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A volume-mass constitutive model for unsaturated soils



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Many geotechnical engineering problems involve combining two or more independent physical processes as a ‘coupled’ solution of seepage, volume change and shear strength. For any physical process being modeled, it is desirous to be able to compute any of the volume-mass soil properties. When the volume-mass soil properties are combined with the stress state of the soil, the result is a volume-mass constitutive relationship. Three volume-mass constitutive relationships (i.e., void ratio, water content and degree of saturation) are generally viewed as being the most fundamental; however, only two of the relations are independent. The unsaturated soil properties associated with seepage, volume change and shear strength problems are also related to the volume-mass soil properties. While the unsaturated soil properties are often estimated as simply being a function of the soil-water characteristic curve, it is more accurate to define the properties in a more rigorous manner in terms of the volume-mass soil properties. The advancement of computing capabilities means that it is quite easy to formulate constitutive relations for shear strength and permeability, for example, in terms of all volume-mass properties of the unsaturated soil.The objectives of this dissertation include: i) the development of volume-mass constitutive models for unsaturated soils; ii) the further study and verification of the volume-mass constitutive behavior of unsaturated soils; and iii) the development of techniques for visualization of volume-mass constitutive surfaces for unsaturated soils. To achieve these objectives, the present research study was conducted from both theoretical and experimental bases.The theoretical program commenced with a comprehensive literature review of the volume-mass constitutive relationships for unsaturated soils. A new, more rigorous volume-mass constitutive model was then proposed. Appropriate terminology was introduced for the development of the model, followed by an outline of the assumptions used and the mathematical derivation. The proposed model requires conventionally obtainable soil properties for its calibration. The model is capable of predicting both the void ratio and water content constitutive relationships for various unsaturated soils, taking into account elastic and plastic volume changes. Various stress paths can be simulated and hysteresis associated with the soil-water characteristic curve can be taken into account. Two closed-form equations for the volume-mass constitutive relationships were derived. A computer software program was written based on the theory of the proposed volume-mass constitutive model. Techniques for the visualization of the volume-mass constitutive surfaces were then presented. An experimental program was conducted in the laboratory. The experimental program involved the verification of a new testing apparatus. Several soils were selected for testing purposes and appropriate testing procedures were established (i.e., soil specimens were initially slurry). The testing stress paths followed in the experimental program were different from most research programs conducted in the past and reported in the research literature. Conclusions regarding the compressibility, stress path dependency, and hysteretic nature of the soil-water characteristic curve of an unsaturated soil were presented.A considerable number of test results (i.e., from both the experimental program and the research literature) were used in the verification of the new volume-mass constitutive model. This model has proven to be effective in predicting both collapse and expansion of a soil. The volume-mass constitutive model appears to predict behaviour in a satisfactory manner for a wide range of soils; however, the predictions appear to be superior for certain soils. In all cases the volume-mass predictions of the model appear to be satisfactory for geotechnical engineering practice.



model, unsaturated, soils, constitutive, soil-water characteristic curves, elastic, elasto, collapse, swell, suction, hysteresis, net mean stress, plastic, volume-mass



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


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