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Lade, P. V. & de Boer, R. (1997). GeÂotechnique 47, No.

1, 61±78

The concept of effective stress for soil, concrete and rock

P. V. L A D E  a n d R . D E B O E R {

Many different expressions have been proposed Un grand nombre d'expressions diffeÂrentes du
for the effective stress principle for porous principe de la tension ef®cace ont eÂte proposeÂes
media, but none has clearly been acknowledged pour les mateÂriaux poreux, mais aucune n'a
as being the correct one. It should be possible to vraiment eÂte accepteÂe comme parfaite. Il devrait
determine the correct expression, because this is eÃtre possible de deÂterminer la bonne expression,
a fundamental principle of mechanics. Following vu qu'il s'agit laÁ d'un principe fondamental de
a review of the candidate expressions proposed meÂcanique. ApreÁs avoir examine les expressions
for soil, concrete and rock, a comprehensive proposeÂes pour le sol, le beÂton et la roche, les
expression is derived involving the factors auteurs ont deÂrive une expression globale qui
observed in experiments on `arti®cial rock'. In met en jeu les facteurs observeÂs lors d'essais sur
this new expression a distinction is made de la «roche arti®cielle». Cette nouvelle expres-
between the compressibilities of grains and sion fait la distinction entre les compressibiliteÂs
skeleton due to total stresses and pore pressures. des grains et du squelette dues aux contraintes
This general and more comprehensive expres- totales et aux pressions interstitielles. Les reÂ-
sion is then tested against the experimental sultats d'eÂtudes expeÂrimentales servent ensuite aÁ
evidence. The expression may be specialized for veÂri®er la validite de cette expression geÂneÂrale et
(a) granular materials with separate grains with plus eÂtendue. L'expression peut eÃtre modi®eÂe
contact points and (b) solid rock with inter- pour (1) les mateÂriaux granulaires aÁ grains
connected pores. The new expression for the seÂpareÂs avec points de contact et (2) la roche en
effective stress contains most of the previously place aÁ interstices interconnecteÂs. Cette nouvelle
proposed expressions as special cases. Based on expression de la tension ef®cace contient comme
results of compression tests on quartz (with cas particuliers la plupart des expressions
hard grains) and on gypsum (with soft grains) it proposeÂes anteÂrieurement. A Á partir des reÂsultats
is shown that Terzaghi's effective stress principle d'essais sur du quartz (aÁ grains durs) et du
works well for most geotechnical applications, gypse (aÁ grains tendres), on montre que le
but signi®cant deviations occur at very high principe de la tension ef®cace de Terzaghi
stresses. s'applique aÁ la plupart des cas geÂotechniques,
mais qu'il se produit des eÂcarts importants
KEYWORDS: compressibility; constitutive relations; quand les contraintes sont treÁs eÂleveÂes.
elasticity; laboratory tests; pore pressure; stress analy-

INTRODUCTION strength, and any change in linear and volumetric

The formulation of the concept of effective stress strains is controlled by the intergranular stress. It is
for porous media such as soils is most often therefore called the effective stress ó9 and according
attributed to Terzaghi (1923). In the context of to Terzaghi (1923)
developing the classical one-dimensional consolida-
tion theory for water saturated clay, he realized that ó9 ˆ ó ÿ u (1)
two stress components make up the total stress ó This equation has been shown to hold for soils
acting on an element of soil: the intergranular stress for most practical purposes. Only for extremely
óg and the neutral stress or pore water pressure u. high pressures are deviations from this expression
For soils, the intergranular stress provides the suf®ciently large to be measurable. Further discus-
sion of the relation between the intergranular and
the effective stress is presented by Skempton
Manuscript received 23 November 1994; revised manu- (1960).
script accepted 30 October 1995.
Discussion on this paper closes 2 June 1997; for further Signi®cant deviations from the effective stress
details see p. ii. calculated from equation (1) have been measured for
 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. porous media such as concrete and rock. In these
{ UniversitaÈt Essen. materials the contact areas and the compressibilities


of the different phases are quite different from those EXPRESSIONS FOR THE EFFECTIVE STRESS
in soils. Numerous investigations have been carried Whereas Terzaghi is credited with the discovery
out to determine the nature of the effective stress of the effective stress in 1923, he did not
principle for geological materials, and several formulate `the principle' until 1936. However, in
candidate expressions have been proposed in the 1913 Fillunger speculated that the pore water
literature. pressure itself does not have any in¯uence on the
Since Terzaghi's expression may be inadequate strength of porous media. He repeated this
for some porous media, then what should be the hypothesis in 1914, and in 1915 he reported the
de®nition of the effective stress, and what is it results of unjacketed tensile tests on cement and
expected to mean? The de®nition used here and its masonry specimens. Fillunger (1915) observed that
meaning is as follows: The effective stress is the a pore pressure of up to several hundred atmo-
stress that controls the stress±strain, volume change, spheres acting inside and outside the pores in the
and strength behaviour of a given porous medium, porous media had no in¯uence on the strength of
independent of the magnitude of the pore pressure. the solid skeleton. He had in other words realized
The pore pressure may be zero or negative, or it the effects of the effective stress at an earlier date
may be positive and very large, but the effective than Terzaghi. Fillunger (1936) was also the ®rst
stress must be expressed such that it produces the to clearly state that constitutive equations should
same material response for any pore pressure. It is be formulated for the `surplus pressure over the
to be expected that some properties of the given weighted pore water pressure', not for the total
porous medium will be part of a more comprehen- stress.
sive effective stress expression, unlike the simple The effective stress is often expressed as the
expression in equation (1), which does not involve difference between the total stress and some
any material properties. In thermodynamical terms, fraction of the pore pressure:
the effective stress is governed by the motion of the ó9 ˆ ó ÿ çu (2)
solid constituents of the porous medium.
There are several reasons why it is desirable to in which ó9 is the effective stress, ó is the total
clarify the concept of effective stresses for porous stress, and ç expresses the fraction of the pore
media in general. The correct formulation is pressure that should be employed to make equation
relevant to conditions of high stresses and pore (2) express the effective stress.
pressures in concrete and rock. Such conditions Table 1 gives a summary of expressions for ç
may occur in connection with engineering projects proposed by various authors. It is divided into two
at great depth, including petroleum reservoir sections, because many investigators have appar-
operations and consolidation of geological strata. ently found that different expressions should be
The stresses encountered below pile tips and used for (a) stress±strain behaviour, and (b)
around deep tunnelling and borings for nuclear strength behaviour. The following comments are
waste deposits can also be extremely high. added to the tabular presentation:
Material developments, manufacturing techniques, In Table 1(a), the value of ç ˆ 1 corresponds to
and applications involving ¯uid ®lled porous media Terzaghi's original expression. Hubbert & Rubey
such as ceramics and powder metals may also (1959, 1960) present a theoretical proof for this
bene®t from a correct formulation of the effective value of ç, but this proof has been disputed by Nur
stress principle. And ®nally, `. . . it is of philoso- & Byerlee (1971). The suggestion that ç ˆ
phical interest to examine the fundamental princi- n ˆ porosity is an intuitive proposition whose
ples of effective stress, since it would seem effect is to eliminate the pore pressure when the
improbable that an expression of the form porosity is zero (solid material). Schiffman's
ó9 ˆ ó ÿ u is strictly true' (Skempton, 1960). The proposition (1970) that ç should be bounded by
concept of effective stress should be based on 1 and n is also presented as intuitive rather than
principles of mechanics, and it should be possible with rigorous proof, and he did not explain what
to derive an expression for ó9 whose validity can controls the value of ç between these boundaries.
be determined by comparison with appropriate Skempton & Bishop (1954) presented a for-
experimental data. mulation with ç ˆ (1 ÿ a) in which a is the
A review is given of the expressions proposed contact area between particles per unit gross area
for the effective stress in porous media. This is of the material. However, in separate articles based
followed by a detailed analytical development of a on the same experimental evidence from tests on
new expression for the effective stress. Appropriate lead shot, both Bishop (1955) and Skempton
experiments are devised to check the salient fea- (1960) argued that this formulation could not be
tures of the new comprehensive expression. Finally, correct, and that the contact area between particles
a discussion is presented of the results and their plays no role in formulation of the effective stress.
relevance to porous media such as soil, concrete An expression that has been supported by many
and rock. authors in more recent years is one involving the
ratio of the compressibilities of the solid material experiments it can be argued that obtaining B
(i.e. the grains) Cs and the skeleton of the porous greater than unity from a time-independent (i.e.
medium C. The expression creep-independent) formulation should not be
Cs possible. Thus, the formulation in equation (4)
çˆ1ÿ (3) cannot be correct. This problem is further addressed
is derived from principles of mechanics. Adams & The last expression for ç in Table 1(a) was
Williamson (1923) found that the compressibilities suggested by Suklje (1969), who presented a short
of most rocks are much higher than those of their and straightforward analytical derivation of ç. This
constituent minerals. However, the value of C expression is not well-known, and it has not found
decreases with increasing pressure towards the widespread acceptance.
value of Cs (Zisman 1933, Brace 1965), which is Table 1(b) indicates two expressions for ç
essentially constant for most rock types (Bridgman associated with strength. The ®rst expression was
1925, 1928; Brace, 1965). Thus, the ratio Cs /C presented in an elaborate development in Skemp-
attains magnitudes that increase from near zero to ton's classical paper from 1960. He showed how
approaching unity at high pressures. Nur & Byerlee the effective stress at failure may be related to the
(1971) presented a rigorous derivation of the grain contact area per unit area of the plane a, and
expression in equation (3), and they also performed the angle of intrinsic friction and the angle of
an experimental study in which Weber sandstone shearing resistance. Skempton showed comparisons
was tested to determine the factor ç for this rock that indicated reasonable agreement between the
type. They determined the value of Cs from an expression and experimental results. However, he
unjacketed test on the sandstone, and they found did not indicate at which point in a shear test a
that the ratio Cs /C was not negligibly small. Their switch should be made from ç corresponding to
predictions of effective stress using ç ˆ 1 produced stress±strain behaviour to ç corresponding to fail-
too low values, whereas the predictions using ure. The authors have not been able to locate any
equation (3) were excellent. other papers in which this expression has been
Associated with the expression in equation (3), veri®ed or further elaborated.
Bishop (1973) demonstrated the analytical develop-
ment and formulation of the change in pore
Table 1(a). Expressions for ç for stress±strain beha-
pressure under undrained conditions resulting from viour of soil, concrete and rock
an ambient change in total stress. The resulting
expression for the pore pressure coef®cient B ç Reference
(Skempton, 1954) for a fully saturated porous me- 1 Terzaghi (1923, 1936)
dium became Hubbert & Rubey (1959, 1960)
Äu 1 Skempton (1960) and many
Bˆ ˆ (4) others
Äó Cw ÿ Cs
1‡n n Hoffman (1928)
C ÿ Cs
n ˆ porosity Fillunger (1930)
in which Cw ˆ compressibility of water ˆ 0´048 Terzaghi (1945)
 10ÿ5 vol/vol per kPa. The same expression may Lubinski (1954)
be deduced from Geertsma's formulation (1957) for Biot (1955)
changes in pore space. Bishop (1973) observed that n < ç < 1 Schiffman (1970)
equation (4) indicates that if the solid material
(grains) were more compressible than the water (i.e. 1 ÿ a Skempton & Bishop (1954)
Cs . Cw ), `. . . then Äu/Äó will be greater than a ˆ effective grain Bishop (1955, 1960)
unity, which indicates the caution which must be contact area per Skempton (1960)
unit area of plane
exercized in making simplifying assumptions. The
possibility that Cs is greater than Cw is slight in 1 ÿ Cs /C Biot (1941)
real soils and rocks which are fully saturated, but or Gassmann (1951)
might be contrived in arti®cial two-phase systems 1 ÿ K/Ks Biot & Willis (1957)
. . .'. Whether equation (4) is correct cannot be Geertsma (1957, 1966)
Cs ˆ 1/Ks ˆ Skempton (1960)
tested with real soils and rocks, because Cw is
compressibility of Sera®m (1964)
approximately 25 times greater than Cs which is in solid material Nur & Byerlee (1971)
the range of 0´001±0´003  10ÿ5 vol/vol per kPa for (`grains') Bishop (1973)
most geological materials (Bridgman, 1925, 1928; C ˆ 1/K ˆ
Zisman, 1933, Skempton, 1960; Brace 1965). Note compressibility of
that all coef®cients of compressibility are given as skeleton
10ÿ5 vol/vol per kPa for easy comparison of 1 ÿ (1 ÿ n)Cs /C Suklje (1969)
magnitudes. However, without performing any

Table 1(b). Expressions for ç for strength behaviour of The analytical development concerns an expres-
soil, concrete and rock sion for the pore pressure parameter B ˆ Äu/Äó
ç Reference previously discussed. Following this derivation, the
consequent expression for ç will be given and
1 ÿ a tan ø/tan ö9 Skempton (1960) discussed in relation to different types of porous
ø ˆ angle of intrinsic
ö ˆ angle of shearing
1 Terzaghi (1936) The primary factors that affect the value of B
McHenry (1948) are considered to be those associated with the
Handin (1958)
Robinson (1959) porous medium itself: the skeleton, the grains
Handin et al. (1963) (solid phase), the porosity, the water (¯uid), the air
Murrell (1963) (gas) and the degree of saturation. Secondary
Walsh (1965) factors are considered to be those associated with
Brace & Byerlee (1966) the testing technique. These include the measuring
Brace & Martin (1968) system and the membrane that surrounds the
Garg & Nur (1973) specimen. The secondary factors have been taken
into account in the analyses of the experiments to
be presented, and they will not be further
elaborated here. A detailed presentation of these
One of the reasons that further efforts in this factors was given by Lade & Hernandez (1977).
direction are absent may be that most investiga- The primary components that enter the expres-
tions dealing with failure in concrete and rock sion for the parameter B are illustrated schemati-
have indicated that a factor of ç ˆ 1, that is cally in Fig. 1. The grains indicated may be
Terzaghi's original expression is perfectly adequate cemented together to form a connected frame, or
for interpretation of failure conditions in these they may be individual particles touching each
materials. In the process of shearing concrete and other at very small contact points. The skeleton
rock, micro®ssures develop and open up, and at and the grains may exhibit nonlinear elastic
the time of peak failure, suf®cient deterioration of behaviour with changing pressure, but they will
the solid material has occurred that the compres- be treated as piecewise linear elastic for which the
sibility of the skeleton has increased substantially. necessary properties are determined in the im-
Therefore, the expression in equation (3), which is mediate vicinity of the current stress point. The
most often employed for the stress±strain beha- pores are uniformly distributed and interconnected,
viour, approaches unity near failure, even at high and the ¯uid in the pores is linearly compressible.
con®ning pressures. This means that the expression Fig. 1(a) shows that changes in total con®ning
in equation (3) has the potential to capture the pressure, Ä(ócell ÿ u), while u ˆ constant, produce
effective stress for both stress±strain and strength both linear compression of the skeleton as well as
behaviour. This will be further discussed below. volumetric compression of the grains themselves,
Further and more detailed reviews of the early unless the grains are volumetrically incompressible
thinking behind the effective stress principle and (corresponding to Poisson's ratio for isotropic
the historical development of the theory of porous grains, ígrains ˆ 0´5). The corresponding coef®-
media have been made by de Boer & Ehlers cients of compressibility are de®ned in Fig. 1. In
(1990). general, the values of Csks (compressibility of
skeleton due to change in total con®ning pressure)
and Cgs (compressibility of grains due to change in
FACTORS AFFECTING PORE PRESSURES IN total con®ning pressure) would be expected to be
POROUS MEDIA different from zero.
As seen from Table 1, any realistic expression Fig. 1(b1) shows the response to a change in
for the effective stress for porous media involves pore pressure, Äu, while (ócell ÿ u) ˆ constant. For
the compressibilities of the skeleton and the grains the purpose of explanation, the effect of Äu is
(solid material). The analytical development pre- shown in two stages. The change in pore pressure
sented below involves a more detailed treatment of causes a volumetric compression of the solid
the compressibility of the grains than previously grains (unless the grains are isotropic with ígrains
presented in the literature. Appropriate laboratory ˆ 0´5). This results in Cgu ˆ compressibility of
experiments in which highly compressible grains grains due to a pore pressure change. The grains
play a paramount role are then performed to pro- are then adjusted to contact each other again, and
duce results for comparison with the analytical ex- this results in a volumetric change of the skeleton.
pression. This is expressed by Csku ˆ compressibility of the
(σcell 2 u), u (σcell 2 u) 1 (∆σcell 2 ∆u), u 5 constant

Initial condition Linear compression 1 Volumetric compression
of grains ⇒ volumetric of grains (unless
compression of skeleton νgrains 5 0.5)
(a) ∆Vsks 5 CsksV0(∆σcell 2 ∆u) ∆Vgs 5 CgsV0(∆σcell 2 ∆u)

(σcell 2 u), u (σcell 2 u) 5 constant, u 1 ∆u

Initial condition: ∆Vgu 5 (1 2 n)V0Cgu∆u ∆Vsku 5 V0Csku∆u
grains in contact

(b1) For grains in contact:
(1 2 n)Cgu 5 Csku

Fig. 1(a) and (b1). Caption overleaf

skeleton due to a pore pressure change. As may be between the `grains' and the `skeleton' as the
seen from Fig. 1(b1), for a granular material these porous material changes from a distinctly granular
two compressibilities are related to each other material to a rock with pores. In the following,
because (Skempton, 1960; Bishop, 1973): `. . . the equation (5) will not be assumed to be generally
components of strain along any continuous path true.
across the solid skeleton within the element are It is evident that a comprehensive treatment of
equal to those within the solid material of the the volumetric compression of porous media
skeleton': requires several coef®cients of compressibility as
C sku ˆ C gu (1 ÿ n) (5) reviewed above. Four compressibilities rather than
two, as employed in previous analyses, have been
Although this appears to be correct for a granular de®ned. The fact that these compressibilities are
material, it may not be correct for a highly real and that they play signi®cant roles in the
cemented porous medium in which the individual behaviour of the porous material will be demon-
grains are not distinguishable. Although the pores strated from the experimental results to be
are interconnected, the shapes of the pores may be presented. Whereas the relation in equation (5) is
such that the overall compression of the skeleton is likely for granular materials, none of the compres-
small compared to the compression of the solid sibilities will be assumed a priori to be related to
phase (`grains'), as suggested in Fig. 1(b2). In fact, each other.
it becomes increasingly dif®cult to distinguish Fig. 1(c) shows the effects of a change in pore

(σcell 2 u), u (σcell 2 u) 5 constant, u 1 ∆u

Solid rock with interconnected pores:

`grains´ compress, but little compression of skeleton ⇒
(1 2 n)Cgu . Csku


u u 1 ∆u

Initial condition ∆Vw 5 CwnV0S∆u and

∆Va 5 nV0 12 S
u ∆u


Fig. 1. Volumetric compression of porous material due to (a) con®ning pressure; (b) pore pressure in (b1)
granular material, and in (b2) solid rock with interconnected pores); (c) Volumetric compression of pore ¯uid and

pressure on the compression of the water (¯uid) element and the interior volumetric compression of
and the pore air (gas). The compressibility of the components of the element. This results in the
water Cw is constant, while the compression of air following equation
(gas) follows Boyle's law.
The expression for the parameter B is derived ÄV sks ‡ ÄV sku ˆ ÄV gs ‡ ÄV gu ‡ ÄV w ‡ ÄV a
on the basis that volumetric compatibility must be (6)
obtained during an undrained stress increase
between the exterior reduction in volume of an in which the individual quantities are expressed in
terms of the respective compressibilities and EXPERIMENTS TO STUDY THE EFFECTIVE STRESS
stresses PRINCIPLE
Most previous experiments to validate analytical
ÄV sks ˆ C sks V 0 (Äó ÿ Äu) (7) expressions for the effective stress have all been
where V0 ˆ total volume of the element, and performed on real geological materials for which
the compressibility of the grains (solid material) is
ÄV sku ˆ C sku V 0 Äu (8)
more than an order of magnitude smaller than the
ÄV gs ˆ C gs V 0 (Äó ÿ Äu) (9) compressibility of water. In addition, real concrete
ÄV gu ˆ C gu (1 ÿ n)V 0 Äu (10) and rock typically have very small porosities. It
is therefore dif®cult to measure all the required
ÄV w ˆ C w nV 0 SÄu (11) quantities with suf®cient accuracy to determine
whether the small quantities are correctly included
where S ˆ degree of saturation, and from Boyle's in the formulation. For example, the appearance of
law the compressibility of the solid phase Cs in
1ÿS equation (4) is dif®cult to check for real materials,
ÄV a ˆ nÄV 0 Äu (12)
u2 because it is approximately 25 times smaller than
the compressibility of water.
where u2 ˆ (u1 + Äu) ˆ the absolute pressure in the It is evident from equations (13) that the most
pore air after application of an increment in pore signi®cant effect to verify is that relating to the
pressure. compressibility of the grains (solid phase). Because
Since the expression for B to be derived will be the effective stress formulation is based on
used to check the principle of effective stress for a principles of mechanics, it should be valid for all
fully saturated specimen, it will be assumed that types of materials, and it is not important to
S ˆ 1, that is the effect of the compressibility of perform the experiments on real porous materials
the air is not present. It should be noted, however, such as concrete and rock. True principles of
that the in¯uence of the degree of saturation S on mechanics may be checked with any suitable
the measured value of B is always very pro- material. In the present case it is important to
nounced. The B-value test (in which the cell obtain pronounced grain compressibilities to deter-
pressure is changed by Äó while the specimen is mine whether the proposed formulation is correct.
undrained and the corresponding pore pressure The approach taken here was therefore to fabricate
increase Äu is measured to form B ˆ Äu/Äó) is specimens of several compressible materials such
the best indication of the degree of saturation of a as balsawood, basswood, and acrylic plastic. Porous
specimen of porous material. Typically, the value specimens with different porosities were desirable
of B is close to 1´0 for saturated soils. B-values to verify the effect of porosity.
smaller than 1´0 may be indicative of incomplete
saturation, but other factors may cause B to be-
come lower than unity as indicated in the fol- FABRICATION OF TEST SPECIMENS
lowing. Several lengths of square rods of balsawood,
Substitution of equations (7±11) into equation basswood and acrylic plastic with cross-sections
(6), solving for Äu, and dividing by Äó yields of approximately 6´3  6´3 mm2 (0´25  0´25 in2 )
were purchased. The rods were cut into lengths of
Äu 1
Bˆ ˆ  approximately 5´5 cm and stacked to form cubical
Äó Cw (1 ÿ n)C gu ÿ C sku specimens. Fig. 2 shows a photograph of the six
1‡n ‡
C sks ÿ C gs C sks ÿ C gs cubes produced for this study. The square rods were
(13) carefully glued together over the full contact areas
using glue products appropriate for the wood and
Comparison of Bishop's equation (4) with the plastic, respectively.
equation (13) shows that the difference between The three materials had different compressibil-
the two formulations relates to the compressibility ities. The compressibilities of the two wood types
of the grains and the skeleton due to the pore were likely to vary with con®ning pressure,
pressure. In Bishop's approach the compressibility whereas the solid acrylic plastic was likely to
of the grains (solid phase) is taken as one value, exhibit reasonably constant material compressibility
but in reality the compressibility varies with within the pressure range to be employed. One
respect to the agent that compresses the grains, cube of balsawood, two cubes of basswood with
as shown schematically in Figs. 1(a) and 1(b). different porosities (obtained by changing the
Thus, Cs in equation (4) is taken to represent Cgu , distances between the square rods), and three
Cgs and Csku . If these three values are set equal cubes of acrylic plastic with different porosities
and substituted into equation (13), then Bishop's were produced. The differences in porosity are
equation (4) is obtained. clearly seen in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Photograph of one balsawood, two basswood and three acrylic plastic cubes fabricated for the study of the
effective stress principle

Following the glueing process the plastic cubes when pressurized. Several cycles of additional
were milled and the wood cubes were carefully sealing and testing did not change this outcome.
trimmed with a sharp knife to produce ¯at surfaces Table 2 presents the relevant properties of the six
along all sides. To prevent water from penetrating test specimens.
into the wood during pressurization, the wood
cubes were dipped into liquid latex rubber three
times with suf®cient time between each dip for the EXPERIMENTAL SET-UP
latex rubber to dry completely. The B-value tests were performed in a triaxial
Although great care was taken to seal the wood cell with steel cell wall to minimize the expansion
cubes, it was clear from the test results that the of the cell during pressurization. Fig. 3 shows a
densest basswood cube was in fact imbibing water schematic diagram of the set-up. The `arti®cial

Table 2. Properties of `arti®cial rock' specimens

Specimen I.D. Number Material Volume, V0: cm3 Porosity, n Compressibility of
skeleton, Csks
(vol/vol per kPa)
BAL 1 Balsawood 203´2 0´436 See Fig. 7(a)
BAS 1 Basswood 204´3 0´442 See Fig. 8(a)
BAS 2 Basswood 177´1 0´281 Unknown
AC 1 Acrylic plastic 182´7 0´459 0´172  10ÿ5
AC 2 Acrylic plastic 168´4 0´319 0´100  10ÿ5
AC 3 Acrylic plastic 168´6 0´205 0´081  10ÿ5

Dial gauge


To volume change and

cell pressure measuring device

3.2mm stainless steel pin

Water saturated cell

6.4mm stainless
steel cell wall

Stainless steel cap (and base)

0.6mm thick latex

rubber membrane

1mm thick stainless steel plates

cover holes on 4 sides
of cube specimen

To volume change and

pore pressure measuring

Fig. 3. Triaxial set-up for B-value tests on simulated rock specimens

rock' specimens were contained between a stain- stainless steel plates were cut to cover the holes
less steel cap and base and surrounded by a 0´6 (i.e. the pores). The side lengths of the square
mm latex rubber membrane. To avoid membrane plates were smaller than the sides of the cubical
penetration into the pores along the four exposed specimens, thus allowing these to deform freely
surfaces of the cubes, four 1´0 mm thick square during the experiments. After installation, the

specimens and the triaxial cell were fully saturated the scheme of isotropic cell pressure and pore
using the CO2 method described by Lade & pressure variations shown on the two diagrams
Duncan (1973). were adopted. The balsawood specimen began to
show excessive creep and possible collapse at the
highest stresses indicated.
Measurements Fig. 7(a) shows the compressibilities and their
All experiments were performed by exposing variations calculated from the data in Figs 5 and 6.
the specimens to varying isotropic pressures. The Fig. 7(b) shows a comparison of measured and
vertical deformation of the cube was measured by a calculated values of B. All were calculated to be
dial gauge through a thin pin screwed into the cap. 0´996, whereas the measured values of B were
The volume change from inside the specimen was unity or slightly above. Values of B higher than
measured by a regular burette-type device, whereas unity should not be calculable from the analytical
the volume change from the triaxial cell was expression, because this would imply that a higher
measured by a high pressure device described by increment in pore pressure could be generated than
Lade & Overton (1989). The cell pressure and the the increment of cell pressure imposed on the
pore water pressure were measured by Bourdon- specimen. The higher increments in pore pressure
type pressure gauges as well as by more accurately measured in the experiments are generated by
sensing electrical pressure transducers attached to creep, which in turn is obtaining its energy from
the volume change devices. the stored potential energy in the specimen. B-
The volume change from the cell was corrected value tests performed on sand at very high
for the intrusion of the pin and for the expansion con®ning pressures indicate that the pore pressure
of the cell due to pressurization. No other correc- increments can be several times the applied cell
tions were applied to the measured quantities. pressure increment, as shown by Yamamuro &
Lade (1993). This contribution from creep is not
included in the analytical expression presented
Interpretation of measurements above. Consequently, B greater than unity cannot
The corrected volume change from the cell be predicted. Fig. 7(a) indicates that all compres-
represents the volume change of the skeleton, sibilities associated with the skeleton and the
ÄVspec, as shown in Fig. 4. For compressible grains, grains (solid phase) of the balsawood are much
the volume change of grains is obtained from greater than the compressibility of water.
ÄV grains ˆ ÄV skel ÿ ÄV spec (14)
This is also illustrated schematically in Fig. 4. Basswood
The compression of the basswood shows a
different character to the balsawood, that is the
Accuracy of measurements compressibilities are lower and they decrease with
Although the compressibility of the acrylic increasing pressure. This is demonstrated in Fig.
plastic was much higher than the relatively small 8(a), which also indicates that the compressibilities
values of compressibilities of real rock (0´001± associated with the basswood are all greater than
0´003  10ÿ5 vol/vol per kPa), the accuracy of the that of water. Fig. 8(b) a comparison of measured
volume measurements from the triaxial cell was and calculated B-values for the basswood speci-
not suf®cient to allow detailed analyses of the men. In this case the B-values at lower isotropic
experiments on the plastic specimens. However, pressures were below unity, and in each case the
they were accurate enough to allow qualitative B-value calculated from equation (13) is very close
analyses in support of the proposition presented to the measured value. Note that one value of B
below. The experiments on the wood specimens was determined during unloading of the specimen,
produced results from which each type of com- and this value is quite different from the others.
pressibility could be determined, and these experi- Nevertheless, the B-value calculated from the
ments are analyzed in detail in the following. appropriate compressibilities is reasonably close
to the experimental value. Thus, equation (13)
appears to capture the mechanics of the B-value
Figures 5 and 6 show the measured data for the
balsawood specimen. Because the balsawood was ANALYSIS OF COMPRESSIBILITIES
very compressible, each of the components in- Based on the compressibilities shown in Figs. 7
dicated in Figs 1(a) and 1(b) is clearly visible in and 8, it was attempted to throw further light on
the diagrams in Figs 5 and 6. In order to establish the relation between the compressibilities by
all the compressibilities occurring in equation (13), evaluating the expression in equation (5). The




For incompressible grains: ∆Vspecimen 5 ∆Vskeleton

(circular grains maintain their volumes)

For compressible grains: ∆Vgrains 5 ∆Vskeleton 2 ∆Vspecimen

(circular grains compress into square grains)

Fig. 4. Schematic illustration of measurements and interpretation of volume change components in

isotropic compression test

values of (1 ÿ n)Cgu are calculated and compared that the value of (1 ÿ n)Cgu is greater than Csku
with the values of Csku in Fig. 9 for both types of whenever B is lower than unity. Equation (13) also
wood. For balsawood the two values are equal, thus indicates that B-values lower than unity are ob-
supporting equation (5). However, for basswood tained only when the third term in the denominator
(1 ÿ n)Cgu is initially greater than Csku before the has a substantial value, thus showing that
two terms become equal at higher pressures. They (1 ÿ n)C gu ÿ C sku
again show substantial differences for the one set >0 (15)
C sks ÿ C gs
of measurements performed during unloading.
Comparing the results in Fig. 9 with the measure- Since Csks is always the largest of the compressi-
ments of B in Figs. 7(b) and 8(b), it is evident bilities, thus making the denominator positive, then

described by Csks 5
V0(∆σcell 2 ∆u) 73
141 106
B 5 1.038
Balsawood cube
V0 5 203.2 cm3 108 141
200 n 5 0.436 B 5 1.000
178 141 39
74 108 73
(σcell 2 u): kPa

B 5 1.045
0 106
141 141
39 74
∆Vskel 0
110 108 described by Csku 5
0 39 V0∆u
100 0
74 74

B 5 1.015 0
0 39

0 1 2 3 4 5
∆Vskel: cm3

Fig. 5. Compression of skeleton of balsawood cube due to changes in cell pressure and pore pressure. Values of u
in kPa are given at discrete points

described by Cgs 5
V0(∆σcell 2 ∆u)

B 5 1.038 ∆Vgrains
described by Cgu 5
(1 2 n)V0∆u
169 169
B 5 1.000 201
u: kPa

203 Balsawood cube

V0 5 203.2 cm3
134 236 n 5 0.436
100 169 203
100 Values of (σcell 2 u): kPa are
B 5 1.045
202 235 given at discrete points
135 170
B 5 1.015
135 203 236
69 73
105 242
0 1 2 3
∆Vgrains: cm3

Fig. 6. Compression of `grains' of balsawood cube due to changes in cell pressure and pore

(1 ÿ n)C gu ÿ C sku > 0 (16) evaluation of equation (16). The B-values for each
of these specimens were measured to be essentially
whenever B is lower than unity, as for the bass- constant for pressures up to 7000 kPa, that is the
wood. plastic specimens showed linear behaviour in this
Although the measurement of volume changes range of pressures. Constant values of B between
from the triaxial cell were too inaccurate for de- 0´54±0´63 were obtained for the three specimens.
tailed analyses of the experiments on the acrylic The analyses showed that the ratio in equation (15)
plastic specimens, suf®cient data were obtained for would have to be between 0´2±0´5, that is not
C(vol/vol per kPa)
Cw 5 0.048 3 1025
15 3 1025
5 3 1025
Basswood cube
Max. pressure

C (vol/vol per kPa)

4 3 1025 Measured
Balsawood cube during
3 3 1025 (a) unloading

10 3 1025 (a)
2 3 1025

1 3 1025
Csks Cgs
0 100 200 300 400 500 600
Cw 5 0.048 3 1025 (σcell 2 u): kPa
5 3 1025

1.1 Measured
0 0.9
0 100 200
(σcell 2 u): kPa
B Measured 0.8 (b)
1.10 (b) Calculated (B 5 0.996
in all cases)

Fig. 8. Variation of (a) compressibilities and (b) meas-

Fig. 7. Variaton of (a) compressibilities and (b) mea- ured and calculated B-values for basswood cube with
sured and calculated B-values for balsawood cube with difference between cell pressure and pore pressure
difference between cell pressure and pore pressure

negligible values, in order to obtain the measured

B-values. Again, this provides con®rmation of the
inequality in equation (16). This means that the
Csku(1 2 n)Cgu: vol/vol per kPa

10 3 1025
compressibility of the grains due to a pore pressure
increase must be higher than that of the skeleton. (a) Balsawood cube
For the acrylic plastic specimens, this may be en-
visioned as illustrated schematically in Fig. 1(b-2).
The experimental results show that the expres- 5 3 1025 Csku( ) = (1 2 n)Cgu( )
sion in equation (15) is always zero or positive.
Therefore, the analytical B-values from equation
(13) will not exceed unity, while the expression in
equation (4) would produce B-values greater than
unity for both wood specimens. For these speci- 0
0 100 200
mens, all `grain' compressibilities are clearly (σcell 2 u): kPa
greater than that of water, as seen on Figs. 7(a)
Csku(1 2 n)Cgu: vol/vol per kPa

and 8(a). The characterization of the various during
compressibilities of the solid phase (`grains') as
1 3 1025 (b) Basswood cube
one property is not correct, and it leads to the Max. pressure
erroneous expression in equation (4). (1 2 n)Csku
The value of Cgu represents the compressibility
of the grains (solid phase) due to an all-around Csku
pore pressure change. This is what is determined 0
from the volume change measured in an un- 0 100 200 300 400 500 600
(σcell 2 u): kPa
jacketed test. In comparison, the value of Csku
must be somewhat smaller and not nearly as easy Fig. 9. Comparison of compressibilities of skeleton and
to determine for cases where the solid phase `grains' due to pore pressure changes for (a) balsa-
cannot be distinguished as separate grains. In fact, wood cube, and (b) basswood cube

as the `points' of contact grow, i.e. are ®lled in Suklje (1969). As the compressibility of the
with solid phase material, it becomes complicated skeleton Csks decreases with increasing pressure
to determine what is `grains' and what is towards the limit represented by the compressibility
`skeleton'. The dilemma is indicated in Fig. 10. of the grains (solid phase) Cgu , the ratio of Cgu /Csks
As the contacts grow, they eventually reach approaches unity and the effective stress may be
diameters equal to the grain diameter, at which expressed as
point the pores vanish. At this limiting condition, Äó9 ˆ Äó ÿ nÄu (21)
the compressibility of the skeleton equals the
compressibility of the grains Such an expression was intuitively proposed by
C sku ˆ C gu (17) several authors, as seen in Table 1(a).
It should be noted, however, that the pressures
Thus, it is necessary to study the two ends of the required to make Cgu /Csks approach unity would
spectrum using separate expressions for the com- also cause large amounts of grain crushing and
pressibility of the skeleton. consequent reductions in the porosity, n. The
results of two K0 -compression tests, one on quartz
sand with very hard grains and the other on
THE EFFECTIVE STRESS PRINCIPLE gypsum sand with very soft grains, are shown in
If the effective stress, Äó9, is de®ned as the Fig. 11 (Yamamuro, 1993; Bopp, 1994). These two
stress that produces the same volume change as a sand types may be representative of extreme
particular combination of the total stress Äó and characteristics with regard to their potential for
the pore pressure Äu, then using the left-hand-side particle breakage. The experiments were performed
of equation (6), this volume change may be written in a thick-walled steel cylinder in which the
as 3´81 cm dia. (1´5 in) sand specimens were com-
C sks V 0 Äó9 ˆ C sks V 0 (Äó ÿ Äu) ‡ C sku V 0 Äu pressed to vertical stresses a little beyond
800 MPa. The reduction in porosity n and in the
(18) compressibility of the skeleton Csks with increasing
from which pressure may be calculated from the data presented
C sku
Äó9 ˆ Äó ÿ 1 ÿ Äu (19)
C sks
This equation represents the general expression for
the effective stress in a porous material.

Granular materials 0.8

For separate grains with small contact points,
the expression in equation (5) for the compression
of the skeleton may be substituted into equation
(19) to produce
C gu
Äó9 ˆ Äó ÿ 1 ÿ (1 ÿ n) Äu (20)
Void ratio, e

C sks
which is similar to the expression suggested by

Quartz sand

Gypsum sand
(a) Separate Gradual (b) Solid rock with 0.1 1 10 100 1,000 10,000
grains with transition interconnected
contact points pores Vertical stress: MPa

Fig. 10. Schematic illustration of gradual transition in Fig. 11. Results of one-dimensional compression tests
porous material from (a) separate grains with contact on quartz sand and gypsum sand shown on e against
points to (b) solid rock with interconnected pores log (stress) diagram
in Fig. 11 for each of the two sands. The 1
consequent increase in solid fraction (1 ÿ n) is 0.98
shown in Fig. 12 and the decrease in skeleton

Factor, η
compressibility with increasing vertical stress is Dam foundations and abutments,
shown in Fig. 13 for the two sands (note the 0.94 tunnel linings, mine shafts
difference in scale on the vertical axes). The
volumetric compressibility of the solid phase of Deep wells, mine pillars
quartz is Cgu ˆ 0´0027 vol/vol per kPa (Bridgman 0.9
0 20 40 60 80 100
1925, 1928; Skempton 1960; Brace 1965), and the Vertical stress: MPa
value for gypsum is taken to be Cgu ˆ 0´0020 vol/ 1
vol per kPa. The variation of the factor ç, given in
equation (20), can now be calculated for the two
Fig. 14 shows the results of calculations of ç for Quartz sand
quartz sand and for gypsum sand. The results for 0.6

Factor, η
these two extreme sands appear to be relatively
close, even though their compressibilities are Pile foundations, points of
0.4 concentration in mine pillars
substantially different, as shown on Fig. 13. It is Gypsum sand

Conventional and nuclear explosives,
1 deep focus earthquakes
Gypsum sand
0 200 400 600 800 1,000
0.9 Vertical stress: MPa
Solid fraction: (1 − n)

Quartz sand Fig. 14. Variation of factor ç with stress for quartz sand
0.8 and gypsum sand. Probable maximum stresses for
various geotechnical structures and conditions are
shown for comparison

seen that ç generally decreases from close to unity
with increasing stress. Since the solid fraction,
0 200 400 600 800 1000
shown in Fig. 12, does not vary much with
Vertical stress: MPa pressure compared to the variation of the skeleton
compressibility, it is the latter that has the most
Fig. 12. Variation of solid fraction (1 ÿ n) with stress signi®cant in¯uence on the value of ç.
for quartz sand and gypsum sand Indicated on Fig. 14 are also the probable
maximum stresses encountered in various practical
engineering facilities (Murphy 1987). It is clear
that ç is very close to unity in the range of
Skeleton compressibility: 1/kPa

stresses in which most geotechnical structures are

0.005 found. Further, ç does not decrease signi®cantly
until stresses are reached that are highly unusual in
0.06 0.004
engineering practice. In practice it would not be
Skeleton compressibility: 1/kPa

0.05 0.003 possible to recognize or measure the difference

between unity and the actual value of ç in the
0.04 0.002 range of stresses up to and possibly beyond
100 MPa. Nevertheless, signi®cant deviations from
0.03 0.001 Quartz sand
Terzaghi's proposed effective stress principle occur
0.02 0 at higher stress magnitudes, as suspected by
0 200 400 600 800 1,000
Vertical stress: MPa Skempton (1960).
Gypsum sand
0 200 400 600 800 1,000 Solid rock with interconnected pores
Vertical stress: MPa
For the other limiting case of solid rock with
Fig. 13. Variation of skeleton compressibility with small interconnected pores and low porosity, the
stress for quartz sand and gypsum sand. Note differ- expression for Csku from equation (17) is sub-
ence in vertical scale for the two diagrams stituted into equation (19) to produce
Äó9 ˆ Äó ÿ 1 ÿ Äu (22) The concept of effective stress for porous media
C sks
has been addressed in many studies in the past.
Table 1(a) shows that this expression for the These studies and the resulting expressions for the
effective stress is similar to that proposed by many effective stress have been summarized. An analy-
authors, if Cs is taken to be equal to Cgu . Note, tical expression for the undrained compression of a
however, that no previous studies have distinguished material element based on compressibilities of
between the different compressibilities of the grains (solid phase) and skeleton is then derived.
skeleton and the grains associated with the total In the consequent expression for B ˆ Äu/Äó, a
stress and the pore pressure, as done here. distinction is made between the compressibilities
Experiments on Weber sandstone were presented of grains and skeleton due to total stresses and
by Nur & Byerlee (1971) to show that the ex- pore pressures. This distinction results in a new
pression in equation (22) captures the effective and more detailed evaluation of the effective stress
stress behaviour of the sandstone with very good in porous media such as soil, concrete, and rock. A
accuracy. These authors also presented a theoretical series of experiments was performed on `arti®cial
derivation of the coef®cient ç shown in square rock' specimens made of square rods of balsawood,
brackets (with Cgu ˆ Cs ) in equation (22) for solid basswood, and acrylic plastic glued together to
rock with interconnected pores. form porous cubical specimens. The data from
While equation (20) applies for granular materi- these experiments are used as an aid in evaluating
al as indicated in the left-hand-side of Fig. 10, the the general, analytical expression for the effective
expression in equation (22) applies to solid rock stress. This expression is then specialized to form
with interconnected pores as shown in the right- two distinct expressions for the effective stress in
hand-side of Fig. 10. A transition from one to the (a) granular materials consisting of separate grains
other condition appears to involve a change in the with small contact points, and (b) solid rock with
contact area a per unit area of the plane. A interconnected pores. For various special condi-
gradual transition may be achieved by multiplying tions, these expressions are shown to be similar
the porosity n in equation (20) by a factor such as to most previously proposed expressions for the
(1 ÿ am ) in which the exponent m is to be effective stress. Terzaghi's proposed effective stress
determined experimentally. This intuitive relation principle works well for stress magnitudes encoun-
would have the properties of producing the tered in most geotechnical applications, but signi®-
expressions in equations (20) and (22) for a ˆ 0 cant deviations occur at very high stresses.
and a ˆ 1, respectively. However, developments
beyond those given above are beyond the scope of
the present study. ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The experiments on the `arti®cial rock' speci-
mens were conducted in the Department of Civil
Engineering at University of California, Los
Failure Angeles. The research presented here was sup-
Both expressions for the effective stress in ported by the Air Force Of®ce of Scienti®c
equations (20) and (22) contain the compressibility Research of USA under Grant No. 910117, by
of the skeleton Csks in the denominator. In the the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and by
process of shearing soil, concrete, or rock, the Stiftung Volkswagenwerk of the Federal Republic
material dilates, the density decreases, the structure of Germany. Grateful appreciation is expressed for
loosens up, and the value of Csks consequently this support.
increases with increasing shear strain. For granular
materials the process of dilation has been de-
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