Advanced Soil Sampling of Silty Sands in Christchurch
Current research in geotechnical engineering at the University of Canterbury includes a number of laboratory testing programmes focussed on understanding the behaviour of natural soil deposits in Christchurch during the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Many soils found in Christchurch are sands or silty sands with little to no plasticity, making them very difficult to sample using established methods. The gel-push sampling methodology, developed by Kiso-Jiban Consultants in Japan, was developed to address some of the deficiencies of existing sampling techniques and has been deployed on two projects in Christchurch. Gel push sampling is carried out with a range of samplers which are modified versions of existing technology, and the University of Canterbury has acquired three versions of the tools (GP-S, GP-Tr, GP-D). Soil samples are extracted from the bottom of a freshly drilled borehole and are captured within a liner barrel, close to 1m in length. A lubricating polymer gel coats the outside of the soil sample as it enters the liner barrel. The frictional rubbing which normally occurs on the sides of the soil samples using existing techniques is eliminated by the presence of the polymer gel. The operation of the gel-push samplers is significantly more complicated than conventional push-tube samplers, and in the initial trials a number of operational difficulties were encountered, requiring changes to the sampling procedures. Despite these issues, a number of high quality soil samples were obtained on both projects using the GP-S sampler to capture silty soil. Attempts were made to obtain clean sands using a different gel-push sampler (GP-TR) in the Red Zone. The laboratory testing of these sands indicated that they were being significantly disturbed during the sampling and/or transportation procedures. While it remains too early to draw definitive conclusions regarding the performance of the gel-push samplers, the methodology has provided some promising results. Further trialling of the tools are required to refine operating procedures understand the full range of soil conditions which can be successfully sampled using the tools. In parallel with the gel-push trials, a Dames and Moore fixed-piston sampler has been used by our research partners from Berkeley to obtain soil samples at a number of sites within Christchurch. This sampler features relatively short (50cm), thin-walled liner barrels which is advanced into the ground under the action of hydraulic pressure. By reducing the overall length of the soil being captured, the disturbance to the soil as it enters the liner barrel is significantly reduced. The Dames and Moore sampler is significantly easier to operate than the gel-push sampler, and past experience has shown it to be successful in soft, plastic materials (i.e. clays and silty clays). The cyclic resistance of one silty clay obtained using both the gel-push and Dames & Moore samplers has been found to be very similar, and ongoing research aims to establish whether similar results are obtained for different soil types, including silty materials and clean sands.
SubjectsUndisturbed soil sampling
- Engineering: Reports