.

a saturated soil layer (adapted from Booker and Small 1982).

transform (Fig. 3). In this case, however, the spatial period

must be chosen wide enough to minimize the effects of the

interaction among the load areas and of the rigid and imper-

vious vertical walls fictitiously introduced whenever the

functions periodically repeat themselves, on the solution.

The writer has found that using a value of the semi-period,

L, greater than five times the foundation width, B (Fig. 3),

and at least 20 terms of the Fourier series usually provides

satisfactory results for practical purposes. The results shown

in the following have been obtained using such an approxi-

mation.

The accuracy of the proposed procedure can be assessed

by comparing the results with those obtained using other (1970) and Booker (1974) under the assumption that the

theoretical solutions. Nevertheless, the writer is not aware of base is also smooth or rough, respectively. Specifically,

existing problems concerning the coupled consolidation in Fig. 4 shows the dimensionless vertical displacement, ws =

unsaturated soils induced by external loading, in which the 2Gw/qB, beneath the central point of the strip loading,

same constitutive relations considered in the present study against a time factor defined as Ts = 2Gkwt/γwH2. As shown

have been employed. Therefore, comparisons have been car- in Fig. 4, the present procedure provides results in very

ried out considering only examples involving saturated soils. close agreement with those obtained by Gibson et al. and

It should be noted that the solution to such a problem can be Booker.

obtained by eq. [37], setting S b = 100% and m1s = m 2s = m1w =

m 2w = m v, where mv denotes the coefficient of volume change Example of coupled consolidation in

for the saturated soil, which is given by eq. [8]. As an exam- unsaturated soils

ple, the results presented in Fig. 4 concern a saturated soil

layer subjected to a uniform strip load, q, which is constant To point out some features of the coupled consolidation in

in time. The ratio of the layer thickness to the foundation unsaturated soils, a soil layer resting on a rigid, rough, and

width is H/B = 0.5. Free drainage is allowed across the up- impervious base is considered as an example. The layer is

per surface of the layer, whereas the base is impervious and subjected to an external strip load of uniform intensity, q,

rigid. Poisson’s ratio is assumed to be zero. The solution which is held constant in time; the foundation width, B, is

to this problem was obtained analytically by Gibson et al. set equal to 3H/2, where H is the layer thickness. The soil

606 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

Fig. 5. Effect of ka/kw on the time (T) – settlement (w*) behav- Fig. 6. Effect of ka/kw on pore-water pressure dissipation with

iour of a strip foundation on an unsaturated soil layer. time.

moreover, it is assumed that m1s = –2.5 × 10–4 kPa–1,

m 2s /m1s = 0.4, m1w /m1s = 0.2, and m 2w /m1w = 4. Lastly, four dif-

ferent values of the ratio ka/kw are considered, namely 0.1, 1, Fig. 7. Effect of ka/kw on pore-air pressure dissipation with time.

10, and 105. For the sake of simplicity, all the aforemen-

tioned soil parameters are assumed to remain constant dur-

ing consolidation, and the initial absolute pore-air pressure

is supposed to be atmospheric. Figure 5 shows the time his-

tory of the settlement at the centre of the loaded area. Both

settlement and time are expressed in a dimensionless form

as w* = w/m1sqB and T = kw t/ m1sγ wH 2, respectively. As can

be noted, when ka is less than kw (ka/kw = 0.1) the progress

of settlement with time presents a classic S-shaped curve

similar to that predicted by the consolidation theory for satu-

rated soils. On the contrary, when ka > kw, which most often

is the case (Rahardjo and Fredlund 1995), a double S-shaped

settlement curve can be observed. This is because the early

stage of consolidation is mainly governed by the dissipation

of air pressures faster than that of water pressures, whereas

the final stage is due entirely to the gradual dissipation of

excess water pressure. Similar behaviour was also observed

during oedometer tests on compacted soil samples (Ausilio

and Conte 2003). For the highest value of ka/kw considered,

air pressures dissipate very rapidly and, as a result, a higher

instantaneous settlement occurs, replacing in practice the

first S-shaped settlement curve. This physical interpretation

is also supported by the results of Figs. 6 and 7, where the and 9, where the pore-water pressure at a given depth is ex-

dissipation curves for the water and air pressures calculated pressed as a ratio of its initial value arising at the same

at depth z = 0.5B are shown. Moreover, from Fig. 6 it can depth. Pore-air pressure also exhibits a similar behaviour

also be observed that the Mandel–Cryer effect occurring (Figs. 10 and 11).

during the consolidation in saturated soils (Mandel 1953;

Cryer 1963), which as known is characterized by an increase

in pore-water pressure before dissipation starts, is minimized Uncoupled consolidation for unsaturated

in unsaturated soils. This aspect was pointed out by Wong et soils

al. (1998). In addition, contrary to the case of saturated soils

(Schiffman et al. 1969), the effect at issue appears to be The governing equations of uncoupled consolidation in

much attenuated even when depth increases or Poisson’s ra- unsaturated soils are given by the continuity equations for

tio decreases. These influences are documented in Figs. 8 the water phase and the air phase. Under the same assump-

Conte 607

Fig. 8. Effect of depth on pore-water pressure dissipation with Fig. 10. Effect of depth on pore-air pressure dissipation with

time. uw, pore-water pressure; uwo, initial pore-water pressure at time. ua, pore-air pressure; uao, initial pore-air pressure at the

the same depth. same depth.

Fig. 9. Effect of Poisson’s ratio on pore-water pressure dissipa- Fig. 11. Effect of Poisson’s ratio on pore-air pressure dissipation

tion with time. with time.

tion introduced for the coupled theory, these equations can and equating eq. [26] to eq. [28]:

be obtained substituting eqs. [17] and [18] into eq. [16]:

∂ σx + σ z ∂ ∂ σx + σ z ∂

[46] m1w − ua + m 2w (ua − uw) [47] m1a − ua + m 2a (ua − uw)

∂t ∂ ∂t 2 ∂t

2 t

∂k ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂ua ∂k ∂u ∂k ∂u

= dw w w + w w = −ca + da a a + a a

∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂t ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z

∂ 2u ∂ 2uw ∂kw ∂ 2u ∂ 2u

+ fw 2w + + + fa 2a + 2a

∂x ∂z 2 ∂z ∂x ∂z

608 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

Moreover, assuming, as an approximation, that the total stresses remain constant during consolidation, eqs. [46] and [47] be-

come

∂u ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂k ∂u ∂ 2u ∂ 2uw ∂kw

gw a = hw w + dw w w + w w + fw 2w + +

∂t ∂t ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂x ∂z 2 ∂z

[48]

g ∂ua = h ∂uw + d ∂ka ∂ua + ∂ka ∂ua + f ∂ ua + ∂ ua

2 2

a

a ∂t ∂z 2

a a

∂t ∂x ∂x ∂z ∂z ∂x

2

where gw = (m 2w − m1w), hw = m 2w, ga = (ca + m 2a − m1a ), and Fig. 12. Lateral distributions of the initial excess pore pressures

ha = m 2a . Solving eq. [48], water and air pressures are calcu- resulting from the application of strip loading on an unsaturated

lated at any time and position. The boundary conditions may soil.

be expressed by eqs. [33] and [34], whereas the excess pore

pressures generated at the instant when the external load is

applied represent the initial conditions (Lloret and Alonso

1980; Fredlund and Rahardjo 1993). To this purpose, equa-

tions are given in Appendix A to evaluate in an approximate

manner the initial excess pore-air and pore-water pressures

in response to a total stress change resulting from the appli-

cation of strip loading. Typical lateral distributions of the

pore pressures obtained using these equations are shown in

Fig. 12, as an example. If it is again assumed that the coeffi-

cients of permeability do not change with changes in x and

z, after applying a Fourier transform to the field variables in

eq. [48], the transformed equations governing the uncoupled

consolidation in unsaturated soils take the following form:

∂U ∂ 2Uw ∂U

gw a + fw α 2Uw − 2

− hw w = 0

∂ t ∂z ∂t

[49]

∂Ua 2

α Ua − ∂ Ua − ha ∂Uw = 0

2

ga + fa 2

∂t ∂z ∂t

aforesaid boundary and initial conditions, both expressed in

terms of transformed quantities. Application of the finite ele-

ment formulation for eq. [49] yields a set of equations that 1

may be written in matrix form as (Aromataris 2002) [51] εz = [(σ z − ua ) + a s(σ z − σx ) + cs(ua − uw)]

2bs(1 + 2a s)

[50] AD = S

in which the total stresses σx and σz can be evaluated using

where A is a matrix, the terms of which depend on the soil eqs. [A12] and [A13] in Appendix A. Lastly, the settlement

properties involved in eq. [49], the thickness of the elements, is given by

the wave number α, and the time step ∆t; the vector D con- H

tains the unknown variables that are the nodal transformed [52] w = ∫ ε z dz

pressures Uw and Ua at time t; and S is the vector of the 0

known terms containing the nodal transformed variables at

the previous time. Once the transformed variables are found, where H denotes the thickness of the compressible soil layer.

the actual pore pressures at any desired position can be cal-

culated by numerical inversion of the Fourier transform. The Comparison between coupled and

calculating procedure is shown in the flow chart of Fig. 13. uncoupled consolidation

As can be noted, the variables that have to be expanded in

harmonic components by Fourier transform at the beginning The main difference emerging when the results from cou-

of this procedure are different from those indicated in Fig. 2. pled and uncoupled theories of the consolidation in saturated

For the uncoupled analysis, in fact, these quantities are the soils are compared is the early increase in pore-water pres-

initial excess pore pressures resulting from the loading ap- sure due to the Mandel–Cryer effect, which cannot be repro-

plication. After finding the actual field variables, the normal duced using the simple uncoupled approach (Schiffman et

strain ε z is calculated in uncoupled manner using the follow- al. 1969). Nevertheless, as pointed out by Wong et al. (1998)

ing expression that derives from eqs. [10] and [11]: and supported by the results previously shown in this paper,

Conte 609

Fig. 13. Solution flow chart for uncoupled consolidation. Fig. 14. Comparison of coupled and uncoupled consolidation.

Pore-water pressure dissipation at z = 0.5B.

Pore-air pressure dissipation at z = 0.5B.

Consequently, it is worth ascertaining whether the uncou-

pled approach can provide a valid approximation to the cou-

pled theory, for both pore pressure dissipation and

settlement rate occurring during consolidation. To this end,

the same example as that in the previous parametric study is

again considered. Figures 14–16 present a comparison be-

tween the results derived from the coupled and uncoupled

theories in terms of excess pore pressure dissipation and set-

tlement evolution with time for the case when ka/kw = 10.

Specifically, Figs. 14 and 15 show the time – pore pressure

curves at a given depth for the air and water phases, and

Fig. 16 shows the degree of settlement Us versus time T

which is defined as

w(t) − w o

[53] Us =

wc − wo

where w(t) is the settlement at time t, wo is the immediate equations in Appendix A. Examination of Figs. 14–16

settlement, and wc is the long-term settlement. Settlement is shows that the simple uncoupled theory predicts very well

calculated for the centre of the loaded area. In other words, the pore pressures obtained by the more rigorous coupled so-

Us represents the settlement rate for the foundation consid- lution for both the air and water phases. The comparison be-

ered. For the uncoupled approach, two solutions are given; tween the two theories in terms of degree of settlement is

they are pointed out in Figs. 14–16 as uncoupled consolida- also satisfactory (Fig. 16). This should also support the as-

tion and approximate uncoupled consolidation and differ, sumption, on which the uncoupled approach is based, that

essentially, for the initial conditions used to solve eq. [50]. the total stresses induced by the considered load remain

In the former solution, the pore pressures calculated at the essentially unchanged during consolidation. Moreover, the

first time instant by the coupled theory have been used as results in Figs. 14–16 show that even the approximate un-

initial conditions for the uncoupled analysis; in the latter so- coupled solution gives, in general, results in good agreement

lution, on the contrary, the initial pore pressure at any depth with those from the coupled theory, especially with regard to

has been evaluated, in an approximate manner, using the settlement rate.

610 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

Fig. 16. Comparison of coupled and uncoupled consolidation. Ausilio, E., and Conte, E. 1999. Settlement rate of foundations on

Degree of settlement versus time. unsaturated soils. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 36: 940–946.

Ausilio, E., and Conte, E. 2003. Remarks on consolidation in un-

saturated soils from experimental results. In Proceedings of the

International Conference: From Experimental Evidence towards

Numerical Modelling of Unsaturated Soils, Weimar, Germany,

18–19 September 2003. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. In press.

Barden, L. 1965. Consolidation of compacted and unsaturated

clays. Géotechnique, 15(3): 267–286.

Biot, M.A. 1941. General theory of three-dimensional consolida-

tion. Journal of Applied Physics, 12(2): 155–168.

Booker, J.R. 1974. The consolidation of a finite layer subject to

surface loading. International Journal of Solids and Structures,

10: 1053–1065.

Booker, J.R., and Small, J.C. 1975. An investigation of the stability

of numerical solution of Biot’s equations of consolidation. Inter-

national Journal of Solids and Structures, 11: 907–917.

Booker, J.R., and Small, J.C. 1982. Finite layer analysis of consoli-

dation. I. International Journal for Numerical and Analytical

Methods in Geomechanics, 6: 151–171.

Chang, C.S., and Duncan, J.M. 1983. Consolidation analysis for

partly saturated clay by using an elastic–plastic effective stress –

strain model. International Journal for Numerical and Analytical

Methods in Geomechanics, 7: 39–55.

Conte, E. 1998. Consolidation of anisotropic soil deposits. Soils

and Foundations, 38(4): 227–237.

Conclusions Cryer, C.W. 1963. A comparison of the three-dimensional consoli-

A method has been presented for the analysis of coupled dation theories of Biot and Terzaghi. Quarterly Journal of Me-

and uncoupled consolidation in unsaturated soils under chanics and Applied Mathematics, 16: 401–412.

plane-strain conditions. The method makes use of the Fou- Dakshanamurthy, V., and Fredlund, D.G. 1980. Moisture and air

rier transform to represent the field variables in the horizon- flow in an unsaturated soil. In Proceedings of the 4th Interna-

tal plane. The solution to the transformed differential tional Conference on Expansive Soils, Denver, Colo., 16–

equations is obtained in the finite element fashion, dis- 18 June 1980. Edited by D.R. Snethen. American Society of

Civil Engineering, New York. Vol. 1, pp. 514–532.

cretizing the soil system by simple one-dimensional ele-

Dakshanamurthy, V., Fredlund, D.G., and Rahardjo, H. 1984. Cou-

ments. Moreover, a procedure has been suggested to

pled three-dimensional consolidation theory of unsaturated po-

evaluate, in an approximate manner, the excess pore pres-

rous media. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference

sures in response to the application of an external load. This on Expansive Soils, Adelaide, South Australia, 21–23 May

latter procedure may be employed to determine the initial 1984. American Society of Civil Engineering, New York.

conditions for solving the equations governing the uncou- pp. 99–103.

pled consolidation. The theoretical analyses carried out in Davis, E.H., and Poulos, H.G. 1972. Rate of settlement under two-

this study have pointed out that the settlement evolution with and three-dimensional conditions. Géotechnique, 22(1): 95–114.

time during a consolidation process in unsaturated soils Fredlund, D.G., and Hasan, J.U. 1979. One-dimensional consolida-

could present a double S-shaped curve that is different from tion theory: unsaturated soils. Canadian Geotechnical Journal,

that predicted by the consolidation theory in saturated soils. 16: 521–531.

This may occur when the permeability coefficient for the air Fredlund, D.G., and Morgenstern, N.R. 1976. Constitutive relations

phase is greater than that for the water phase, which most for volume change in unsaturated soils. Canadian Geotechnical

often is the case. In these circumstances, in fact, the early Journal, 13: 386–396.

stage of consolidation is affected by the faster dissipation Fredlund, D.G., and Rahardjo, H. 1993. Soil mechanics for unsatu-

of the air pressures, and the final stage is due entirely to rated soils. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

the gradual dissipation of the excess pore-water pressures. Fredlund, D.G., Xing, A., and Huang, S. 1994. Predicting the per-

Moreover, it has been shown that the early increase in pore- meability function for unsaturated soils using the soil-water

water pressures prior to dissipation, which in the case of characteristic curve. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 31: 533–

saturated soils is known as the Mandel–Cryer effect, is atten- 546.

uated in unsaturated soils. Lastly, the results have demon- Ghaboussi, J., and Wilson, E.L. 1973. Flow of compressible fluid

strated that the simple uncoupled approach may, in general, in porous elastic solids. International Journal for Numerical

provide a valid approximation to the coupled theory. Methods in Engineering, 5: 419–442.

Gibson, R.E., Schiffman, R.L., and Pu, S.L. 1970. Plane strain and

axially symmetric consolidation of a clay layer on a smooth

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Conte 611

Lloret, A., and Alonso, E.E. 1980. Consolidation of unsaturated Vwb ∆Vw ∆Vw Vvb

[A3] S= + = Sb +

Vvb Vv

soils including swelling and collapse behaviour. Géotechnique,

30(4): 449–477.

Vv Vv

Lloret, A., Gens, A., Batlle, F., and Alonso, E.E. 1987. Flow and

deformation analysis of partially saturated soils. In Groundwater Substituting eqs. [A2] and [A3] into eq. [A1] and setting

Effects in Geotechnical Engineering: Proceedings of the 9th Eu- Vv = Vvb + ∆Vv leads to

ropean Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engi-

neering, Dublin, Ireland, 31 August – 9 September 1987. A.A. [A4] uab(1 − S b + hS b) Vvb = ua (Vvb + ∆Vv)

Balkema, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Vol. 2, pp. 565–568. ∆Vw

Mandel, J. 1953. Consolidation des sols (étude mathématique). − S b + uaVvb(1 − h)

Géotechnique, 3: 287–299. Vvb

Olson, R.E. 1986. State-of-the-art: consolidation testing. In Con-

solidation of soils, testing and evaluation. Edited by R.N. Yong Dividing all the terms by the total volume of the soil, V, and

and F.C. Townsend. American Society for Testing and Materials introducing the soil porosity nb = Vvb/V, eq. [A4] becomes

(ASTM), Philadelphia, Pa., Special Technical Publication STP

892, pp. 7–70. ∆Vv

[A5] uab(1 − S b + hS b) n b = ua n b +

Rahardjo, H., and Fredlund, D.G. 1995. Experimental verification V

of the theory of consolidation for unsaturated soils. Canadian

Geotechnical Journal, 32: 749–766. ∆Vw

− S b + uan b(1 − h)

Rendulic, L. 1936. Porenziffer und porenwasserdruck in tonen. Der

Vvb

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Under the assumption that soil particles are incompressible,

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Terzaghi, K. 1925. Erdbaumechanik auf Bodenphysikalischer soil. Therefore, this term may be expressed by the constitu-

Grundlage. Leipzig Deuticke, Vienna. tive equation for the soil (Fredlund and Morgenstern 1976)

Thomas, H.R., and He, Y. 1997. A coupled heat–moisture transfer as

theory for deformable unsaturated soils and its algorithmic im- ∆Vv

plementation. International Journal for Numerical Methods in [A6] = m1s∆(σ − ua ) + m 2s ∆(ua − uw)

Engineering, 40: 3421–3441. V

van Genuchten, M.T. 1980. A closed-form equation of predicting

where, under plane-strain conditions, ∆σ is given by (σx +

the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. Soil Science So-

σz)/2; and m1s and m2s are the coefficients of volume change

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Wong, T.T., Fredlund, D.G., and Krahn, J. 1998. A numerical study ∆Vw

of coupled consolidation in unsaturated soils. Canadian Geo- [A7] = −n b S bC w∆uw

technical Journal, 35: 926–937.

V

and

Appendix A: Equations for an evaluation of ∆Vw

[A8] = −S bC w∆uw

excess pore pressures in response to a Vvb

total stress change

where Cw is water compressibility, and ∆uw is the pore-water

Referring to the condition before loading and that at the pressure change. In these latter equations the negative sign is

instant when an external load is applied, Boyle’s law gives used to indicate that volume decreases as pore-water pres-

sure increases. Substituting eqs. [A6] and [A8] into eq. [A5]

[A1] uabVab = uaVa and setting ∆ua = ∆ua = ua − uab, after some rearrangements

the following equation is found to evaluate the change in

where ua and Va are the absolute air pressure and the volume pore-water pressure ∆uw and pore-air pressure ∆ua in re-

of air in the soil, respectively; and the subscript b indicates sponse to a total stress change ∆σ:

the condition before loading. The volume of air can be ex-

pressed as n b

(1 − S b + hS b) + m 2 − m1 ∆ua

s s

[A9]

[A2] Va = (1 − S + hS ) Vv ua

− [m 2s − S bn bC w( 1 − h)] ∆uw = −m1s∆σ

in which h is the volumetric coefficient of solubility for air

in water in accordance with Henry’s law; Vv is the volume of To derive the second equation, the constitutive relation for

voids; and S is the degree of saturation of the soil, which is the water phase (Fredlund and Morgenstern 1976) is used:

given by S = Vw/ Vv, where Vw is the volume of water in the

soil. Setting Vw = Vwb + ∆Vw, the degree of saturation after ∆Vw

[A10] = m1w∆(σ − ua ) + m 2w∆(ua − uw)

loading can be written as V

612 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 41, 2004

where m1w and m 2w are the coefficients of water volume Fig. A1. Scheme for calculating σx and σz.

change. Equating this equation to eq. [A7] and rearranging

the terms yields

equations presented by Fredlund and Rahardjo (1993), gives

the excess pore pressures ∆uw and ∆ua resulting from a

change in the total stresses due to the application of an ex-

ternal load. These variables are also indicated in the paper as

uwo and uao, respectively. Since the first term on the left-

hand side of eq. [A9] contains the absolute pore-air pressure,

an iterative procedure is required for the solution. For a strip

load of uniform intensity, q, the total stresses σx and σz ap-

pearing on the right-hand side of eqs. [A9] and [A11] can by

evaluated, as an approximation, using the following expres- q

sions that derive from elasticity theory (Jumikis 1969): [A13] σ z = (2ε + sin 2ε cos 2δ )

π

q where angles ε and δ are indicated in Fig. A1.

[A12] σx = (2ε − sin 2ε cos 2δ )

π