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E. Saibaba Reddy,1 D. N. Chapman,2 and V. V. R. N.

Sastry3

Direct Shear Interface Test for Shaft Capacity of


Piles in Sand

r
r

p
r

max
min
test
n
r
rc
rf
v
f

REFERENCE: Reddy, E. S., Chapman, D. N., and Sastry, V. V.


R. N., Direct Shear Interface Test for Shaft Capacity of Piles in
Sand, Geotechnical Testing Journal, GTJODJ, Vol. 23, No. 2,
June 2000, pp. 199205.
ABSTRACT: For precise estimation of shaft capacity of a pile, it
is essential to determine accurately the soil-pile interface friction
angle (). The apparatus available to measure the value of , the
miniature pile test apparatus and the soil-pile-slip test apparatus are
only available for research purposes. This paper presents the details
of an investigation carried out using the conventional direct shear
test apparatus to measure the value of for soil-pile interface. The
direct shear interface tests were conducted using four types of surfaces and two types of sands. The values of obtained from these
tests are compared with the internal friction angle () of the sand
and with the results obtained from soil-pile-slip tests. The interface
test results are also used to estimate the shaft capacity of a few
model piles embedded in sand.

The shaft capacity, Qs in kN of a pile in sand is estimated as

KEYWORDS: direct shear test, interface friction, internal friction, pile foundation, sand, shaft capacity

Qs rf Tan As

(1)

where
rf average radial stress on pile surface at failure, (kPa)
soil-pile interface friction angle, (degrees)
As surface area of pile, (m2)

Nomenclature
As
B
C
CLA
Cu
D
Dr
D10
D50
D60
e
emax
emin
etest
s
k
Qs
Qt

residual interface friction angle


relative displacement between the soil and pile surface
angle of internal friction
peak angle of internal friction
residual angle of internal friction
unit weight (density)
maximum density
minimum density
density at test
normal stress
radial stress
confining stress
average radial stress at failure
average effective vertical pressure
shear stress at failure

surface area of pile


diameter of pile
undrained shear strength
centre line average
uniformity coefficient (D60 /D10)
embedded depth of pile
relative density (density index)
diameter of particles corresponding to 10% finer
diameter of particles corresponding to 50% finer
diameter of particles corresponding to 60% finer
void ratio
maximum void ratio
minimum void ratio
void ratio at test
average unit shear stress
coefficient of lateral earth pressure
shaft capacity of pile
ultimate tensile capacity
interface friction angle
peak interface friction angle

There are two basic parameters in Eq 1, that need to be precisely


estimated to calculate the shaft capacity of a pile. The first one is
the radial stress on the pile surface at failure (rf) and the second is
the soil-pile interface friction angle ().
It has been a practice [1, 2] to estimate rf from
rf k v

(2)

where
k coefficient of lateral earth pressure, and
v average effective vertical pressure (kPa).
Based on experience it is realized that rf is not only a function
of v, but also depends on the volume of soil displaced due to the
pile installation and method of installation (i.e. bored or driven or
jacked) (Vesic et al. 1980; Kraft 1991; McClelland 1974; Meyerhof 1976; Polous 1989). Some researchers have suggested a limiting shear stress on the pile surface (Meyerhof 1976; Bustamonte et
al. 1987; Tomlinson 1977). With the development of instrumentation of model and prototype piles, attempts are now being made to
measure the radial stress along the length of the pile shaft (Bond et
al. 1991; Jardine et al. 1992; Lehane et al. 1993; Reddy 1996;
Reddy et al. 1997; Reddy et al. 1998).
The second aspect of the problem is to estimate the soil-pile interface friction angle (). Some research has been reported on the

Department of Civil Engineering, JNTU College of Engineering, Kukatpally, Hyderbad, A. P. India.


2
School of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15
2TT, U. K.
3
Division of Engineering, Saint Marys University, Halifax, Nova Scotia,
CANADA, B3H 3C3.
2000 by the American Society for Testing and Materials
199

200

GEOTECHNICAL TESTING JOURNAL

study of (Meyerhoff 1976; Kraft and Lyons 1974; Potyondy


1960). It has been a practice to approximate as a fraction of internal friction angle () of the soil (Meyerhoff 1976; Kraft and
Lyons 1974). However, it is known that is not only a function of
soil properties but also a function of surface roughness and hardness, of pile material (Potyondy 1960). Miniature pile test apparatus (Coyle and Reese 1966; Coyle and Sulaiman 1967) and soilpile-slip test apparatus (Reddy 1996; Reddy et al. 1998) are
available to measure the soil-pile interface friction angle (). However, these apparatus are available at research level and are inaccessible for a conventional geotechnical engineering laboratory.
This paper presents a simple means of measuring the interface
friction angle () between a soil and a pile surface using conventional direct shear test apparatus with a few modifications. The test
results are analyzed to compare with the internal friction angle ()
of the soil. These interface test results are also compared with the
soil-pile-slip test results obtained from more sophisticated testing
performed with the same materials. The interface test results are
also used to estimate the shaft capacity of a few model piles.
Properties of Materials
Two types of silica sand and two materials, namely steel and aluminium alloy, were used for making interfaces. Each pile surface
was prepared with two roughness values, smooth and rough.
Sand1 was a locally available sand and Sand2 was a dust-free
Leighton Buzzard sand. The classification, density, and strength
properties of sands used in the investigation are presented in Tables
1a, b and c, respectively. The strength and hardness values of the
pile materials are presented in Table 2a. The roughness of pile surface (measured as Center Line Average CLA values) obtained using Surfcom 20C/30C equipment are presented in Table 2b. Surfcom equipment measures the surface roughness in terms of surface
undulations measured in micron units (Reddy 1996). The average
variation in undulations is reported as the CLA. The equipment
also provides a hard copy of roughness details in the form of a
graph. From Table 1c, it can be observed that the peak internal friction angle p of soil obtained from direct shear test is about 10%
more than that obtained from a triaxial test. This is because the triaxial test represents a 3-D case, whereas the direct shear test is a
plain strain (2-D) problem. A 10% increase of p in the plain strain

TABLE 1aSoil properties (classification tests).


Grain Size Distribution
Soil
Type

D10
(mm)

D50
(mm)

D60
(mm)

Specific
Gravity

Sand1
Sand2

0.221
0.574

0.452
0.924

0.530
1.00

2.40
1.74

2.656
2.650

TABLE 1cSoil properties (shear strength parameters)


(all angles are in degrees).
Direct Shear Test Results

Triaxial Test Results

Normal
Stress
(kPa)

50
100
150

41.8
40.3
40.6

41.0
39.9
40.0

46.5
46.3
46.2

45.4
44.8
43.1

Average

40.9

40.3

46.3

44.4

Sand1

Sand2

Sand1

Sand2

38.0

40.0

TABLE 2aProperties of pile material (strength and hardness).


Pile
Material

Youngs
Modulus
(GPa)

Tensile
Strength
(N/mm2)

Poisons
Ratio

Vickers
Hardness
Number

Mild Steel
Aluminium alloy

210
70

250
310

0.300.35
0.320.34

245
42

case of direct shear test over the p of the axis-symmetrical case of


the triaxial test is considered reasonable (Cornforth 1967). More
details on the measurement of properties were presented elsewhere
(Reddy 1996).
Direct Shear Interface Test
The conventional direct shear test apparatus was used for the interface test. In order to perform these tests, four pieces of square
plates (two of aluminium alloy and two of mild steel) were fabricated. The design of plates was made, so that they fit into the mold
of conventional direct shear test apparatus (Reddy 1996). All the
plates were initially fabricated with smooth surfaces at the top.
Then, the top surfaces of two plates, one of each material, were
made rough with equal effort. However, the roughness that developed on the aluminium alloy was observed to be more than that on
the steel surface, due to its lower hardness value (see Table 2b).
The test plate was positioned into the lower half of the direct
shear box. The upper half of the shear box was filled with sand at
the test density, test (Table 1b). The whole assembly was placed
and loaded in a conventional direct shear apparatus. During the
tests, the shear load and the relative displacement between the sand
and the metal surface were measured. For each interface, tests were
conducted under three normal stress values (50, 100, and 150 kPa).
The relative displacement, r versus the shear stress curves obtained from the tests on smooth steel surface and Sand2 under the
three normal stresses are shown in Fig. 1(a). From the curves

TABLE 1bSoil properties (density tests).


Density in (kN/m3)

Void Ratios (e)

Soil
Type

max

min

test

emin

emax

etest

Relative Density
(Dr)

Sand1
Sand2

18.75
17.59

16.01
14.98

17.20
17.36

0.417
0.507

0.659
0.769

0.544
0.527

48%
93%

REDDY ET AL. ON SHAFT CAPACITY

201

TABLE 2bProperties of pile material (roughness).


Roughness of the Pile Surface (CLA, m)
Smooth Surface

Rough Surface

Trials

Trials

Pile
Material

Average

Average

Mild steel
Aluminium alloy

0.53
0.44

0.69
0.60

0.66
0.38

0.63
0.47

1.28
2.09

0.87
2.14

1.37
1.80

1.17
2.01

shown in Fig. 1(a) the peak and the residual interface shear stress
values were obtained. The relationship between the normal stress
and the shear stress (peak and residual) from the curves in Fig. 1(a)
are shown in Fig. 1(b). The peak and the residual interface friction
angles p and r respectively are obtained. In all, 24 tests were performed with eight combinations of interfaces. The complete set of
interface test results are presented in Tables 3a and b.
Analysis and Discussion of Test Results
Comparison Between and

FIG. 1aRelative displacement-Shear stress variation between smooth


steel surface and Sand-2.

From Table 3a it can be observed that the peak interface friction


angle (p) between Sand1 and different metal surfaces is varying
between 17.4 and 23. These values are about 43% to 56% of the
peak friction angle (p 40.9) of Sand1 (Table 1c). Similarly,
the peak interface friction angle (p) between Sand2 and the metal
surfaces is varying between 18.8 and 29.8 (Table 3). These values
are about 41% to 64% of p (46.3) of Sand2 (Table 1c). The
above observations indicate that the interface friction angle p
value changes with roughness of metal surface. For the same variation of roughness of metal surfaces the p variation is 13% (56
43%) for Sand1 at a relative density of 48% and is 23% (64
41%) for Sand2 at a relative density of 93%. This indicates that
value cannot be generalized as a constant percentage of , and that
it is dependent on the soil-pile interface properties and relative density of sand, and needs to be analyzed for each case.
Comparison with Soil-Pile-Slip Test Results
Soil-pile-slip test apparatus is similar to a triaxial test apparatus,
with a pile element embedded in the soil (Reddy et al. 1998). The
soil with a pile element is subjected to the required confining pressure, and the pile element is then gradually pulled out of the soil
sample. The ultimate load required to pull-out the pile element
gives the ultimate tensile capacity (Qt) of the pile element, which is
utilized in computing the shear stress on the surface of pile element
at failure (Reddy et al. 1998). Qt in kN is given by
Qt Qs Wp

(3)

where
Qs shaft capacity, kN
Wp self weight of pile, kN

FIG. 1bObserved peak and residual interface friction angle between


smooth steel surface and Sand-2.

The test results obtained from the three smooth surfaces, aluminium alloy pile elements (12.7, 25.4, and 38.1-mm diameter and
150-mm long, with an average CLA 0.5 to 1.0 m) embedded in
Sand2 are presented in Table 4 (Reddy et al. 1998). It can be ob-

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GEOTECHNICAL TESTING JOURNAL

TABLE 3aDirect shear interface test results with sand1*.


Steel Surface

Aluminium Alloy Surface

Smooth

Rough

Smooth

Rough

Normal
Stress

50
100
150

17.8
15.4
18.9

16.8
14.4
18.6

21.1
20.0
21.2

20.5
19.7
20.7

18.2
17.9
18.3

17.8
17.6
18.0

22.8
23.2
23.1

22.6
22.8
22.6

Average

17.4

16.6

20.8

20.3

18.1

17.8

23.0

22.7

* All angles are in degrees.

TABLE 3bDirect shear interface test results with sand2*.


Steel Surface

Aluminium Alloy Surface

Smooth

Rough

Smooth

Rough

Normal
Stress

50
100
150

18.8
18.9
18.7

18.5
18.5
18.3

22.6
22.3
22.4

22.2
21.8
21.8

21.7
23.7
25.3

21.3
23.3
24.3

28.4
28.9
32.1

27.0
27.3
31.0

Average

18.8

18.4

22.4

21.9

23.6

23.0

29.8

28.4

* All angles are in degrees.

TABLE 4Soil-pile-slip test results (sand2 and smooth aluminium alloy).


Diameter of
Pile Element
(mm)
12.7
25.4
38.1

Confining Pressure,
rc (kPa)

Ultimate
Tensile Capacity,
Qt (kN)

Shear Stress
at Failure,
f kPa

p
degrees

70
120
170
70
120
170
70
120
170

0.204
0.380
0.503
0.405
0.756
0.998
0.600
1.100
1.480

34.1
63.5
84.1
33.8
63.2
83.4
33.4
61.3
82.4

26.0
27.9
26.3
25.8
27.8
26.1
25.5
27.1
25.9

26.7

Overall
Average (p)

26.5

served from Table 4 that the interface friction angle p is independent of confining pressure, varies very marginally with pile diameter, and has an average value of 26.. This value is more than the
corresponding interface friction angle p 23.6, for Sand2 for
smooth surface of aluminium alloy, obtained from the direct shear
interface test (Table 3b). This apparent increase in the friction angle is expected for small diameter pile elements. This is due to an
increase in r at failure, because of the interface slip dilation. The
interface slip dilation is the mechanism associated with the particle
movement and change in the volume of soil adjacent to a pile surface during pile loading. More details on this aspect are available
in the literature (Lehane et al. 1993; Reddy 1996; Werching 1987).
Fig. 2 shows the apparent variation of interface friction angle (p)
obtained from the soil-pile-slip test with the diameter of the pile el-

Average
p
degrees

26.6
26.2

ement. Since there is no installation stresses in soil-pile-slip test


(Reddy et al. 1998), the apparent variation in p is due to interface
slip dilation. From Fig. 2 it can be observed that the p is decreasing with increasing pile diameter and the relationship can be extrapolated to 23.6, obtained from direct shear interface tests for a
pile diameter of about 1.7 m. This indicates that the interface slip
dilation is predominant in small diameter piles and will reduce with
an increase in the pile diameter. Further, it is seen that the p obtained from the soil-pile-slip test approaches the direct shear interface results for large pile diameters. Hence, the direct shear interface test results can be used to obtain reliable values of to
estimate the shaft capacity for field piles. Here, it may be noted that
the extrapolation shown in Fig. 2 is based on limited data. The objective of the plot is to obtain the possible diameter of pile element

REDDY ET AL. ON SHAFT CAPACITY

that gives p equal to that obtained from the direct shear interface
test.
Estimation of Shaft Capacity of Model Piles
As a part of an investigation into the behavior of model piles under cyclic tensile load (Reddy 1996), a few monotonic tensile tests
were conducted. The model pile test apparatus was specially designed to increase confining pressure in the test tank by the application of the vacuum pressure. The tests were conducted on different diameter piles (12.7, 25.4, and 38.1 mm) made of steel and
aluminium alloy with roughness values similar to those of test
plates presented in Table 2b. The tests were conducted in a test tank
of cross section 975 mm 695 mm having a depth of 680 mm. The

203

sand (Sand2) was placed in the test tank in four layers. Each layer
was compacted with a plate vibrator for about four min. Using this
method, a unit weight of 17.36 kN/m3 at a relative density of 93%
was achieved, which was the density at which the direct shear interface tests were conducted. After filling with sand, the test tank
was made airtight by covering it with a polythene sheet as shown
in Fig. 3. One model pile was placed at the center of the tank and
jacked slowly through the pile access unit, in a period of 15 min
(Reddy 1996). The effective stress in the sand was increased by applying vacuum in the tank. After ensuring that constant vacuum
pressure was achieved, the pile was subjected to monotonic pullout force using a compressed air driven piston system, as shown in
Fig. 3. All model piles were tested with an embedded depth of 40
mm. The tensile (shaft) capacity of different model piles (Qt) and
the average shear stresses (s) on the pile surface at failure are presented in Table 5. The s value is calculated, assuming a linear variation of radial stresses (Das 1990), and adopting the corresponding
p value from the Tables 3a and 3b in the following equation
fs (rc 0.5Dk) Tanp

(4)

where
rc confining pressure in sand due to vacuum, kPa,
unit weight of sand, kN/m3,
D embedded depth of pile, m
p peak interface friction angle, obtained from direct shear
interface test, degrees,
k coefficient of lateral earth pressure (k 1.28 for 40
[6])

FIG. 2The apparent variation of p with the diameter of pile element


due to interface slip dilation.

In the above analysis, since the model pile is short (D/B 10.5),
the shaft capacity is estimated based on the peak interface friction
angle p (Eq 4). However, in a long compressible field pile the relative displacement between the pile surface and the soil varies with
depth. Maximum displacement occurs near the head and it reduces
gradually to a minimum towards the pile tip. As the load on the pile
is increased, the surface friction reaches a maximum value initially
near the pile head and the load gets transferred to the lower portions
of the pile (Reddy et al. 1997; Reddy et al. 1998; Reddy et al.

FIG. 3Model pile test apparatus.

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GEOTECHNICAL TESTING JOURNAL

TABLE 5Observed shaft capacity of model piles.


Average Unit Shaft Friction, fs, (kPa)
Pile Diameter (mm)
(Pile Material)

Sand Type
Confining Pressure

38.1
(Steel-Smooth)
38.1
(Steel-Smooth)
25.4
(Steel-Rough)
12.7
(Aluminium alloy-rough)
38.1
(aluminium alloy-rough)
a
b

rc (kPa)

Shaft Capacity
(kN)

Observed

Estimateda

% Error b

Sand1

20

0.345

7.21

7.35

1.9

Sand1

45

0.830

17.46

15.18

15.0

Sand1

55

0.736

23.06

22.2

3.9

Sand2

70

0.740

46.37

42.08

10.2

Sand2

70

2.720

56.81

42.08

35.0

from Eq 3
% Difference between the observed and the estimated value based on the estimated value of fs.

1998). Hence, by the time the soil next to the lower portion of the
compressible pile reaches its peak shear stress, the soil around the
upper portion of the pile experiences residual shear stress, due to
large displacements. Therefore, the ultimate shaft capacity of a
compressible field pile can safely be estimated using the residual
friction angle r instead of p.
The estimated average unit shear stresses together with the observed values are presented in Table 5. From Table 5 it can be observed that, in most cases, the observed shear stress is more than the
estimated value so that the estimates are conservative and safe. Further, the difference between the observed and the estimated values
are maximum for the largest diameter pile (38.1 mm) out of the
three diameters used in the model tests. The reasons for the above
two observations can be explained as follows: It is reported (Jardine 1992; Werching 1987) that the radial stress (r) along the pile
surface can be higher than the initial radial stress (rc) used in the
computations, due to the phenomena of interface slip dilation. Further, the jacking of the pile increases both the densities of the sand
and the radial stress on the pile surface. These two factors cause an
increase in r value and hence the increase in the observed s values. Considering the effect of interface slip dilation to be almost
equal for all model piles, the effect of jacking will be maximum for
the largest diameter pile. Hence, the maximum difference between
the observed and estimated shear stress values is noticed for the
pile with the largest diameter of 38.1 mm. It is stated (Jardine et al.;
Cornforth 1967) that the effect of interface slip dilation will be
small for large diameter piles. Hence, the increase in the radial
stress in the case of larger diameter displacement piles in the field
would be mainly due to the soil densification during the pile installation.
From the above analysis it can be stated that for large diameter
piles in sand, if the average radial stress on the pile surface is
known, the shaft capacity can be computed using the direct shear
interface peak friction angle (p).
Though the direct shear interface test results presented in this paper are encouraging, it would be useful to obtain the values of
from larger areas of interface (150 or 200 mm square) to simulate
closely the interface properties of prototype piles.
Conclusions
Direct shear interface tests were conducted using two sands and
four metal surfaces. From the test results the following conclusions

are drawn:
Soil-pile interface friction angle is a function of interface
properties.
The interface friction angle can not be expressed as a constant percentage of the internal friction angle of the soil, but
it can be assumed from each individual case.
The direct shear interface test results are comparable with
those obtained from the soil-pile-slip tests.
The shaft capacity of model piles, estimated from the direct
shear peak interface friction angle p, is conservative and safe.
The extrapolation presented for the effect of pile diameter is
based on a limited test data. Test results from a wide range of
pile diameters will provide a better understanding interface
friction angle.
Acknowledgments
The research presented in this paper was carried out at University of Nottingham, U.K. and Saint Marys University, Halifax,
Canada. The Commonwealth Universities of London and Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided
the financial support. Useful suggestions from Dr. J. R. Jardine of
Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, Prof. Mike
OReilly of Kingston University, Surrey, U.K. (formerly at University of Nottingham) Professor S.F. Brown of University of Nottingham, and Prof. G. Rama Samy of University of Roorkee, India,
are greatly appreciated. The support given by Mr. M. Siva Kumar,
DalTech, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, during the preparation of the manuscript is also appreciated.
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