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A method for measuring smooth geomembrane/soil interface shear behaviour under unsaturated conditions



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Geomembranes are one of the most widely used geosynthetics in various civil engineering applications. Their primary function is as a barrier to liquid or vapour flow. Smooth Geomembranes are frequently used in combination with different soils, and due to their low surface roughness, are challenging to design to ensure adequate shear strength along the smooth geomembrane-soil interface. It is important to use the appropriate values of interface shear strength parameters in the design of slopes incorporating one or more geomembranes in contact with soils. The parameters are determined by conducting direct shear test on the geomembrane-soil interface. Laboratory tests of interface shear strength for geomembranes and soil are typically carried out with no provision for measurement of pore pressures at the soil/geomembrane interface. This thesis deals with study of smooth geomembrane-soil interfaces, particularly under unsaturated conditions. The various factors that affect the interface shear behaviour are also studied. The tests were conducted using a modified direct shear box with a miniature pore pressure transducer installed adjacent to the surface of the geomembrane. Geomembrane–soil interface shear tests were carried out with continuous measurement of suction in close proximity to the interface during the shearing process thus making it possible to analyze test results in terms of effective stresses. The method was found to be suitable for unsaturated soils at low values of matric suction. Results of interface shear tests conducted using this method show that it is quite effective in evaluating interface shear behaviour between a geomembrane and an unsaturated soil. The results suggest that soil suction contributes to shearing resistance at low normal stress values. At lower normal stress values, the interface shear behaviour appears to be governed only by the magnitude of total normal stress. At high normal stresses, the failure mechanism changed from soil particles sliding at the surface of geomembrane to soil particles getting embedded into the geomembrane and plowing trenches along the direction of shear. A plowing failure mechanism resulted in the mobilization of significantly higher shear strength at the geomembrane soil interface. It was found that placement water contents near saturated conditions results in lower effective stresses, a shallower plowing mechanism and lower values of mobilized interface shear strength.



surface roughness, interface shear strength, pore-water pressure, unsaturated conditions, geomembrane



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


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