The influence of fines content, fabric and layered structure on the undrained cyclic behaviour of Christchurch sandy soils
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A series of undrained cyclic direct simple shear (DSS) tests on specimens of sandy silty soils are used to evaluate the effects of fines content, fabric and layered structure on the liquefaction response of sandy soils containing non-plastic fines. Test soils originate from shallow deposits in Christchurch, New Zealand, where severe and damaging manifestations of liquefaction occurred during the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
A procedure for reconstituting specimens by water sedimentation is employed. This specimen preparation technique involves first pluviation of soil through a water column, and then application of gentle vibrations to the mould (tapping) to prepare specimens with different initial densities. This procedure is applied to prepare uniform specimens, and layered specimens with a silt layer atop a sand layer.
Cyclic DSS tests are performed on water-sedimented specimens of two sands, a silt, and sand-silt mixtures with different fines contents. Through this testing program, effects of density, time of vibration during preparation, fines content, and layered structure on cyclic behaviour and liquefaction resistance are investigated. Additional information necessary to characterise soil behaviour is provided by particle size distribution analyses, index void ratio testing, and Scanning Electronic Microscope imaging.
The results of cyclic DSS tests show that, for all tested soils, specimens vibrated for longer period of time have lower void ratios, higher relative density, and greater liquefaction resistance. One of the tested sands undergoes significant increase in relative density and liquefaction resistance following prolonged vibration. The other sand exhibits lower increase in relative density and in liquefaction resistance when vibrated for the same period of time. Liquefaction resistance of sand-silt mixtures prepared using this latter sand shows a correlation with relative density irrespective of fines content. In general, however, magnitudes of changes in liquefaction resistance for given variations in vibration time, relative density, or void ratio vary depending on soils under consideration.
Characterization based on maximum and minimum void ratios indicates that tested soils develop different structures as fines are added to their respective host sands. These structures influence initial specimen density, strains during consolidation, cyclic liquefaction resistance, and undrained cyclic response of each soil. The different structures are the outcome of differences in particle size distributions, average particle sizes, and particle shapes of the two host sands and of the different relationships between these properties and those of the silt. Fines content alone does not provide an effective characterization of the effects of these factors.
Monotonic DSS tests are also performed on specimens prepared by water sedimentation, and on specimens prepared by moist tamping, to identify the critical state lines of tested soils. These critical state lines provide the basis for an alternative interpretation of cyclic DSS tests results within the critical state framework. It is shown that test results imply general consistency between observed cyclic and monotonic DSS soil response.
The effects of specimen layering are scrutinised by comparing DSS test results for uniform and layered specimens of the same soils. In this case, only a limited number of tests is performed, and the range of densities considered for the layered specimens is also limited. Caution is therefore required in interpretation of their results. The liquefaction resistance of layered specimens appears to be influenced by the bottom sand layer, irrespective of the global fines content of the specimen. The presence of a layered structure does not result in significant differences in terms of liquefaction response with respect to uniform sand specimens.
Cyclic triaxial data for Christchurch sandy silty soils available from previous studies are used to comparatively examine the behaviour observed in the tests of this study. The cyclic DSS liquefaction resistance of water-sedimented specimens is consistent with cyclic triaxial tests on undisturbed specimens performed by other investigators. The two data sets result in similar liquefaction triggering relationships for these soils. However, stress-strain response characteristics for the two types of specimens are different, and undisturbed triaxial specimen exhibit a slower rate of increase in shear strains compared to water-sedimented DSS specimens. This could be due to the greater influence of fabric of the undisturbed specimens.