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Variation of Degree of Saturation

in Unsaturated Silty Soil


Ali R. Estabragh
1
and Akbar A. Javadi
2
1
Faculty of Soil and Water Engineering, University of Tehran, Karaj 31587-77871,
Iran a.estabragh@gmail.com
2
School of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics, University of
Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK a.a.javadi@exeter.ac.uk
Summary. This paper presents the results of an experimental study on variation
of degree of saturation of a compacted unsaturated silty soil during isotropic loading
and unloading. A series of laboratory experiments have been conducted in a double-
walled triaxial cell (and a conventional triaxial cell for saturated samples) on samples
of a compacted silty soil. In the experiments the soil samples were subjected to
isotropic consolidation followed by unloading under constant suction. The results
show that during consolidation a signicant increase in degree of saturation was
observed. In contrast, during subsequent isotropic unloading, where only a very
small elastic component of swelling occurred, the changes of degree of saturation were
very modest. Comparison has been made between the experimental and theoretical
prediction using a relationship proposed in the literature.
Key words: unsaturated soils, suction, degree of saturation, consolidation, unload-
ing
1 Introduction
It is generally understood that unsaturated soils have a high suction by virtue
of their partial saturation and the resulting capillary actions, and its magni-
tude is related to the water content or degree of saturation.
Gallipoli et al. (2003) and Buisson and Wheeler (2000) indicated that the
relationship between the degree of saturation, S
r
, and suction, s, for a given
soil is non-unique because the variation of the void ratio in deformable soils
results in changes in the void dimensions and also in changes in the connecting
passageway between them. This, in turn, causes corresponding variation in the
soil water characteristic curve. As changes in void ratio aect the soil water
characteristic curve, irreversible changes of degree of saturation will occur
during loading and unloading of mean net stress if there is an irreversible
change of void ratio.
338 Ali R. Estabragh and Akbar A. Javadi
Bishop and Blight (1961) used the concept of state surface in order to
represent the volume change of unsaturated soils. Matyas and Radhakrishna
(1968) found the state surface for a mixture of int powder and kaolin. Their
tests involved either isotropic or anisotropic compression for examining the
validity of stress state variables that were suggested by Bishop and Blight
(1963). They plotted the results of the both tests series in terms of void ratio,
e, and S
r
against s and mean net stress, p

. Matyas and Radhakrishna (1968)


presented experimental data dening state surfaces which related e and S
r
to
p

and s.
Fredlund (1979) was the rst to suggest the mathematical expression for
the state surfaces for void e and water content, w. Lloret and Alonso (1985)
also proposed equations for state surfaces for void ratio and degree of satura-
tion and their equation for degree of saturation is as follows:
S
r
= a tanh(bs)(c + dp

) (1)
where a, b, c and d are soil constants. They reported that the above equation
gives better predictions at low stress levels however it does not satisfy satu-
rated condition when suction approaches zero. In this paper, the variation of
degree of saturation during loading and unloading is studied and the applica-
tion of equation (1) in prediction of degree of saturation of unsaturated soils
is examined in the light of a comprehensive experimental study.
2 Experimental Study
2.1 Soil Properties
The soil used in the testing programme was a silty soil with low plasticity. The
soil comprised 5% sand, 90% silt and 5% clay and had a liquid limit of 29%
and plasticity index of 19%. The results of the standard proctor compaction
test indicated a maximum dry density of 1.74 Mg/m
3
at an optimum water
content of 14.5%.
2.2 Test Procedure and Program
Compacted samples were prepared using a compaction mould designed specif-
ically for static compaction. The compaction was done in nine layers in a
compression frame at a xed displacement rate of 1.5 mm/min to a maximum
vertical load of 400 kPa. The samples were 76 mm high and 38 mm in diam-
eter. All samples were compacted in an identical fashion in order to produce
the same initial soil fabric in each test. The samples produced by this method
were found to be very uniform.
Variation of Degree of Saturation in Unsaturated Silty Soil 339
2.3 Experimental Apparatus
A Bishop Wesely triaxial cell was modied to a double walled cell for measur-
ing the volume change of the samples. The pore air pressure was controlled
by applying an air pressure through a line from the top of the sample. Pore
water pressures were measured through a high air entry disk at the bottom
of the sample. The axis translation technique (Hilf 1956) that was adapted
for triaxial testing by Bishop and Donald (1961) was used for creating the
desired suction in the samples. Four GDS controller units were used to ap-
ply the pressures in the apparatus. All the experimental data were recorded
continuously by a computer.
2.4 Experimental Procedure
Equalization
The rst stage of the tests involves equalization. The purpose of the equal-
ization tests was to create a desired suction in a sample by allowing the pore
air pressure and pore water pressure to equalize to the applied air pressure
and back pressure respectively. At this stage by applying the required air and
water pressures the samples were brought to the desired value of suction (zero,
100, 200 and 300 kPa).
Ramp Consolidation and Unloading
After the sample was equalized at a specied suction (zero, 100, 200 or
300 kPa) and mean net stress, it was loaded isotropically under the constant
suction (air back pressure and water back pressure were kept constant) to a
pre-selected value of mean net stress. The process of ramped consolidation
was used to limit the excess pore water pressure generated at the top face
of the sample (Estabragh and Javadi 2004). The sample was then unloaded
isotropically in ramp procedure to a predened lower value of mean net stress.
3 Results and Discussion
A set of experiments were carried out on the samples of unsaturated silty soil.
The results of variation of degree of saturation during loading and unloading
at constant suctions of 0, 100, 200 and 300 kPa are shown in Fig. 1. Dur-
ing, isotropic loading when large plastic reductions in void ratio occurred, a
signicant increase in the degree of saturation was observed. In contrast, dur-
ing subsequent isotropic unloading, when only a very small elastic swelling
occurred, the changes of degree of saturation were very small. The results
of irreversible changes of degree of saturation presented by Zakaria (1995),
Romero (1999) and Gallipoli et al. (2003) strongly support theses ndings.
340 Ali R. Estabragh and Akbar A. Javadi
0.3
0.35
0.4
0.45
0.5
10 100 1000
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
t
i
o
n
0.35
0.4
0.45
0.5
0.55
0.6
0.65
0.7
10 100 1000
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
t
i
o
n
( ) a
( ) b
0.25
0.3
0.35
0.4
10 100 1000
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
r
i
o
n
(c)
Fig. 1. Isotropic loading-unloading tests at: (a) s = 100 kPa; (b) s = 200 kPa; (c)
s = 300 kPa
As the specic volume, v, decreases the dimensions of voids and of connecting
passageways between voids tend to decrease, so that a higher value of suction
is required to produce a given degree of saturation. Figure 1 shows that the
main variation in degree of saturation occurred after the yield point as the
great proportion of deformation occurs after yielding. Estabragh and Javadi
(2004) performed a comprehensive set of isotropic compression tests on soil
Variation of Degree of Saturation in Unsaturated Silty Soil 341
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
300 350 400 450 500 550
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
t
i
o
n
0.25
0.3
0.35
0.4
300 350 400 450 500 550
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
t
i
o
n
0.25
0.3
0.35
0.4
300 350 400 450 500 550
Mean net stress, p (kPa)
D
e
g
r
e
e
o
f
s
a
t
u
r
a
t
i
o
n
( ) a
( ) b
(c)
Fig. 2. Experimental and predicted values of S
r
on isotropic normal compression
lines at: (a) s = 100 kPa; (b) s = 200 kPa; (c) s = 300 kPa
samples at dierent values of suction (0,100,200 and 300 kPa). The analysis of
the experimental results indicated that, for the range of stresses considered,
the normal compression lines at constant suction follow a linear relationship
in the semi-logarithmic plane of e ln p

.
It was also shown that the variations of degree of saturation for post yield
stresses are on straight line similar to the normal compression lines.
The results were analyzed using the conventional state surface expression
for degree of saturation, suggested by Lloret and Alonso (1985) (equation (1)).
342 Ali R. Estabragh and Akbar A. Javadi
A value of 1 was used for the parameter a (in order to predict full saturation
at zero suction), and the values of b, c and d were found by tting the exper-
imental isotropic normal compression lines at constant suctions of 100, 200
and 300 kPa. For each suction the values of S
r
were predicted from equa-
tion (1). Figure 2 shows the experimental and predicted variations of degree
of saturation during post yield sections of isotropic loading at three dierent
values of suction 100, 200 and 300 kPa. It appears that equation (1) provides
a reasonable match at s = 200 and 300 kPa but the match is not so good
at s = 100 kPa. This behaviour is similar to that reported by Gallipoli et al.
(2003). They developed a simplied version of the equation that was proposed
by Van Genuchten (1980) for prediction the variation degree of saturation in
unsaturated soils during loading and unloading. They also examined appli-
cability of equation (1) for predicting the variation of degree of saturation
and concluded the accuracy of the predictions for some suctions were not
reasonable.
4 Conclusion
The results show that signicant changes in S
r
occurred during isotropic load-
ing, even though the suction was held constant This can be attributed to the
inuence of volumetric strain as the main changes of S
r
coincide with the post
yield sections of loading stages when large changes of v were occurring.
Corresponding simulations were also performed with a conventional state
surface expression for S
r
. The results demonstrate that, where as a state
surface expression can match the observed variation of S
r
for a particular
type of stress path (by selection of suitable parameter values); it is incapable
of representing the variation of S
r
for the full range of stress paths. This
indicates that an alternative explicit form of state surface expression for S
r
might provide a better match to the isotropic normal compression behaviour
at dierent values of suction.
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