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Prediction Of Engineering Properties Of Fine-Grained Soils From Their Index Properties

by Nagaraj, H B

Abstract (Summary)
Prediction as a tool in engineering has been used in taking right judgement in many of the professional activities. This being the fact, the role and significance of prediction in geotechnical practice needs no emphasis. Bulk of all man made structures are either made of soil or are resting on natural soil, involving large quantities of soil. Thus, it is often necessary for the geotechnical engineer to quickly characterize the soil and determine their engineering properties, so as to assess the suitability of the soil for any specific purpose. Obtaining these properties requires undisturbed samples, which involves time and money, and also elaborate laboratory procedures. Thus, it is desirable to find simpler and quicker methods of testing, using the data of which the engineering properties can be predicted satisfactorily especially so, for preliminary design purposes. Most often this can be achieved from simple tests known as inferential tests, and the engineering properties namely, compressibility, swell/collapse, hydraulic conductivity, strength and compaction characteristics can be obtained from empirical/semi-empirical correlations.

The index tests namely the Atterberg limits form the most important inferential soil tests with very wide universal acceptance. These tests are relatively simple to perform and have provided a basis for explaining most engineering properties of soils in geotechnical practice. In this direction, this investigation has been carried out to correlate the engineering properties with the simple index properties and their indices, namely, the liquid limit, plastic limit, shrinkage limit, plasticity index and shrinkage index (liquid limit - shrinkage limit). Any good correlation in the prediction of engineering properties with the index properties will enhance the use of simple test for prediction purposes. This thesis is an attempt towards this direction.

It is often necessary to identify the basic mechanisms controlling the engineering properties from a micro-mechanistic point of view and correlate with the index properties, thereby facilitating prediction of engineering properties better. Though attempts have been made in the past to predict the engineering properties of soils from the index properties/indicĀ­es, they are not quite satisfactory. This thesis is an attempt to predict the engineering properties of fine-grained soils from the index properties taking into consideration the mechanisms controlling them.

Since, the index properties are used for prediction of engineering properties, the existing methods of determining the same have been examined carefully and critically. It's satisfactory determination is found important because other indices namely plasticity index, Ip and shrinkage index, Is = (wL - ws), are determined based on it. Also the liquid limit is one of the important and widely used parameter in various existing correlations. In this direction, two new methods of determining the liquid limit have been developed, namely (i) absorption water content and liquid limit of soils and (ii) liquid limit from equilibrium water content under Ko-stress.

In the absorption water content method, the water absorbed by an oven dried soil pat at equilibrium gives a good correlation with the liquid limit of soils. Here, the water holding capacity at equilibrium goes well with the mechanism of liquid limit, which is also the water holding capacity of a soil at a particular small but measurable shear strength. A good relationship is found to exit between the absorption water content, wA and the liquid limit, wL, and it is given as :

WA = 0.92 wL (i)

In the second method, namely, the liquid limit from equilibrium water content under K0-stress, which is the equilibrium water content under a Ko stress of 0.9 kPa is found to be equal to the liquid limit obtained from the cone penetration method of determining the liquid limit It is found that this method of determining the liquid limit overcomes the limitations of the conventional methods of determining the liquid limit, also easy to determine with a simple apparatus and has good repeatability.

Determination of plastic limit of the soils by the rolling thread method often poses a problem especially when the soil is less plastic. Hence, to overcome this problem, a new method has been proposed to predict the plasticity index in terms of the flow index. The relationship between the plasticity index and the flow index by the cone penetration cup method is found to be better than by the percussion cup method. Since, the cone penetration method of the liquid limit determination is more popular than the percussion cup method, the flow index from the cone method is recommended to determine the plasticity index from the correlation as given below:

(/p)c = 0.74 Ifc (ii)

Thus, the plastic limit can be determined with the plasticity index, thereby dispensing with the determination of plastic limit by the thread method.

The determination of consolidation characteristics form an important aspect in the design of foundations and other earth retaining structures. The determination of consolidation characteristics namely the compression index, the coefficient of consolidation and the coefficient of secondary compression is time consuming. So, researchers have resorted to correlating the compressibility behaviour with simple index properties. While attempts have been made in the past to correlate the compressibility behaviour with various index properties individually, all the important properties affecting the compressibility behaviour has not been considered together in any single study to examine which of the index property/properties of the soils correlates better with the compressibility behaviour, especially with the same set of test results. Number of existing correlations with the liquid limit alone as a primary index property correlating with the compression index have limitations in that they do not consider the plasticity characteristics of the soils fully. The index parameter, shrinkage index, Is has a better correlation with the compression index, Cc and also the coefficient of volume change, mv than plasticity index. Coefficient of consolidation, Cv has also shown to correlate well with shrinkage index than the plasticity index. Even the coefficient of secondary compression, C?? has shown to have a better correlation with shrinkage index than the plasticity index. However, liquid limit has a poor correlation with all the compressibility characteristics.

The correlation of Cc and Cv with shrinkage index, Is is as given below:

Cc = 0.007 (Is + 18) (iii)

Cv = 3x10-2 (Is)-3.54 (in m2/sec)

Further, to reduce the testing time of conventional consolidation test in order to obtain the compressibility characteristics, a new method known as rapid method of consolidation has been proposed, which is very effective in enormously reducing the time of consolidation without sacrificing the accuracy of the end results. The time required in the rapid method of consolidation testing could be as low as 4 to 5 hours to complete the whole test as compared to 1 to 2 weeks as the case may be by the conventional consolidation test. Using any curve fitting procedure the degree of consolidation, U for any pressure increment can be found out. Thus, the effective pressure at that stage can be calculated and further the pressure incremented without further delay. This procedure is repeated for every pressure increment with a load increment ratio of unity till the desired pressure level is reached. Even for a highly compressible soil like BC soil with a liquid limit of 73.5 %, the consolidation test could be completed within 5 hours by the rapid method, without any sacrifice of the accuracy of the results as compared to 7 days by the conventional method to reach a pressure of 800 kPa.

Hydraulic conductivity is one of the basic engineering properties of soils. Of late hydraulic conductivity of fine-grained soils has assumed greater importance in waste disposal facilities. From the present investigation it is found that hydraulic conductivity with water for each pair of soils having nearly the same liquid limit but different plasticity properties is found to be vastly different, but found to correlate well with shrinkage index. A method to predict the hydraulic conductivity of fine -grained soils as a function of void ratio is proposed with the use of shrinkage index as given below:

k = C [ ] (in m/sec) (v)

1 + e

C = 2.5 x 10-4 (/s)-5.89 and n = 4 (vi)

It has also been brought out that as the dielectric constant of the pore fluid decreases; there is a drastic increase in the intrinsic permeability of soil. These changes are attributed to the significant reduction in the thickness of diffuse double layer, which in turn is mainly dependent on the dielectric constant of the pore fluid. The quantification of the change in the hydraulic conductivity with the change in the pore fluids of extreme dielectric constant, i.e., from water to carbon tetrachloride could be expressed in terms of the volume of water held in the diffuse double layer and the same has a good correlation with shrinkage index.

With the advancement in the knowledge of the engineering behaviour of fine-grained soils, there is an increasing trend toward larger involvement of fine-grained soils in earth structures and foundations. Though extensive work has been done in the past to understand the swelling behaviour of expansive soils and the mechanisms involved therein, it is yet not satisfactory. From the literature it can be seen that lot of work has been done to correlate the swell potential with various physical properties. The simple means of identifying the swelling type of soils is by means of free swell tests with the ratio of free swell with carbon tetrachloride to the free swell of water. The same has found to correlate well with the percent swell/collapse of the ten soils used in the present investigation. However, it was found that shrinkage index has a better correlation with the swell/collapse behaviour of fine-grained soils, compared to the liquid limit or the plasticity index. In this study, it is also shown that neither the liquid limit nor the plasticity index can qualitatively describe the swell/collapse behaviour of fine-grained soils. This has been attributed primarily to two different mechanisms governing montmorillonitic and kaolinitic soils separately. Even swelling pressure has shown to have a good correlation with shrinkage index. It is found that the compression index of the samples consolidated from the swollen condition correlates well with the shrinkage index.

Laboratory determination of the compaction characteristics are very much important for use in earth work constructions. It is found that only the plastic limit bears a good correlation with the compaction characteristics namely optimum moisture content and

maximum dry unit weight. This conclusion is also supported by the data from the literature. The correlations are given as:

OMC = 0.92 wp (in percent) (viii)

and

ydmax = 0.23 (93.3 - wp) (inkN/m3) (ix)

Liquid limit, plasticity index and shrinkage index do not bear any correlation with the compaction characteristics. It is quite possible that, the plastic limit, which is the optimum water content of a saturated soil at which it behaves as a plastic material, and thus can be moulded to any shape, thereby the soil can be compacted or moulded to the densest possible state at that water content. Hence, possibly the good correlation. A simple method to predict the compaction curve is proposed based on the plastic limit of the soils.

Of all the important engineering properties, both volume change (compressibility and swelling) and hydraulic conductivity have good correlation with the shrinkage index. However, the compaction characteristics correlate well with the plastic limit.

Herein, an hypothesis is proposed to possibly explain why shrinkage index has shown to be a better parameter to correlate with most of the engineering properties with the exception of the compaction characteristics. The liquid limit is a parameter which takes part of the plasticity characteristics of a soil. Recently it has been well brought out that shrinkage limit is primarily a function of how the varying grain sizes are distributed in a soil. Thus, shrinkage limit takes care of the gradation of the soil fractions in it. Thus, by considering the shrinkage index, which is the difference of the liquid limit water content on one end and shrinkage limit water content on the other end, the primary physical properties of the soils namely the plasticity and the grain size distribution are considered. This possibly explains the good correlation of shrinkage index with the engineering properties of fine-grained soils. However, compaction being a moulding of the soils into a compact state, it has a good correlation with the plastic limit, which is the optimum water content of a saturated soil at which it behaves as a plastic material, and thus can be moulded to any shape, thereby the soil can be compacted or moulded to the densest possible state at that water content. Hence, the good correlation.

As the present investigation gives the correlative equations to predict the engineering properties of fine-grained soils from the appropriate index properties, which are obtained from simple and quick laboratory tests, it is hoped that this will go a long way in being a handy tool for a practicing geotechnical engineer in the preliminary assessment of fine-grained soils and thereby take appropriate judgement in various aspects of geotechnical constructions with it.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Sridharan, A

School:Indian Institute of Science

School Location:India

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:structural engineering soil mechanics soils hydraulic conductivity compaction fine grained liquid limit swell collapse behaviour shrinkage plastic

ISBN:

Date of Publication:02/01/2000

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