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Effect of initial static shear on cyclic behavior of sand

Effet initial du frottement des couches sur le comportement cyclique des alluvions

J. Yang, H.Y. Sze & M.K. Heung

Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Liquefaction of saturated sand deposits poses a considerable threat to the safety of various engineering structures during earthquakes.
Among various factors that have been identified in the laboratory to affect the liquefaction behavior of sand, the initial static driving
shear is a key one in the liquefaction analysis involving earth dams, slopes and high-rise buildings. While the cyclic behavior of sand
without initial static shear has been studied extensively, a general consensus has still not yet come up regarding the initial shear effect
due primarily to a lack of convergence and consistency in the limited available data, resulting in significant difficulty and uncertainty
in quantifying the effect. This paper presents an experimental study of the initial shear effect on cyclic liquefaction behavior of sand,
focusing mainly on very loose sand. The data base produced is able to improve the current understanding and to clarify the existing
uncertainty. A new concept, termed as threshold α, is proposed along with the use of zero reversal line to better characterize the effect
of initial static shear stress.
Le fluage des couches alluvionnaires constitue un sérieux danger pour les différentes structures durant les tremblements de terre.
Parmi les facteurs divers qui ont été identifiés en laboratoire concernant le comportement de ce fluage, l’état initial des mouvements
de frottements des couches est un des points essentiels de l’analyse comprenant les barrages en terre, les talus et les immeubles de
grande hauteur. Bien que le comportement des couches entre elles ait été étudié précisément, un consensus général n’a pas encore été
établi concernant l’impact dû à la secousse primaire à cause d’un manque de consistance et de logique des données limitées
disponibles résultant en une difficulté significative et incertaine de la quantification sur l’effet de l’impact. Ce document présente
l’étude expérimentale de l’impact de la secousse initiale sur le schéma de glissement des couches alluvionnaires essentiellement ciblé
sur les alluvions très fines. La base de données produite permet de mieux comprendre notre connaissance actuelle et de clarifier les
zones d’ombre. Un nouveau concept baptisé alpha est proposé avec l’utilisation de la ligne réversible zéro afin de mieux déterminer
les effets de la contrainte de la secousse primaire.

Keywords : cyclic behavior ; earthquakes ; failure ; laboratory tests ; liquefaction ; sand ; strength

1 INTRODUCTION where CRR100,0 is the cyclic resistance ratio at σvo’ = 100kPa

and τs = 0; and α is a measure of the initial static shear level,
Following catastrophic disasters in 1964 Niigata and Alaska defined as
earthquakes, evaluation of soil liquefaction potential has
become a key step in geotechnical earthquake engineering α= (2)
design of new and retrofit of existing structures around the σ v' 0
world. Over the past 40 years, liquefaction hazards have been
widely recognized and the understanding of soil liquefaction Based on a review of recent proposals for the two correction
behavior has been significantly improved. However, the factors Kσ and Kα, the NCEER committee (Youd et al., 2001),
complications brought about by the presence of initial static on one hand, did recommend the use of Kσ factor in routine
shear stress in fields under slopes, earth dams or high-rise engineering practice; on the other hand, they did not
buildings still hamper the development of proper, reliable and recommend the use of Kα factor but admitted that there is a
routine practice to evaluate soil liquefaction resistance. need for continued research for Kα owing to a lack of
In brief, liquefaction is a phenomenon in which a granular convergence and consistency in the current understanding. This
material is transformed from a solid to a liquefied state as a insufficiency is attributed primarily to the lack of adequate
consequence of increased pore water pressure and reduced experimental evidence to demonstrate the true effects on soil
effective stress, often resulting in excessive shear deformations. liquefaction behavior. Several recent studies (e.g. Vaid et al.,
The current state of practice in the evaluation of soil 2001) have certainly enriched the understanding in this area.
liquefaction potential relies on the “simplified procedure” But these studies were limited to rather dense sand having post-
proposed by Seed and Idriss (1971). Two empirical correction consolidation relative density over 30% and rather narrow range
factors, known as Kσ and Kα, were proposed later to account for of α often up to around 0.3. It is necessary and important to
the effects of higher initial overburden pressure σvo’ and initial investigate the cyclic behavior of very loose and loose sands as
static shear stress τs respectively (Seed, 1983). The normalized they are most susceptible to liquefaction.
cyclic shear resistance, termed as cyclic resistance ratio CRR, This study was aimed at producing quality data that can help
under any σvo’ and τs is then determined as clarify the effect of initial static shear on cyclic liquefaction
resistance of sand, with particular focus on very loose sand. In
CRRσ ,α = CRR100,0 × Kσ × Kα (1) this paper, the results from a series of cyclic triaxial tests on

Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering 155
M. Hamza et al. (Eds.)
© 2009 IOS Press.
156 J. Yang et al. / Effect of Initial Static Shear on Cyclic Behavior of Sand

very loose Toyoura sand and Fujian sand under a wide range of 3 RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
initial static shear stress levels and initial confining pressures
are presented and analyzed. A new concept, termed as threshold 3.1 Cyclic behavior of very loose sand
α, is developed along with the use of zero reversal line to better
characterize the effect of initial shear stress on cyclic resistance Typical cyclic responses of very loose Toyoura sand and Fujian
of sand. sand with and without the presence of initial static shear are
shown in Figures 2 and 3. It can be seen that, in the case where
the initial shear was absent, the applied cyclic stress was in
2 EXPERIMENTATION complete reversal conditions. As a result of pore water pressure
buildup, the effective stress was brought towards the critical
All cyclic triaxial tests were carried out using the CKC state line (CSL) in the stress space, but without any notable
Automated Triaxial System. Two different types of sand were axial strains recorded. As soon as the stress state was close to or
employed in this study. Toyoura sand, the Japanese standard reached the extension critical stress ratio (CSR) line, which
sand, is uniform fine silica sand consisting of angular to defines the state of triggering of strain softening, an abrupt,
subangular grains composed of over 90% quartz. Fujian sand, excessive axial strain developed in extension.
the Chinese standard sand, is another uniform but coarser silica
sand consisting of subrounded grains with over 96% quartz. The 140

Deviator Stress q, kPa

physical properties and grain size distributions of both sands are 120
100 Drc=20%
summarized in Table 1 and Figure 1 respectively. 80 σnc'=100kPa
60 Drc=20%
40 σnc'=100kPa
20 α=0
Table 1. Physical properties of Toyoura sand and Fujian sand. 0 CSRn=0.2
-20 Cycles=9.78
D50 -40
Sand Cu Cc Gs emax emin -60
Toyoura 0.216 1.392 0.961 2.64 0.977 0.605 -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15
Axial S train εa, %
Fujian 0.397 1.532 0.971 2.65 0.879 0.555
Deviator Stress q, kPa 140
100 80
90 40 CSL
20 CSR Line
80 0 CSR Line
Percentage Passing, %

70 -40 CSL
60 -60
0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Effective Mean Pressure p', kPa
30 Figure 2. Cyclic behavior of loose Toyoura sand.
Toyoura Sand 140
Deviator Stress q, kPa

Fujian Sand 120

100 Drc=20%
80 σnc'=100kPa
0.010 0.100 1.000 10.000 60 α=0.4
40 σnc'=100kPa
Grain S ize, mm CSRn=0.225
20 α=0 Cycles=18.22
0 CSRn=0.2
Figure 1. Grain size distributions of Toyoura sand and Fujian sand. Cycles=13.76
Moist tamping with under-compaction technique (Ladd, -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15
1978) was chosen since very loose and repeatable samples were Axial Strain εa, %

expected to form. One of the key points in testing was to 140

accurately control various combinations of initial states before
Deviator Stress q, kPa

cyclic loading. In the tests the initial confining stress and initial 100
static shear stress levels were arrived at by anisotropic 60
consolidation on a fully saturated sample as the normal effective 40 CSL
20 C SR Line
stress σnc’ and initial static shear stress τs on the plane of 0
-20 CSR Line
maximum shear respectively. Their levels were controlled by -40 CSL
the major and minor principal consolidation pressures σ1c’ and -60
σ3c’ as 0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Effective Mean Pressure p', kPa
τs σ 1' c − σ 3' c
α= = (3) Figure 3. Cyclic behavior of loose Fujian sand.
σ nc
σ 1' c + σ 3' c
In the case of presence of initial shear, the observed response
The major part of this test program involved subjecting was somewhat different. Note in this case that the initial
Toyoura sand with post-consolidation relative density Drc = effective stress state was lying well above the q = 0 level and
10% and 20% to various levels of confining pressures σnc’ = was pretty close to the compression CSR line. Since cyclic
100 to 500 kPa and for each confining stress level, a range of disturbance was entirely on the compression side, less
initial shear stress applied in triaxial compression mode up to α contractive response was observed as compared with the case of
= 0.6. Some test results on Drc = 35% and 50% will also be no initial shear. It is also found that the axial strain was notable
reported for discussion purpose. The Fujian sand was tested at even in the first loading cycle and kept accumulating in
Drc = 20% and 50% under σnc’ = 100 kPa with α up to 0.4. compression. Again, once the stress state reached the CSR line,
strain softening and run-away deformations were initiated with
complete loss of shear strength and unlimited flow.
J. Yang et al. / Effect of Initial Static Shear on Cyclic Behavior of Sand 157

It is worth noting that the failure mode of loose sand, can always be drawn. Evidently, on the left side of this line
observed on both Toyoura and Fujian sand, was featured by stress reversal is always absent. Such zero reversal line has been
abrupt, run-away deformations, no matter the initial shear stress plotted in Figure 4 along with CRRn – α trendlines. It is
was present or absent. This mode is similar to the flow interesting to note that whenever the zero reversal line crosses a
liquefaction observed in loose sand under monotonic loading trendline, the corresponding CRRn starts or has just started to
conditions (Yang, 2002). But the unlimited flow can occur in drop. The correspondence between the occurrence of stress
either compression or extension, depending on which CSR line reversal and the commencement of cyclic resistance reduction
is hit first; this is mainly associated with the initial shear stress has been explained by Yang and Sze (2008).
level, its application direction and the degree of stress reversal It seems that the zero reversal line can help predict the level
(Yang & Sze, 2008). of threshold α of loose sand in a rational yet convenient
manner. By picking out these threshold α values, the
relationship between the threshold α and initial states is
3.2 Characterization of cyclic liquefaction resistance obtained as shown in Figure 5. Clearly, the threshold α
increases with increasing Drc and decreasing σnc’, that is, when
In what follows, cyclic liquefaction resistance is expressed as, sand becomes more dilative.
qcyc τ cyc
CRRn = = (4) 0.3
2σ nc
σ nc
' 10% 100kPa
10% 300kPa
0.25 10% 500kPa
where qcyc is the cyclic deviator stress; τcyc is the cyclic shear 20% 100kPa
20% 200kPa
stress on the maximum plane of shear and the subscript n 20% 300kPa
denotes the use of σnc’ as the denominator in contrast to the 20% 500kPa
conventional use of σ3c’. The CRRn is defined as the cyclic Zero Reversal Line

stress ratio leading to the onset of failure or liquefaction in 10
uniform loading cycles. For loose sand, failure can uniquely be
defined as the triggering of strain softening as discussed above.

3.3 Initial shear effect on cyclic liquefaction resistance

0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7
Figure 4 shows the test results on very loose Toyoura sand. It α
can be observed that the cyclic liquefaction resistance is highly
dependent on the initial density, initial confining pressure and Figure 4. CRRn against α of Toyoura sand at Drc=10% and 20% under
σnc’=100 to 500 kPa.
initial static shear level. The initial shear effect on CRRn was
found to vary closely with Drc and σnc’. In each case, there is a
clear trend that CRRn increases and then decreases with 0.3

increasing α, meaning that the presence of initial shear is

beneficial to the cyclic strength of loose sand only if its level is
sufficiently low. Keep increasing α until certain level could
reverse the response, leading to a reduction of cyclic
Threshold α

liquefaction resistance. A particular level of α, beyond which 0.15

cyclic resistance CRRn is about to drop, is termed herein as the
threshold α. 0.1
T oyoura 10%
3.3.1 Dependence on initial states 0.05 T oyoura 20%
The beneficial and then detrimental effect brought about by the Fujian 20%
presence of initial shear is found to be highly dependent on Drc 0
and σnc’. It follows the understanding that cyclic resistance ratio 0 100 200 300 400 500 600
always increases with increasing relative density and decreasing σnc', kPa
confining pressure. In this context, a CRRn – α trendline in Figure 5. Dependence of threshold α on initial states.
Figure 4 simply shifts upwards when Drc increases from 10% to
20% and / or σnc’ decreases from 500 to 100 kPa. Here, three 0.7
points are worth noting. Firstly, the virtual state of zero cyclic
liquefaction resistance keeps increasing as the trendline keeps 0.6
moving up. For example, the 10% Toyoura sand under σnc’ =
500 kPa lost all its cyclic strength at α = 0.25 but it rose 0.5
tremendously to 0.6 for the 20% sand under σnc’ = 100 kPa. Fujian 20%
Secondly, the range of α that brings about a beneficial effect Fujian 50%

Toyoura 10%
increases as well. Thirdly, the level of α above which CRRn 0.3
Toyoura 20%
starts to drop (i.e. the value of threshold α) also increases with Toyoura 35%
Toyoura 50%
increasing relative density or decreasing confining pressure. It 0.2 Zero Reversal Line
can hence be concluded that while the presence of initial shear
has a substantial effect on cyclic liquefaction resistance of loose 0.1
sand, how it impacts is complicated, depending very much on
the initial states.
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7
3.3.2 Threshold α and zero reversal line
Figure 6. CRRn against α of Toyoura sand and Fujian sand at Drc=10%
Since loose sand cannot sustain too high level of initial shear or to 50% under σnc’=100 kPa.
it would become more susceptible to cyclic liquefaction, it is
important to understand more about the threshold α. Indeed, on
a CRRn – α plot, a line, termed as the zero reversal line herein,
158 J. Yang et al. / Effect of Initial Static Shear on Cyclic Behavior of Sand

3.3.3 Toyoura sand vs Fujian sand trends for very loose sand should contain the same threshold α
As discussed above, the difference in gradation between as CRRn and that the effect of initial shear on Kα should also be
Toyoura sand and Fujian sand makes no substantial difference highly dependent on initial states. In view of this
in their cyclic behavior. Indeed, the same also applies to their correspondence between Kα and CRRn, the forgoing discussions
cyclic resistance under initial shear stress conditions. Figure 6 on the initial shear effect on the CRRn should apply to Kα as
shows that the CRRn – α trendlines of 20% and 50% Fujian well. Moreover, this correspondence facilitates the
sand almost coincide with that of Toyoura sand tested under understanding of the Kα behavior from the CRRn behavior
identical initial conditions. This observation suggests that other which are more convenient to deal with theoretically.
clean silica sands having similar gradation in that range (Figure
1) should behave similarly. It is considered reasonable since
they are both clean silica sand with very close Cu and Cc values. 4 CONCLUSIONS
What makes a difference between the two sands are the grain
size and shape but it seems that their influence is insignificant. A series of cyclic triaxial tests were performed on two types of
For the purpose of comparison, test results for denser sand to investigate the effect of initial static shear on
samples (35% and 50% Toyoura sand and 50% Fujian sand) are liquefaction resistance. The uniqueness of the data base
also included in Figure 6. One important point to note is that the generated from this study lies in that it includes data on loosest
CRRn at denser states keep increasing with α without showing samples ever tested under the initial static shear conditions and
any reduction as at loose states. This observation supports the data for the widest range of static shear stresses (α up to 0.6).
preceding discussion that as long as the zero reversal line is not The significant findings derived from the study can be
being reached, a drop of resistance will not be initiated. Thus, summarized as follows: (a) The failure mode of loose sand is
sufficiently dilative sand having very high CRRn should have its characterized by sudden, run-away deformations without any
cyclic resistance always increased with α. On the other hand, by precautionary signal and this characteristic is regardless of
shifting down the CRRn – α trendline, i.e. by reducing density whether stress reversal occurs or not; (b) The presence of initial
and / or increasing confining pressure to achieve higher static shear at small levels is always beneficial for cyclic
contractiveness, a threshold α would likely to be attainable. liquefaction resistance but may become detrimental at higher
This, again, confirms the tight dependence of initial shear effect static shear stress levels; (c) There exists a threshold α above
on initial states. which cyclic liquefaction resistance tends to drop with
increasing α; (d) The threshold α is a function of initial states in
terms of relative density and effective confining pressure; (e)
1.6 The use of zero reversal line on a CRRn – α plot is an effective
and rational way to estimate the value of threshold α; (f) The Kα
Toyoura 10% 100kPa
Toyoura 10% 300kPa
1.4 Toyoura 10% 500kPa factor varies with α in the same manner as the CRRn and this
Toyoura 20% 100kPa
1.2 Toyoura 20% 200kPa correspondence can facilitate the analysis of Kα behavior.
Toyoura 20% 300kPa
1 Toyoura 20% 500kPa
Fujian 20% 100kPa


0.6 The work presented in this paper was supported by the Research
Grants Council of Hong Kong under the grant number
HKU7191/05E. This support is gratefully acknowledged. The
0.2 financial support provided by the University of Hong Kong
through its Outstanding Young Researcher Award Program is
also highly acknowledged.
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7

Figure 7. Kα against α of Toyoura sand and Fuijan sand at Drc=10% and REFERENCES
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