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Gu, Q. & Lee, F.-H. (2002). Géotechnique 52, No.

7, 481–493

Ground response to dynamic compaction of dry sand

Q. G U  a n d F. - H . L E E 

The mechanics of dynamic compaction are studied in this Nous étudions dans cet exposé les mécanismes de com-
paper using two-dimensional finite element analyses with pactage dynamique en utilisant des analyses d’éléments
a large-strain dynamic formulation and a cap model for finis en deux dimensions avec une formule dynamique de
soil behaviour. Comparison with centrifuge model results grande déformation et un modèle de comportement du
shows that stress wave attenuation and improvement sol. La comparaison avec les résultats du modèle centri-
effects are realistically predicted. The analyses show that, fuge montre que l’atténuation des ondes de contrainte et
in the initial blows, stress wave propagation induces les effets d’amélioration sont prévus de manière réaliste.
transient elasto-plastic K 0 compression due to lateral Les analyses montrent que, lors des frappes initiales, la
inertia. This preserves the plane wavefront and reduces propagation de l’onde de contrainte entraı̂ne une com-
the attenuation rate of the dynamic stresses with depth. pression élasto-plastique transitoire K 0 due à une inertie
With multiple blows, the effect changes to one of triaxial latérale. Ceci maintient le front d’onde plat et réduit le
compression: this sets a limit on the degree of improve- taux d’atténuation des contraintes dynamiques avec la
ment that can be achieved in the near field. Deeper down, profondeur. Avec des frappes multiples, l’effet devient un
the wavefront adopts a bullet shape, and the attenuation effet de compression triaxiale, ce qui fixe une limite sur
rate rises: this sets a limit on the depth of improvement. le degré d’amélioration qui peut être obtenu dans le sol
Both these phenomena are consistent with the existence adjacent. Plus profondément, le front d’onde prend une
of a ‘threshold’ state that has been noted in previous forme d’obus et le taux d’atténuation augmente, ce qui
literature on dynamic compaction. The results also show fixe une limite à la profondeur de l’amélioration. Ces
that the depth of improvement is dependent upon the deux phénomènes confirment l’existence d’un état seuil
momentum per blow, as well as on the energy per blow. qui a été signalé dans les études précédentes sur le
compactage dynamique. Les résultats montrent également
que la profondeur de l’amélioration dépend de l’impul-
KEYWORDS: compaction; ground improvement; numerical sion de chaque frappe ainsi que de l’énergie de chaque
modelling and analysis; sands; stress analysis frappe.

INTRODUCTION Aziz et al. (1980), Mayne et al. (1984) and Lo et al. (1990)
Dynamic compaction (DC), or heavy tamping, is a widely suggested that the enforced ground settlement can be related
used ground improvement method for compacting dry, un- to the square root of the total drop energy per unit area,
saturated or well-drained, loose granular material. In this termed the applied energy intensity. These experimental
method the soil is compacted by the impulsive stress im- studies provided much data for design and construction.
parted by multiple impacts from a tamper. Many empirical However, they shed relatively little light on the mechanism
studies have been carried out by previous researchers (e.g. of ground improvement; more insight on the latter has
Menard, 1974; Leonards et al., 1980; Mayne et al., 1984). tended to come from analytical or numerical studies.
Menard & Broise (1976) proposed that the depth of im- Most of the analytical and numerical studies conducted
provement, d, in metres can be related to the potential on DC to date have been based on one-dimensional (1D)
energy of the tamper per blow by the relationship models (e.g. Scott & Pearce, 1976; Holeyman, 1985; Smits
pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi & Quelerij, 1989; Chow et al., 1992). However, such 1D
d¼ W:H (1) models cannot explain or capture the lateral spread of the
ground improvement effect (e.g. Choa et al., 1979; Harada
where W is the weight of the tamper in tonnes and H is the & Suzuki, 1984; Poran et al., 1992; Oshima & Takada,
height of drop in metres. Leonards et al. (1980) proposed 1998). Chow et al. (1992) justified the use of their 1D
adding a multiplier of 0·5 to the right-hand side of equation model by reference to Beine’s (1983) laboratory test data,
(1) to obtain better agreement with measurements. Mayne et which showed that, down to a depth of about 1·5 times the
al. (1984) reported that the multiplier can range from 0·3 to tamper’s diameter, there is little or no spreading of vertical
0·8. Lukas (1992) reported that the multiplier can vary from stresses. However, since Beine’s data showed only vertical
0·5 to 0·6 for pervious granular soil deposits. The range of stresses, whether the tamping leads to any permanent build-
suggested multiplier values indicates that other factors, in up of lateral earth pressure around the tamper footprint
addition to the energy per blow, may affect the depth of remains uncertain. Furthermore, Beine (1983) did not indi-
improvement. For example, Oshima & Takada’s (1998) cen- cate whether the reported data relate to the initial or sub-
trifuge model test data suggest that impulse per blow may sequent blows; ground response is likely to change with
also have an effect. One way of assessing the degree of successive blows. The deficiency of such a 1D model is
improvement is via the enforced ground surface settlement. highlighted in Chow et al. (1994), who proposed a 1D wave
model for the area directly beneath the footprint but had to
resort to an empirical relation established from field data for
Manuscript received 11 April 2001; revised manuscript accepted 9
April 2002.
lateral spreading. Poran & Rodriguez (1991, 1992) used a
Discussion on this paper closes 1 March 2003, for further details two-dimensional (2D) finite element (FE) model to study the
see p. ii. behaviour of dry sand under DC, and presented predictions
 Centre for Protective Technology, Department of Civil Engineer- of plastic volumetric strains below and beyond the range of
ing, National University of Singapore. tamper. However, their analyses were unable to model the

tailing-off of tamper settlement with successive tamping. dynamic loading on soils is used herein. As shown in Fig. 1,
Poran & Rodriguez (1991, 1992) attributed this discrepancy the yield surface of this model comprises a non-hardening
to the non-associated flow rule of their cap model, which Drucker–Prager shear yield surface (Drucker & Prager,
has an angle of dilation of zero. This would have suppressed 1952) represented by
any shear-induced dilatancy that would have moderated the pffiffiffiffiffi
build-up of tamper settlement. Moreover, no results were f f ¼ ÆI 1 þ J2  k ¼ 0 (2)
given on the stress changes undergone by the soil during
successive blows, so that ground improvement mechanisms and an elliptical volumetric hardening cap, represented by
remain unclear.
The objective of this paper is to examine ground response f c ¼ (I 1  l )2 þ R2 J 2  (x  l )2 ¼ 0 (3)
during repeated tamping blows at a single point, and some where f f is the shear failure function; f c is the volumetric
key factors that can affect the degree and extent of compac- yield function; I 1 is the first stress invariant; J 2 is the
tion. The important considerations in the modelling of this second invariant of the deviator stress tensor; Æ, k and R are
problem are first discussed. A reality check on the model the soil parameters; and x is the hardening parameter. The
prediction of stress wave propagation is then made by hardening parameter l is related to the other parameters by
comparing computed and measured dynamic stress wave x  R: k
attenuation patterns at several depths below the ground l¼ (4)
surface at the point of impact. A further check on the l þ R:Æ
prediction of ground improvement effect is then conducted The hardening parameter x is related to the plastic volu-
by comparing model prediction with measurements of rela- metric strain, pv , by the empirical work-hardening relation
tive density, Dr , from Oshima & Takada’s (1998) centrifuge 1
model DC tests. The effects of energy and momentum on x ¼  ln(l  pv =W ) (5)
the depth of improvement are also examined using this D
comparative exercise. By examining the stress paths of in which D and W are work-hardening properties.
several points beneath the footprint, the stress changes and The shear yield surface and the cap are coupled through
progressive densification of the ground arising from succes- the plastic volumetric strain, pv . When the stress path
sive impacts during DC are then clarified. Finally, the effects reaches the shear yield surface, associated flow assumption
of momentum and tamper base area on depth and degree of leads to dilatancy, and reduction in x, thereby leading to a
improvement are examined. shrinkage and movement of the cap towards the origin.
Dilation can continue until the cap catches up with the stress
point on the shear yield surface. In the original model this
MODELLING CONSIDERATIONS intersection point is a corner. In the FE implementation a
Large deformation smooth curve is assumed in the locality of this intersection
The study was conducted using the dynamic FE program point, thereby avoiding problems associated with an abrupt
CRISDYN (Goh, 1995), which has an Updated Lagrangian change of slope. By allowing the stress to migrate back onto
large-strain formulation for dynamic problems incorporated the cap further dilation is avoided, since the intersection
to reflect the large strains in the soil during impact (Poran & point is also the crown of the cap, where the plastic
Rodriguez, 1991). The detailed formulation of the Updated volumetric strain increment is zero. Kinematic hardening
Lagrangian method has been presented by Bathe (1996) for was not incorporated in the model. This consideration
the static problem. Its adaptation to the dynamic problem follows from Poran & Rodriguez’s (1991) finding that a
involves essentially incorporating the necessary inertial ef- well-calibrated single shear yield surface model is computa-
fects (e.g. Goh et al., 1998). As the adaptation involved is tionally more efficient and better suited to represent the
relatively minor, it will not be repeated herein. Compared extreme changes in soil behaviour than a kinematic hard-
with Goh et al.’s (1998) formulation for inertial effects, the ening model. Within the yield surface a simple non-linear
only difference is that the material density is configured as a elastic stress–strain relationship, based on the linearised
state variable for each integration point, rather than as a e–ln p9 curve for recompression, and a constant Poisson
material property, in order to allow it to be changed in each
time step. This ensures that the mass of each element is kept
relatively constant even with the occurrence of large volu-
metric strain. Following Poran & Rodriguez (1992), the √J2
impulse from the tamper was modelled by prescribing an
initial velocity and acceleration for the tamper elements.

Constitutive model
The choice of constitutive model was based on the
consideration that the ground improvement effect is caused
by transient effective stress increase induced by tamper
impulse rather than by vibration-induced densification arising
from tamper impact. The data of Davies (1991) and Poran et
al. (1992) indicate that the loading is essentially impulsive, (x – l )/R
and that the number of stress cycles to which the soil is
subjected is likely to be small. Hence cyclic densification
features, such as the transition from densifying to dilatant
behaviour at high stress ratio, were not incorporated in the T I1
constitutive model. This omission was also made in previous l
1D models (e.g. Scott & Pearce, 1976; Chow et al., 1992) x
as well as in Poran & Rodriguez’s (1992) FE analyses. p
Dimaggio & Sandler’s (1971) cap model for blast and Fig. 1. Yield surface of cap model in I 1 – J 2 space
ratio, is assumed. With this assumption, the bulk modulus, Centre line
K, is given by
V : p9 Pounder with initial velocity
K¼ (6)
Wooden plate
where V is the specific volume and k is the slope of the

20 × 0·2 = 4 m
unloading line in the e–ln p9 curve.
This simple elastic stress–strain relation cannot replicate
the effects of small-strain non-linearity (e.g. Jardine et al.,
1984) and the dependence of Gmax on overconsolidation
ratio (e.g. Hardin & Drnevich, 1972). However, Poran &

20 × 0·4 = 8 m
Rodriguez (1991) showed that, in the modelling of the DC
process, the plastic behaviour of the model plays a much
more important role than its elastic behaviour. This is
reasonable since the process works by enforcing large irre-
coverable settlement. Furthermore, in the cases studied, not
enough was known about the sand behaviour to justify the
use of complex elastic stress–strain relationships.

10 × 0·6 = 6 m
Stress wave propagation
In this section comparison is made with Thong’s (1994)
centrifuge model test, in which a model brass tamper of
mass 0·5 kg was dropped repeatedly from a height of
300 mm onto medium fine, dry sand with an initial relative
density of about 50%. Fig. 2 shows the layout of Thong’s
centrifuge model test. Thong’s experiment was conducted at
50 g: thus the prototype equivalence of this experiment is a
62·5 t tamper being dropped from a height of 15 m. To keep 20 × 0·2 = 4 m
the sand surface even after each impact, a ‘dolly’ in the 10 × 0·6 = 6 m
form of a wooden disc 160 mm in diameter was placed on
10 × 0·4 = 4 m
the ground surface at the area of impact. Eight blows were
applied at the same spot. During each blow, normal stresses Fig. 3. Two-dimensional axisymmetric finite element mesh for
at the locations shown in Fig. 2 were measured by piezo- comparison with Thong’s (1994) data
electric polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) film sensors.
The 2D axisymmetric FE mesh shown in Fig. 3 is used to
model Thong’s (1994) test. The dimensions of the tamper
and dolly were obtained by scaling Thong’s set-up to its 7 GPa and a Poisson’s ratio of 0·3. The cap model para-
prototype equivalence. The size of the mesh is slightly meters W , D and initial void ratio were determined by back-
smaller than that of the centrifuge because preliminary fitting the computed 1D compression curve to the loading
analyses showed that many of the ground waves are damped part of Yet’s (1999) oedometer data for the same soil (Fig.
out before they reach the side and bottom boundaries. The 4). The use of 1D consolidation data to calibrate the soil
tamper was modelled as a stiff, elastic block with a modulus model contradicts Poran & Rodriguez’s (1991) use of triaxial
of 90 GPa. The wooden dolly was assigned a modulus of test data. However, Poran & Rodriguez’s study showed that

160 mm dia. wooden plate Case no. D: kPa–1 W κ Poisson's ratio, ν

20 mm

1 0·00001 0·18 0·0045 0·3

Sensor channel 1 2 0·00009 0·18 0·0042 0·3
130 mm

no. 3 0·00012 0·19 0·0047 0·3

4 0·00001 0·18 0·0045 0·2
150 mm

Oedometer test (Yet, 1999)

460 mm

Void ratio, e

3 0·75

Case no. 4
Loose sand 0·70
Case no. 2
Case no. 1
0·65 Case no. 3

Diameter = 650 mm 102 103 104 105
Effective vertical stress: kPa

Fig. 2. Centrifuge model and sensor positions (after Thong, Fig. 4. Comparison of compression behaviour with Yet’s (1999)
1994) oedometer test result
much of the compaction derives from the plastic volumetric unexpected, and can be explained by the accumulation of
compression of the soil: thus it is important to calibrate the numerical errors from the preceding impacts. Fig. 5 also
volumetric cap and its rate of expansion with plastic volu- shows the ideal attenuation rate for a hemispherical wave-
metric strain. Moreover, Goh et al.’s (1998) study indicates front in an elastic, non-viscous material, based on the
that, even in an unconfined sand column, K 0 compression experimental value of vertical stress at the soil surface. As
occurs during the initial stages of the loading phase. Since can be seen, near the soil surface the attenuation rate is
the soil below the area of impact is not completely uncon- lower than that for the elastic spherical wave, whereas the
fined, K 0 compression is likely to exist during parts of the reverse is true for the deeper soil layers. This indicates that
loading phase. the initial wavefront does not behave like a spherical wave-
The recompression index, k, follows that used by Goh et front. As Fig. 6 shows, the differences between the four
al. (1998) for the same sand. The shape ratio, R, and shear predicted cases are fairly small, thereby indicating that the
yield surface parameters Æ and k were assumed to be the predicted stress attenuation curve is not sensitive to small
same as those used by Baladi & Rohani (1979), since no changes in material parameters.
triaxial test data were available to derive them. Fig. 4 shows The change in the wave propagation pattern is also
four sets of parameters that give reasonably good fits to the evident in the mean normal stress contours in Fig. 7(a)–(c).
static 1D compression curve. The parameters D, W , k and  At 10 ms after the first impact the stress wavefront resem-
for these four cases are shown in Fig. 4. The other para- bles a plane wave within the area of the wooden plate. This
meters are kept constant with the following values: is approximately the point of time at which the peak stress
xinitial ¼ 500 kPa, R ¼ 4:33, Æ ¼ 0:23, k ¼ 0 kPa. The initial is reached at 2 m below the tamper, and it explains why the
void ratio is set at 0·815 in accordance with the initial attenuation rate is less than that of a spherical wave. As the
relative density of 50%. wavefront propagates away from the tamper it becomes
The use of soil parameters determined from quasi-static progressively more hemispherical as stresses near the edge
test data means that strain rate effects of the soil have been of the dolly decrease (Fig. 7(b) and (c)). This change in
neglected. Casagrande & Shannon (1949), Whitman & Healy stress wave profile is similar to that in a soil column under
(1962) and Jackson et al. (1980) noted that the stress–strain impulsive loading (Goh et al., 1998), and suggests that the
characteristics and strength of dry sand do not change early impact behaviour of the sand bed is quite similar to
significantly between quasi-static and fast transient loadings that of a soil column. In contrast, by the fourth impact, the
with time to failure as low as 5 ms. Goh et al. (1998) wavefront takes on a hemispherical profile even at an early
suggested that some of the observed ‘strain rate effects’ may stage of loading (Fig. 8).
be due to lateral inertia. For these reasons, strain rate effects
were not considered in the evaluation of parameters. In field
DC events, strain rate effects are likely to be even less Improvement effects
significant since loading duration is typically much longer As Thong (1994) did not report any data on improvement
than the loading durations of the works cited above. Ray- caused by repeated impacts, comparison was made with
leigh damping is set at 5% of critical, with lower and upper Oshima & Takada’s (1998) centrifuge model tests conducted
reference frequencies of 0·01 Hz and 100 Hz, this being on nearly dry sand with water content of 4%, under 100 g.
consistent with the findings of Rix et al. (2000). The initial The equivalent prototype parameters were: tamper area 4 m2 ,
velocity of the tamper is taken to be 17:5 m=s, which was tamper mass ranging from 10 t to 80 t and drop height from
derived from free-fall considerations. A time step of 5 m to 28·6 m. The maximum and minimum dry densities
5 3 10–4 s is used in the analysis. are 1:72 t=m3 and 1:4 t=m3 respectively. CPT tests were
As shown in Fig. 5, the predicted attenuation of the peak conducted before and after the tamping using a calibrated
vertical stresses with depth using parameters for Case 1 miniature cone penetrometer, and the relative density, Dr ,
agrees reasonably well with that observed by Thong (1994). was deduced from the measured cone resistance.
The increase in peak vertical stress with successive impacts A 2D axisymmetric FE mesh similar to the one shown in
was also well modelled in the first and third impacts. By the Fig. 3, but without the wooden dolly, was used to model the
sixth impact, some underprediction of the peak stress is
evident at depths of about 8 m or greater. This is not

Peak vertical stress: kPa

102 103 104
Peak vertical stress: kPa 1
102 103 104
Depth: m

Depth: m


1st impact (case 1) 1st impact (case 2)

1st impact (case 3) 1st impact (case 4)
3rd impact case 1) 3rd impact case 2)
1st impact (numerical case 1) 1st impact (Thong, 1994)
3rd impact case 3) 3rd impact case 4)
3rd impact (numerical case 1) 3rd impact (Thong, 1994) 6th impact (case 1) 6th impact (case 2)
102 6th impact (case 3) 6th impact (case 4)
6th impact (numerical case 1) 6th impact (Thong, 1994)
Spherical elastic wave
Spherical elastic wave
Fig. 6. Peak vertical stress along centreline for different sets of
Fig. 5. Peak vertical stress along centreline parameters

Fig. 7. Contours of p9 for first impact: (a) 0·01 s; (b) 0·015 s; (c) 0·03 s

centrifuge test, as shown in Fig. 9. Figure 10 shows three larger than the ones used in simulating Thong’s (1994) tests;
sets of D, W and k values that give reasonably good fits to this is consistent with the much higher compressibility of
the 1D compression results. The other parameters are kept Oshima & Takada’s sand.
constant at the following values for all three sets: Figure 11 shows the computed and measured final in-
xinitial ¼ 100 kPa, R ¼ 4:33, Æ ¼ 0:23,  ¼ 0:3, k ¼ 0 kPa. crease in relative density for three different drop height and
The initial void ratio of 0·78 is derived based on the initial weight combinations. Although 40 blows were delivered in
relative density of 35% for Oshima & Takada’s (1998) the experiment, the computed results for this case indicate
model. Note that the values of D and W here are much that the soil underwent no significant further compaction

Fig. 8. Contours of p9 for fourth impact: (a) 0·01 s; (b) 0·015 s; (c) 0·03 s

after about 15 blows. As mentioned earlier, the presence of not unrealistic. As Fig. 11 shows, reasonable agreement is
a limiting blow count corresponding to a threshold state is obtained between computed and experimental results, within
already well known (e.g. Slocombe, 1993). It is likely that the limits of numerical and experimental accuracy. Both the
this limiting blow count depends significantly on the proper- experimental and computed results show that the increase in
ties of the sand being compacted. Nonetheless, the results of relative density reaches a maximum at a shallow depth
Takada & Oshima (1994), Mayne et al. (1984) and Poran et below the crater surface and diminishes rapidly below that.
al. (1992) indicate that much of the enforced settlement This trend is also consistent with that shown by field data
occurs before the first 20 blows. Thus the computed blow (e.g. Leonards et al., 1980; Mayne et al., 1984).
count of 15 blows for the attainment of the threshold state is Following Oshima & Takada (1998), the depth of im-
Centre line
with Mayne et al.’s data, indicating that the mechanics of
the process is reasonably well captured. On the other hand,
the agreement between computed and measured rates of
increase is likely to be fortuitous since the soil properties
Tamper were unavailable.
20 × 0·4 = 8 m 20 × 0·2 = 4 m

To study the mechanism of ground improvement for the
case in Fig. 11(a), the changes at four points, marked A to
D in Fig. 9, are examined. Fig. 13 shows the stress path at
point A during the first three blows. Upon first impact, the
stress path initially follows the elastic K0 compression line
closely until the initial cap (see inset) is reached. Beyond
this point, plastic strains become increasingly dominant.
Since plastic strains are governed by the associated flow rule
rather than by the generalised Hooke’s law for elastic strains,
the earth pressure coefficient and stress path will be different
10 × 0·6 = 6 m

in the two regimes. Hence, as plastic strains start to dom-

inate soil deformation, the stress path veers towards the
plastic K 0 compression line, following the latter closely for
much of the loading phase, as the cap expands. Towards the
end of the loading phase, the stress path turns away from
the plastic K 0 line towards the shear yield surface; this trend
continues for the initial unloading phase.
These stress paths can be explained by the effects of
lateral inertia highlighted by Goh et al. (1998) for a sand
column. Goh et al. noted that lateral inertia causes lateral
20 × 0·2 = 4 m 10 × 0·6 = 6 m strains to lag behind vertical strains. Prior to the onset of
10 × 0·4 = 4 m lateral strains, the sand column compresses in nearly K 0
Fig. 9. Two-dimensional axisymmetric mesh for comparison
condition. As shown in Fig. 14, for the soil beneath the
with Oshima & Takada’s (1998) data tamper, the onset and rate of increase of lateral strains are
also much slower than those of vertical strains, so that the
nearly K 0 condition will persist until a sufficiently large
lateral strain has occurred. As Fig. 15 shows, in the first
Case no. D: kPa–1 W κ impact a significant proportion of the void ratio reduction
1 0·00018 0·40 0·0030 occurs at less than 0·2% lateral strain magnitude.
2 0·00008 0·30 0·0025 As lateral strain accumulates, the stress path digresses
3 0·00025 0·42 0·0030 from the K 0 line towards the shear failure line under triaxial
0·80 compression. As shown in Fig. 13, this effect continues into
Oshima & early unloading, even when p9 is decreasing, being sustained
Takada's result by the lateral outward momentum of the soil beneath the
tamper. As shown in Fig. 16, as the soil dilates, the cap
shrinks, until the lateral outward momentum is dissipated.
Void ratio, e

The variable l in Fig. 16 is the value of the stress invariant,

Case no. 2 I 1 , at the vertex of the cap surface (Fig. 1), so that l=3 is
the isotropic pre-compression pressure. Towards the end of
Case no. 1 unloading, the high K0 induces a passive (or extension)
Case no. 3 stress state. Since q is always positive, the transition from a
compression to an extension state is manifested by kinks in
0·65 the stress paths at the hydrostatic axis, as shown in the inset
10 102 103 104 of Fig. 13.
Vertical stress: kPa Subsequent blows produce larger peak compressive stress
at the same location (Fig. 13); this trend had also been
Fig. 10. Numerical back-fitting of one-dimensional compression
curve of Oshima & Takada’s (1998) sand observed by Thong (1994). Moreover, as shown in Fig. 17,
the computed zone of improvement deepens with successive
blows, because the overlying soil now responds elastically
for more of the loading phase, resulting in less energy being
provement, d, was taken to be the depth at which the dissipated. Thus preceding blows create a deepening com-
increase in Dr falls to 5%. As shown in Table 1, the error pacted soil plug, which enhances propagation of the impul-
between the numerical and experimental depth of im- sive stress further downwards. However, the incremental
p is less than 10%. Furthermore, the values of improvement at a given point reduces with successive blows;
d= (WH) for both numerical and experimental results agree as Fig. 16 shows, the net decrease in void ratio attenuates
well with the bands recommended by Lukas (1992) and significantly by the third impact, whereas the crater depth
Mayne et al. (1984). Oshima & Takada (1998) did not continues to increase (Fig. 12). The rapid attenuation of void
present data of crater depth with blow number: thus the ratio decrease occurs because progressively higher stresses
computed results were compared with Mayne et al.’s (1984) are needed to enforce further plastic volumetric compres-
data for 300–400 t m energy per blow, in Fig. 12. As can be sion. Furthermore, with successive blows, progressively lar-
seen, the trend of settlement increase agrees reasonably well ger portions of the stress path remain in the elastic regime
Distance from centre line: m Distance from centre line: m Distance from centre line: m
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
0 0 0

–1 –1 –1

–2 –2 –2
–3 –3 –3

–4 –4 –4

–5 –5 –5
Depth: m

Depth: m

Depth: m
–6 –6 –6

–7 –7 –7
–8 –8 –8

–9 –9 –9

–10 –10 –10

–11 –11 –11
Oshima& Takada (1998)
–12 Numerical result (case 1) –12
Numerical result (case 2) –12
Numerical result (case 3)
–13 –13 –13
(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 11. Contours of increase in relative density (%): (a) W 20 t, H 20 m; (b)W 40 t, H 10 m; (c)W 80 t, H 5m

Table 1. Numerical and measured depth of improvement, d, and d/ˇ(WH )

W ¼ 80 t, W ¼ 40 t, W ¼ 20 t,
H ¼5m H ¼ 10 m H ¼ 20 m
WH: t m 400 400 400
d: m (numerical) 12·5 11·8 11
Equivalent prototype d: m 12 11 10·9
p Oshima & Takada, 1998)
d=p (WH) (numerical) 0·625 0·59 0·55
d= (WH) 0·6 0·55 0·545
(after Oshima & Takada, 1998)

Number of blows to active shear upon loading. Hence, for regions directly
0 4 8 12 16 24 below and near to the crater surface, limiting improvement
is reached when plastic volumetric compression is entirely
Alabama (380 t m)
offset by shear-induced dilatancy.
–0·5 Santa Cruz (320 t m) As shown in Fig. 18, the compacting process is similar
Egypt (270 t m) for point B, a major difference being that more blows are
–1·0 20 t, 20 m (numerical) needed to achieve the same size of yield surface, indicating
Crater depth: m

40 t, 10 m (numerical) a slower rate of improvement. This can be attributed to the

lower impulsive stress as well as the smaller rate of increase
80 t, 5 m (numerical)
in peak dynamic stress, arising from the dissipative and
dispersive effects of the overlying soil. Thus the number of
–2·0 blows needed is determined largely by the soil near the outer
fringe of the zone of improvement. Furthermore, as shown
–2·5 in Fig. 19, there is little or no dilatancy after the peak stress
is reached. This can be explained by the lower dynamic
stress level and higher geostatic stress level at greater
Fig. 12. Predicted and measured increase in crater depth with Figure 20 shows the stress path at point C. As can be
blow count (experimental results from Mayne et al., 1984) seen, the early loading stress path in each impact is much
steeper than those directly beneath the tamper. Furthermore,
as shown in Fig. 21, the peak lateral stress is higher than the
during loading. By the time plastic volumetric strain com- peak vertical stress, indicating that the soil is in a passive
mences, significant lateral strains have already occurred, and state. Thus the soil outside the tamper footprint is com-
the stress path starts veering towards the shear yield surface pacted largely by passive compression arising from the
(Fig. 13). Thus, with successive blows, the state of the soil lateral outward momentum of the soil beneath the tamper.
along or near the centreline migrates from K 0 compression Comparison of Figs 22 and 16 also shows that there is a
Critical-state line
1st impact
60 2nd impact
40 Starting 3rd impact

300 0
20 40 60 80 100
q: kPa

Cap after 3rd impact


s tic

Cap after 1st impact Cap after 2nd impact


0 100 200 300 400 500

p′: kPa

Fig. 13. Computed p92q stress path for soil at point A located 2 m below ground surface and
0·1 m from centreline


Void ratio
0·60 0·64 0·68 0·72 0·76 0·80


0·04 Lateral strain 1st impact

Lateral strain

Vertical strain 1st impact

Lateral strain 2nd impact –0·010
Vertical strain 2nd impact 1st impact
Lateral strain 3rd impact 2nd impact
Vertical strain 3rd impact
3rd impact

0 0·02 0·04 0·06 –0·020
Time: s
Fig. 15. Predicted variation in void ratio and lateral strain at
Fig. 14. Time histories of vertical and lateral strains at point A point A


delay in the onset of improvement in point C compared with IMPROVEMENT
point A. This can be explained by the time needed to The impact energy is widely considered to be the major
overcome the lateral inertia and build up the lateral com- factor controlling the depth of improvement and crater
pressive wave. On the other hand, comparison of Figs 19 (Menard & Broise, 1976; Mayne et al., 1984; Lukas, 1986,
and 23 shows a smaller delay between points B and D: this 1992). However, Mikasa et al. (1988) and Oshima & Takada
is consistent with the change in the shape of wavefront from (1998) showed that these improvement parameters also in-
plane to spherical. crease with momentum.
400 150
1st impact
2nd impact
Critical-state line
300 3rd impact
4th impact
5th impact
l/3: kPa


q: kPa
1st impact
2nd impact
3rd impact 50
0·78 0·02 0·04 0·06
0·76 Time: s
Void ratio, e

0·72 0
0 50 100 150
0·68 p′: kPa

Fig. 18. Computed p92q stress paths at point B located 6 m
below ground surface and 0·1 m from centreline


Fig. 16. Time histories of void ratio and isotropic precompres-

sion pressure (l=3) for point A tion of the effect of momentum is beyond the scope of this
paper. However, a simple heuristic explanation can be postu-
lated by assuming that an equivalent mass of the ground
participated in the momentum transfer immediately upon
As shown in Table 1, for a given impact energy per blow, impact. By assuming that the tamper and the equivalent soil
the computed results show that there is indeed an increase in mass move together after impact, it can be easily shown that
depth of improvement with momentum. Fig. 24 shows the the energy lost in the impact decreases as the mass of the
crater depths due to five combinations of drop height and tamper increases relative to the equivalent soil mass. Thus
weight. Cases 1, 2 and 3 have an energy per blow of having a large tamper mass raises the efficiency of energy
400 t m, whereas cases 1, 4 and 5 have the same momentum transfer from tamper to ground. This may partially explain
per blow of 400 t m=s. As can be seen, both momentum and the range of values that has been suggested for equation (1),
energy are influential on the crater depth. A full investiga- even for similar soil types.

Distance from centre line: m Distance from centre line: m Distance from centre line: m
0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4
0 0 0

–1 –1 –1

–2 –2 –2

–3 –3 –3
Depth: m
Depth: m

Depth: m

–4 –4 –4

–5 –5 –5

–6 –6 –6

–7 –7 –7

–8 –8 –8
(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 17. Increase in Dr (%) with blow count (W 20 t, H 20 m) after: (a) first impact; (b) second impact; (c) third
100 120
Lateral stress 1st impact
Vertical stress 1st impact
80 Lateral stress 2nd impact
Vertical stress 2nd impact
l/3: kPa

Lateral stress 3rd impact

Vertical stress 3rd impact
1st impact
40 2nd impact

Stress: kPa
3rd impact
4th impact
5th impact
0·04 0·08 0·12
Time: s 40
Void ratio, e



0·75 0
0 0·04 0·08 0·12 0·16 0·20
0·74 Time: s

Fig. 19. Time histories of void ratio and isotropic precompres- Fig. 21. Time histories of vertical and lateral stress at point C
sion pressure (l=3) for point B

1st impact
1st impact 2nd impact
Critical-state line
2nd impact 3rd impact
3rd impact 80
l/3: kPa

60 40
q: kPa

24 0
0·04 0·08 0·12 0·16 0·20
Time: s

Void ratio, e


0 20 40 60 80 100
p′: kPa

Fig. 20. Computed p9–q stress paths at point C located 2 m 0·76

below ground surface and 4 m from centreline
Fig. 22. Time histories of void ratio and isotropic precompres-
sion pressure (l=3) for point C


The effect of tamper base area on the depth of the Thus they all have the same energy and momentum. As
improved zone has not been extensively studied. Using a Fig. 25 shows, as the radius increases, the depth of improve-
one-dimensional model, Yong (1993) reported that both the ment first increases and then decreases. In other words, the
crater depth and depth of improvement decrease monotoni- maximum depth of improvement is achieved with neither
cally with the tamper base area, and attributed this to the the smallest nor the largest radius, but instead with inter-
distribution of the impact loading over a larger area. How- mediate radius. This clearly contradicts the findings of Yong
ever, as discussed above, the propagation of the stress waves (1993), and may be attributed to the fact that, if the tamper
is not entirely one-dimensional. In particular, significant two- radius is too small, the lateral confinement on the soil
dimensional dispersion of stress waves is present at the outer directly beneath the footing is maintained only for a rela-
fringes of the improved zone. Fig. 25 shows the attenuation tively short duration, thereby limiting the depth at which
of improvement effect with depth for several tamper radii, one-dimensional wave propagation occurs. On the other
ranging from 0·6 m to 3 m. All the cases shown in this hand, if the tamper radius is too large, the impact force is
figure have a drop weight of 20 t and a drop height of 20 m. distributed over too large an area, thereby reducing the
The foregoing discussion has shown that, with appropriate
finite element formulation, algorithm and constitutive model,
various aspects of dynamic compaction such as stress pro-
l/3: kPa

pagation and attenuation, lateral and vertical extent of im-

40 1st impact
proved zone and crater depth can be adequately modelled.
The study also shows that the use of one-dimensional com-
2nd impact
pression data for determining the parameters of the constitu-
3rd impact
0 tive model gives reasonably good prediction of experimental
0·780 0·04 0·08 0·12 0·16 0·20 and field data, thereby indicating that strain rate effect is not
Time: s a significant factor, at least for this problem.
The study also clarifies the mechanisms of ground im-
Void ratio, e

provement by dynamic compaction. In particular, it has
highlighted the fact that the one-dimensional compression
assumed in many previous analytical studies is a transient
phenomenon. One of the major drawbacks of dynamic
0·768 compaction is the limited depth of improvement that can be
achieved with it, given the practical limits on energy per
Fig. 23. Time histories of void ratio and isotropic precompres-
blow. The findings of this study indicate that it may be
sion pressure (l=3) for point D located 6 m below ground
surface and 4 m from centreline possible to increase the depth of improvement by two ap-
proaches. The first involves enhancing the energy transfer
between tamper and ground. The findings of this and
previous studies suggest that this may be achievable by
Number of impacts dropping a heavier weight from a lower height, thereby
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 increasing the momentum of the tamper. The second in-
0 volves deepening the zone of transient K 0 compression so as
to delay the spherical dispersion of the stress wave, and
thereby reduce the attenuation rate. In particular, the results
presented above show that, by optimising the base area of
the tamper so as to increase the zone of K 0 compression
Depth of crater: m

while maintaining an adequate impact load intensity, the

depth of improvement can be maximised.
The results of this study apply strictly to a single footprint
only. In practice, DC is often conducted using a large num-
–2·0 (1) W = 20 t, H = 20 m ber of footprints arranged in a regular grid over a large area.
(2) W = 40 t, H = 10 m Thus the possibility of interaction between footprints cannot
(3) W = 80 t, H = 5 m be ignored. The footprint spacing for most DC projects
(4) W = 40 t, H = 5 m
ranges from 6 m to 14 m (e.g. Leonards et al., 1980; Mayne
(5) W = 10 t, H = 80 m
–2·8 et al., 1984). Fig. 11 indicates that the maximum radius of
improvement for the zone with final Dr of 40% is about
Fig. 24. Computed crater depths for different combinations of 8 m, implying that there is likely to be significant overlap
momentum and energy between the low-Dr zones of improvement, which are
located far away from the centrelines of their respective
footprints. The overlap of these low-Dr zones explains why
regions in between footprints are also improved. Thus the
Dr: % increase results of this study will not apply to zones that are located
0 10 20 30 40 far from the centreline of the footprint and are significantly
affected by the three-dimensional effects from multiple
footprints. On the other hand, for final Dr of 65% or more,
–2 the radius of improvement decreases to about 3 m, implying
that the high-Dr zones of improvement are unlikely to over-
–4 lap significantly. However, the findings relating to the degree
and depth of improvement near to the vertical axis of the
Depth: m

–6 footprint are unlikely to be significantly affected by these

three-dimensional effects from adjacent footprints. As such,
–8 they are likely to be applicable largely to a typical DC grid.
r = 0·6 m r = 1·2 m
–10 r = 1·6 m r = 2·0 m
r = 2·4 m r = 3·0 m
Fig. 25. Increase in relative density along centreline for differ- The first author is grateful to the National University of
ent tamper radii Singapore for providing him with the NUS research scholar-
ship, which allowed him to undertake this study. The soft-
ware and hardware support of the Centre for Protective
impact stress and thus limiting the depth of improvement. Technology (CPT) is also gratefully acknowledged. The
Yong’s (1993) study was not able to reflect the interplay of authors are also grateful to Professor Naotoshi Takada and
these two opposing factors since it did not model the lateral Dr Akihiko Oshima for providing the one-dimensional com-
dispersion of the stress wave. pression test data for their sand.
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