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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

The Influence of the compaction energy on the SWCC of a residual soil

Fernando A. M. Marinho1 and Mônica M. Stuermer2

Abstract

The proliferation of the use of the soil water characteristic curve (SWCC) to
obtain the unsaturated soil parameters is unavoidable and in some cases desired.
However, the complex interrelation between soil water content and soil water suction
makes the adequate indirect determination of the unsaturated soil parameters a
difficult task. There are many aspect to be considered when using SWCC for
predicting mechanical or hydraulic behaviour of the soil. The paper describes a study
involving a residual soil of Gneiss, compacted using three different compaction
energies. Soil water characteristic curves (SWCC) are obtained with volume
measurement during the drying process and the soil suction was obtained using the
filter paper method. The filter paper was placed in direct contact with the soil sample.
Discussions on the relationship between the compaction energy, SWCC shape and the
drying behaviour of the soil samples are given.

Introduction

The soil water characteristic curves (SWCC) has been used to obtain
unsaturated soil parameters (mechanical and hydraulic) via some model. The use of
models to obtain the SWCC itself is also common practice. Any model for obtaining
the SWCC should consider the effect of the soil type and its stress history. The soil
type may be considered explicitly (a soil specific model) or implicitly (determining
few experimental points). Generally speaking the models of the first type do not
consider the structure of the soil or may consider it through an empirical parameter

1
University of São Paulo (USP) - Brazil - fmarinho@usp.br
2
University Mackenzie - Brazil - Former MSc Student at USP - stuermer@mackenzie.com.br

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

basically related to the density of the sample. The second type of model may have the
structure indirectly considered, since it uses some actual measurements. In addition to
this particular aspect of the use of the SWCC for predicting the unsaturated soil
parameters there is the effect of the stress history. In natural soils this may be a
reflection of the overconsolidation under saturated state or due to a process of
dissecation or yet a compaction procedure. In compacted soils, the compaction energy
and the initial water content may control the SWCC shape at some level of suction.

The soil water characteristic curves relates the amount of water that can be
retained into the pores of a porous material with the soil water suction. This amount
of water can be quantified in gravimetric or volumetric way. It is useful to make use
of other parameters such as void ratio to have a better visualisation of the
phenomenon involved.

Any porous material may have a range of pore sizes and these pores can store
water. One can say that the material has a capacity for storing water. The water is
stored in small spaces where the surface effect is significant. In this way some energy
has to be applied to withdraw the water from the pores. The relation between this
energy and the amount of water withdraw is known as soil water characteristic curve.
The bigger the size of the pore the smaller the energy required to empty that pore. It
should be pointed out that the energy required to empty a pore is the same that may be
used to shrink the soil sample. If shrinkage of the soil is not possible, due to the
proximity of the particles, the soil will desaturate.

It is found in the literature that the relation between gravimetric water content
and suction is, in some cases, fairly independent of the initial dry unit weight (e.g.
Olsen and Langfelder, 1965; Marinho and Chandler, 1993, among others). However,
considering the enormous and broad use of the SWCC, it may be useful to look in
more detail the influence of the initial dry unit weight on the SWCC.

Olson and Langfelder (1965) carried out a series of tests using five different
soils where the suction at the compaction water content was determined using the axis
translation technique. The results are presented in figure 1 in terms of gravimetric
water content. Each soil was compacted statically using a different pressure and a
range of water contents, which resulted in different initial void ratio for each sample.
The symbols shown in figure 1 do not represent experimental points; they are plotted
just to facilitate the identification of the soils tested. The connections between the
points indicate the same compaction pressure. These curves do not represent the
SWCC. By plotting the data in this way one can say that the relation between water
content and suction is practically independent of the compaction pressure, for the
pressures used and for the soils tested.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

Static Compaction
Grundite Clay - pressure = 290kPa Champaign Till - pressure = 876kPa
Grundite Clay - pressure = 586kPa Fayette Clay - pressure = 290kPa
Grundite Clay - pressure = 876kPa Fayette Clay - pressure = 586kPa
Goose Lane Clay - pressure = 290kPa Fayette Clay - pressure = 876kPa
Goose Lane Clay - pressure = 586kPa Peorian Loess - pressure = 290kPa
Goose Lane Clay - pressure = 876kPa Peorian Loess - pressure = 586kPa
30 Champaign Till - pressure = 290kPa Peorian Loess - pressure = 876kPa
Champaign Till - pressure = 586kPa

25
Water Content (%)

20

15

10

0
1 10 100 1000 10000
Suction (kPa)
Figure 1 - Relation between gravimetric water content and suction for five different
soils compacted at different pressures (data from Olson & Langfelder,
1965).

Olson and Langfelder (1965) also investigated the effect of the compaction
procedure on the suction of two of the soils shown in figure 1. The Goose Lane clay
and the Champaign till were compacted using both, kneading compaction and static
compaction. The results are presented in figure 2. The compaction curves obtained
using the kneading compaction on the Goose Lane clay were similar to those obtained
using static compaction. For the Champaign till the difference was considerable. It
can be seen that the kneading compaction lead to values of suction different from the
one obtained by static compaction. This may suggest a potential effect of the structure
on a SWCC. The tendency of the curves to coincide for higher values of soil suction
is likely due to the fact that the water are located into pores of similar size/shape.

Although the results showed an influence of the compaction procedure on the


value of suction for the same water content, the soil water characteristic curve may
present some other differences during a drying path. If a drying test is performed the
results may not follow the lines drawn in figure 1 and 2, in other words, the suction
∆w
capacity ( C = ) of each sample may be different just after compaction.
∆ log(suction )

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

30

static compaction
25
Water Content (%) kneading compaction

static compaction (Goose Lane Clay)


20

15
(Champaign Till)

10

kneading compaction
5

0
1 10 100 1000 10000
Suction (kPa)
Figure 2 - Relation between gravimetric water content and suction for Goose Lane
Clay and Champaign till under static compaction and under kneading
compaction (data from Olson & Langfelder, 1965).

From the data presented it could be concluded that the influence of the initial
dry unit weight on the SWCC is negligible and the type of mechanical compression
(e.g. static or kneading compaction) may give different relation between gravimetric
water content and suction. However, the data presented by Olson and Langfelder
(1965) did not allow for the SWCC to be obtained. The results are for different
samples and not for the same sample on drying.

In order to try to identify the effect of stress history on the SWCC, data from
literature were analysed. The result is presented in figure 3, in terms of suction
capacity (between 100kPa and 1000kPa) versus liquid limit of the corresponding soil.
After the data were plotted it was possible to identify an upper and lower limits of
that relation. The slurry line refers to samples prepared using water content above the
liquid limit. The line related to stiff soils is almost horizontal, indicating the high
energy required to extract water from the pores of the soils.

Comparing the results from literature with those obtained from the data of
Olson & Langfelder (1965), it can be observed that the suction capacity obtained is
higher than the expected values in some cases. The lower the liquid limit the smaller
will be that effect. In figure 3 these results are identified by its corresponding
compaction procedure (static compaction, SC or kneading compaction, KC).

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

25

Suction Capacity, C (%) 20

rry
15
Slu
SC
SC
SC
10
SC
KC
SC KC SC

5 Stiff
KC

0
25 35 45 55 65 75 85
LL (%)
Figure 3 - Relation between the suction capacity (C) and liquid limit (LL).

This paper presents the results of a series of drying tests carried out on
compacted residual soil of gneiss under different energy of compaction. The soils
suction was measured using the filter paper technique. The filter paper was placed in
direct contact with the soil sample. At higher soil water contents this procedure will
measure matric suction, and , as the sample dries, there will be a gradual transition to
a measurement of total suction The results also show the influence of the energy on
the shrinkage process.

The soil tested

The soil used is a residual soil of gneiss from the top layer of the profile. The
liquid and plastic limits of the material tested are 48% and 29%, respectively. The
clay content (%<2µm) and specific gravity of the soil are 45% and 2.7, respectively.
The soil was compacted using three different energies: Standard Proctor (SP),
Modified Proctor (MP) and a non-standard lower energy (NE). The compaction
curves are presented in Figure 4 together with lines of iso-degree of saturation. The
values of maximum dry unit weight and optimum water content are presented in
Table 1. All the compacted samples are named according to the code indicated in
figure 4. Some of these samples were used to obtain the drying path of the soil water
characteristic curves.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

Compaction Energy γdmax (kN/m3) wopt (%)


Standard Proctor (SP) 15,4 25
Modified Proctor (MP) 16,7 19
Non Standard Energy (NE) 14,3 28
Table 1: Compaction parameters.

18
S S Standard Proctor (SP)
= =
90 10 Modified Proctor (MP)
% 0% Non Standard Energy (NE)
17
Dry Unit Weigth (kN/m3)

MP 03 MP 04
MP 01
MP 02
16
MP 05

15 SP 03
S

SP 08 SP 09
=
50

SP 02 SP 10
%

SP 11 SP 04 NE 05
14 NE 04
SP 05
SP 06 SP 07
SP 01 NE 03

13
NE 01 NE 02

12
12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
Water Content (%)
Figure 4: Compaction curves for three different energies.

Suction measurements

The suction measurements were obtained with the filter paper method using
Whatman no 42, quantitative filter paper. The calibration curve used was the one
suggested by Chandler et al (1992).

Twenty-one samples were used to obtain the soil suction and the soil water
characteristic curves. Five samples using the modified proctor (MP), eleven samples
using the standard proctor (SP) and five samples with the non-standard energy (NE).
All samples were weighted and some of them had their volume determined by
measuring the external dimension of the sample, using a vernier calliper reading to
0.01mm. After determining the mass and volume, five filter papers were placed in
each sample after compaction. The filter paper were placed in direct contact with the
soil sample. This procedure will give matric suction for higher soil water content and,

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

as the soil dries, there is a tendency for the measurement of total suction. This is due
to the reduction of contacts between the filter paper and the soil water. In this case the
transference of water from the soil to the filter paper start to be via vapour. The
sample and the filter papers were wrapped in two layers of cling film and left for
seven days inside a polystyrene box. The temperature variation inside the box during
the process of equilibrium, between the filter paper and the soil, was less than 2oC.
The filter papers were weighted using an electronic balance reading to 0.0001g. The
use of electronic balance together with plastic bags should be made with care. The
plastic may induce some static that affects the readings. It is recommended to use a
spacer between the balance plate and the plastic bag.

Initial Characteristics of the Samples

The determination of the characteristic curves started at the compaction water


content. This procedure does not allow for the determination of the SWCC at very
low values of suction. The suction measured after compaction and the volumetric
characteristics of the sample are presented in figures 5 to 7, according to the energy of
compaction. It is important to emphasize that the results presented in this way do not
represent the soil water characteristic curves for the soil.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

1.1
Initial Void Ratio

SP 01 SP 01
1 SP 06 SP 05 SP 06
SP 07 SP 04 SP 07
SP 05
0.9 SP
SP 02 SP 10 SP1104
SP 10 SP 02
SP 08 SP11 SP 08
SP 03 SP 03
0.8 SP 09 SP 09

0.7
0.6 (a) (c)
Inital Degree of Saturation (%)

100
SP 10SP11 SP11 SP 10
SP 03 SP 04 SP 05 SP 03
SP 09
SP 09SP 05
80 SP 04
SP 08 SP 08
7 SP 02 SP 02
60 0.7 SP 07 SP 07
e= SP 01 SP 01
SP 06 SP 06

40
1,00
e=
20
(b) (d)
0
12 17 22 27
30 SP11 SP 10
water content (%) 28
SP 05
water content (%)

SP 04
SP 03
26 SP 09

24 SP 08
22 SP 02
SP 07
20
SP 01
18 SP 06

16
14 (e)
12
10 100 1000
initial suction (kPa)
Figure 5: Initial conditions of the samples compacted using the standard proctor
energy.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

1.1
Initial Void Ratio

1
0.9
0.8
0.7 MP5 MP5
MP1 MP1
MP2 MP4
0.6 MP3 (a) (c)
MP4 MP2

MP3
0.5
Initial Degree of Saturation (%)

100 MP4 MP5 MP4


MP5
.5 5
0 MP3
MP3
80 e= 7
MP2
= 0.7 MP2
e
60
MP1 MP1
40

20
(b) (d)
0
12 17 22 27
water content (%) 30
28
water content (%)

26
MP5
24
22 MP4
20
MP3
18
16 MP2
14 (e) MP1
12
10 100 1000
suction (kPa)

Figure 6: Initial conditions of the samples compacted using the modified proctor.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

NE1 NE2 NE2


NE1
1.1
Initial Void Ratio

1 NE3 NE3
NE5 NE5
0.9 NE4 NE4

0.8
0.7
0.6 (a) (c)
0.5
Intial Degree of Saturation (%)

100
NE5
NE5
NE4
80 NE4
.77 NE3
e =0 NE3
60 NE2
NE1 1.2 NE2
e=
40 NE1

20
(b) (d)
0
12 17 22 27 NE5
water content (%) 30
28
water content (%)

NE4
26
24 NE3

22 NE2

20 NE1
18
16
14 (e)
12
10 100 1000
suction (kPa)
Figure 7: Initial conditions of the samples compacted using the non-standard proctor.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

The Soil Water Characteristic Curves

Figures 8, 9 and 10 show the soil water characteristic curves obtained in a


drying process for the samples SP, PM and NE, respectively. One can observe on
figure 8e and 9e, the different paths followed by the samples according with the initial
water content. This behaviour is also related with the initial degree of saturation.

1.1 (a) (c)


1
Void Ratio

0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
100
Degree of Saturation (%)

90 (d)
(b)
80
70
60
50
40
30
w op
20
10
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
water content (%) 30 (e)
water content (%)

25
SP 02
SP 03 20
SP 04
SP 05 15
SP 06
SP 07 10
SP 08
SP 09 5
SP 10
SP 11
0
SP 01 10 100 1000 10000 100000
suction (kPa)

Figure 8: Soil Water Characteristic Curves for the samples compacted using the
standard Proctor

Using the results obtained it is possible to identify three types of samples:

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

1. Samples compacted above the optimum water content (all energies).


2. Samples compacted above the optimum water content but with different void
ratio (at a specific energy).
3. Samples compacted at the same void ratio and different water content (at a
specific energy).

(a) (c)
1.1
1
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
100
90 (b) (d)
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
w (%) (e)
20

MP 01 15
w (%)

MP 02
MP 03 10
MP 04
MP 05 w op 5

0
10 100 1000 10000 100000
suction (kPa)

Figure 9: Soil Water Characteristic Curves for the samples compacted using the
modified Proctor.

The samples compacted with water content higher than the optimum water
content started the drying process at a zone where the amount of water lost (in

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

volume) is equal to the reduction in total soil volume, this is called normal
contraction phase (e.g. samples SP 05 and MP 04). These samples presented a volume
change bigger than samples compacted at lower water content, although with similar
void ratio. Samples starting the drying process on the normal shrinkage phase present
high degree of saturation

1.1
1
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6 (c)
(a)
0.5
100
90 (b)
80
70
60
50
40
30
w op
20
10 (d)
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
w (%)
25
20
w (%)

NE 01
NE 02 15
NE 03
NE 04 10
NE 05
5 (e)
0
1 10 100 1000 10000 100000

suction (kPa)

Figure 10: Soil water Characteristic Curves for the samples compacted using the non-
standard Proctor.

Samples MP 03 and MP 05 have void ratio of 0,6 and 0,7, respectively. The
sample MP 03 is already at a phase where there is little reduction involume due to lost
of water, this is called residual shrinkage phase. Sample MP 05 is at the normal

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

phase. The difference observed in the shrinkage process is related to the initial degree
of saturation and void ratio.

The samples MP 02 and MP 04 have an initial void ratio of approximately


0,64. For the same value of suction these two samples presented degree of saturation
and water content different. Sample MP 02 has a much lower initial degree of
saturation (68%) than sample MP 04 (98%). The shrinkage of these samples is
affected by the initial degree of saturation and water content. After the general air
entry point (GAE) the relation between degree of saturation and water content is
practically a straight line for some samples, i.e., void ratio is constant.

Figure 11 resumes the soil water characteristic relations of all samples


obtained with the three compaction energies. The higher the energy of compaction the
higher is the degree of saturation for the same suction up to the GAE. At some point
after the GAE the curves of all energies become practically unique. This phenomenon
may be due to the fact that the pore size distribution of the saturated pores is equal. It
also should be point out that at very high level of suction the suction measured might
be a combination of matrix and total suction, although the osmotic suction in this case
seems to be small. It may also be that for higher suctions, the Electro-chemicals
effects are stronger than capillary effects.

The curves obtained show, what may be called a pseudo-pre-consolidation


effect of the compaction on the storage capacity. For suction values smaller than
GAE, the soil behaviour is ruled specially by that effect.

Figure 12 presents the three compaction curves obtained showing the suction
for each sample just after compaction. Lines of equal values of suction are also
shown. One can observe that there is a dependence of the dry unit weight on the
suction after compaction, since the iso-lines of suction are not vertical.

The GAE point occurs for suction values of about 1,000 kPa, 2,000 kPa, and
500kPa respectively for SP, MP and NE samples. The residual water content (θr) is
reached for suction value of about 15,000 kPa, with residual degree of saturation (Sr)
approximately of 2% for the three curves. After GAE the behaviour of all samples are
practically the same. It can be observed that the volume change, up to the GAE, for
sample compacted above the optimum water content is 75%, 55% and 35% of the
total shrinkage for the energies standard (SP), modified (MP) and non-standard (NE),
respectively. In some a great amount of shrinkage is still due to occur after the GAE,
down to the zero water content.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

1.2
1.1
Void Ratio 1
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6 (a) (c)
0.5
Degree of Saturation (%)

80

60

40

20
(b) (d)
0
0 5 10 15 20 30 35
25
30 (e)
water content (%)
water content (%)

25
20
SP 15
MP 10
NE
5
0
10 100 1000 10000 100000
suction (kPa)

Figure 11: Results of all samples according with energy.

18
Standard Proctor
17 873 Modified Proctor
1633 Non-standard energy
257
Dry Unit Weight (kN/m3)

2402

16
58

54
15 270 86

21
661 27
14 1691 926.04 68 18
22
1903 573

13 50kPa
1574
2301 200kPa
500kPa
12
1500kPa

11
10 15 20 25 30 35
Water Content (%)
Figure 12: The compaction curves with lines of iso-suction.

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

Figure 13 presents the drying curves for some of the samples (SP 11, MP 03,
MP 05, NE 04 and NE 05) plotted over the compaction curves. It can be observed that
during the drying process the samples SP 11 and NE 05 practically follow the
compaction curve, rising the dry density until the GAE point. After this value of
suction, the gradient of increase of the dry density is reduced. At this point the suction
reduces its efficiency of shrinkage. As expected in samples compacted with the
modified Proctor the increase in suction could not increase the dry unit weight in the
same way it had occurred with the smaller energies.

18 Normal Proctor

S
Modified Proctor
S=

S
=
Non-standard energy

=
90

10
SP 11
50

%
17

0%
MP 05
%

NE 05
Dry Unit Weight (kN/m3)

MP 03 MP 03
MP 04
MP 01 NE 04
MP 02
16
MP 05

15 SP 09
SP 03
SP 08
SP 10
SP 02 SP 04 SP 11
14 SP 07
NE 04
SP 05
NE 05

SP 06
SP 01 NE 03

drying curves
13
NE 01 NE 02

12
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32
Water Content (%)
Figure 13: Drying curves of the samples SP11, MP05, NE05, MP03 and NE04, over
the compaction curves.

Conclusions

At a particular energy of compaction the initial water content affect the


SWCC. During the drying process samples compacted near the optimum water
content or below it, always presented smaller suction than samples compacted at wet
of optimum

The GAE is not greatly affected by the compaction water content. On the other
hand the energy of compaction affects the GAE of the soil. The compaction energy
seems to affect the level of suction that is controlled by capillary phenomena.

The soil water characteristic curves embraces not only the relationship
between gravimetric or volumetric water content and suction (soil water characteristic

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Advances in Unsaturated Geotechnics - Geotechnical Special Publication - 99 - ASCE - pp. 125-141.

curve, SWCC), but also the relation between void ratio and suction. The soil water
characteristic curve is affected by the energy of compaction, considering the
differences between the energies used in this study. The energy of compaction
obviously affects the relation between void ratio and water content and in
consequence it affects the quantitative aspect of the relationship between void ratio
and suction.

The volume change of the samples after the GAE can be significant,
particularly for samples that were compacted using low energy.

References

CHANDLER,R.J.; CRILLY, M.S. and MONTGOMERY-SMITH,G. (1992) - "A


low-cost method of assessing clay desiccation for low-rise buildings". - Proc. of
the Institute of Civil Engineering, 92 - n.2 - pp.82-89.
OLSON, R.E. and LANGFELDER, L.J. (1965) - "Pore pressures in unsaturated soils"
- Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division - ASCE - July. SM4 -
pp.127-150.
MARINHO, F.A.M. and CHANDLER, R.J. (1993) - "Aspects of the behaviour of
clays on drying" - Unsaturated Soils - ASCE Geotechnical Special Publication nº
39 - Edited by Houston, S.L. and Wray, W.K. - pp. 77-90.

Acknowledgement

The work presented in this paper is part of a research project sponsored by the
São Paulo State agency (FAPESP). The second author is grateful for the sponsorship
by the Brazilian Government agency CAPES.

-17 Marinho & Stuermer