Aging and creep of non-plastic silty sand.
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Soil aging refers to the increase in strength and stiffness that is exhibited over time after it is disturbed. It is common in granular soils, such as sands, occurring over periods from hours to years. There have been relatively numerous laboratory studies on sand aging phenomena. However the majority of these studies were conducted on relatively clean sand (fines content <5%) and were performed under isotropic condition. In nature, granular soils with fines content > 5% are not uncommon. This research is an attempt to gain further insight and understanding of mechanical aging on silty sand by conducting laboratory studies mostly under K0 condition, which better reflects the field condition, at both macro-scale (triaxial test) and micro-scale (fabric test). As many factors (e.g. plasticity of fines, fines content, grain size composition, angularity and shape) affect silty sand behaviour and not all those factors could be investigated during the study period, this study focused on mechanical aging of non-plastic silty sand with 15% fines content. Triaxial tests have been conducted in this study in order to observe creep behavior under different density, initial fabric, and consolidation stress paths (K0 and isotropic). The tests were conducted at low effective confining stress stresses i.e. ’3= 30 – 120 kPa as this is relevant to many geotechnical aging problems (e.g. time effects on freshly deposited or disturbed soils such as in the case of hydraulic fills, mine tailings, and post-liquefaction state of soil behaviour following earthquakes). Creep induced aging effects on undrained shear behaviour at small-strain (<0.1% of shear strain), were investigated, as this strain range is most common in geotechnical structures under gravity-induced working loads. Aging effects on one way cyclic behaviour were also studied. Some new key findings from these tests are as follows: (1) Creep following K0 consolidation indicated that the soil tends to expand radially over time, resulting in a tendency of increasing horizontal stress with time even at low stress. (2) Following K0 consolidation, density appears to have more significant effect on creep compared to initial shear stress ratio and mean effective stress; as demonstrated by loose samples (low stress ratio and mean effectives stress) which exhibited greater creep compared to those of dense sample (higher stress ratio and mean effective stress) (3) For loose soils, there is a trade-off between high confining stresses driving aging and collapsing pore space. Generally higher confining stress was found to increase creep tendency thus enhancing aging, however there was also found to be a certain confining pressure where the aging effects became less due to local structure collapse. (4) Initial fabric plays an important role on creep development, thus aging. For instance, dense dry pluviated samples developed larger axial strain over time but also gained less increase in stiffness compared to dense moist tamped samples. This suggests the importance of specimen preparation for laboratory testing that replicates the field scenarios e.g. natural deposition and associated fabric; (5) Dense K0 consolidated samples produce more increase in stiffness with time than corresponding isotropically consolidated samples. Hence, as the K0 condition generally reflects the level-ground free field stress condition better, it is important to test under K0 if the degree of stiffness gain is important; (6) The number of cycles to trigger cyclic softening and liquefaction for one way cyclic loading increases with the aging duration. In addition there is tendency that the aging effect is more pronounced at lower cyclic stress ratios. Fabric tests under K0 consolidation with similar variables as the triaxial tests were also performed. Some new insights and contributions have been obtained as follows: (1) Moist tamped samples, have particles that are more clustered together and structured than dry pluviated samples; (2) In terms of particle orientation, a change in the degree of orientation for both sand particles and ‘fines’ under constant loading was observed with time. The dominant (i.e. most) rotated particles (sand or “fines’) depends on the initial fabric and density; (3) Over time, under constant loading, growth of micro voids was observed for dense samples while those of loose samples contracted; (4) A new parameter, variance to mean void ratio of void distance, was introduced as a measure of the degree of interlocking during aging. The variance to mean ratio of void distance for moist tamped samples tends to decrease whereas those of dry pluviated samples tends to increase with time. An increase in variance and variance to mean ratio for dry pluviated samples indicates that particles are more clustered together with time; (5) Original work on spatial void distance for the numerical analysis of creep induced aging based on Kang et al. (2012) was conducted (note: the model’s boundary condition allows lateral expansion, which is not the same as the fabric tests conducted). The analysis showed that mean void size in dense soil tends to increase with time under constant load while for loose sample it tends to decrease. However the particles also clustered together more – increasing structure. (6) A microstructural study of “undisturbed samples”, obtained by gel-push sampling, of clean sand (fines content = 4%) and silty sand (fines content = 30%), was conducted to investigate anisotropy of natural fabric of granular soils. The results show that dry pluviation reflects the field condition more, in terms of natural deposition, than moist tamping. In addition, spatial void distance qualitatively indicated the undisturbed samples are relatively “very young”, even in terms of engineering time, as indicated by similar variance to mean ratio and kurtosis with those of 1 hour and 1 week reconstituted samples. This research has shown that there was a relation between changes in the microstructure over time and changes in macro mechanical properties of non-plastic silty sand. Further improvement in theoretical modeling (e.g. numerical modeling of creep on polydisperse granular material) and experimental aspects (e.g. examining different grain size composition and angularity, different fines content, the influence of the shape of sand and fines and use of the photo-elastic method) will allow a better understanding of the sand aging phenomenon in silty sand.