Modulus of Elasticity Based Method for Estimating the Vertical Movement of Natural Unsaturated Expansive Soils

Title: Modulus of Elasticity Based Method for Estimating the Vertical Movement of Natural Unsaturated Expansive Soils
Authors: Hana Hussin Adem
Date: 2015
Abstract: Expansive soils are widely distributed in arid and semi-arid regions around the world and are typically found in a state of unsaturated condition. These soils are constituted of the clay mineral montmorillonite that is highly active and contributes significantly to volume changes of soils due to variations in the natural water content conditions. The volume changes of expansive soils often cause damage to lightly loaded structures. The costs associated with the damage to lightly loaded structures constructed on expansive soils in the United States alone were estimated as $2.3 billion per year in 1973, which increased to $13 billion per year by 2009. In other words, these damages have increased more than five fold during the last four decades. Similar trends in damages were also reported in other countries (e.g., Australia, China, France, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, etc.). Numerous methods have been proposed in the literature over the past 50 years for the prediction of the volume change movement of expansive soils. However, the focus of these methods has been towards estimating the maximum potential heave, which occurs when soils attain the saturation condition. The results of heave estimation considering saturated soil conditions are not always useful in engineering practice. This is because most of damages due to expansive soils often occur prior to reaching the saturation condition. A reliable design of structures on expansive soils is likely if the anticipated soil movements in the field can be reliably estimated over time, taking into account the influence of environmental factors. Limited studies are reported in the literature during the past decade in this direction to estimate/predict the expansive soil movements over time. The existing methods, however, suffer from the need to run expensive and time consuming tests. In addition, verification of these studies for different natural expansive soils has been rather limited. A simple approach, which is referred to as a modulus of elasticity based method (MEBM), is proposed in this study for the prediction of the heave/shrinkage movements of natural expansive soils over time. The proposed MEBM is based on a simplified constitutive relationship used for the first time to estimate the vertical soil movements with respect to time in terms of the matric suction variations and the corresponding values of the modulus of elasticity. The finite element program VADOSE/W (Geo-Slope 2007) for simulating the soil-atmospheric interactions is used as a tool to estimate the changes in matric suction over time. A semi-empirical model that was originally proposed by Vanapalli and Oh (2010) for fine-grained soils has been investigated and extended for unsaturated expansive soils to estimate the variation of the modulus of elasticity with respect to matric suction in the constitutive relationship of the proposed method. The MEBM has been tested for its validity in five case studies from the literature for a wide variety of site and environmental conditions, from Canada, China, and the United States. For each case study, factors influencing the volume change behavior of soils, such as climate conditions, soil cracks, lawn irrigation, and cover type (pavement, vegetation), are successfully modeled over the period of each simulation. The proposed MEBM provides good predictions of soil movements with respect to time for all the case studies. The MEBM is simple and efficient for the prediction of vertical movements of natural expansive soils underlying lightly loaded structures. In addition, a new dimensionless model is also proposed, based on the dimensional analysis approach, for the estimation of the modulus of elasticity which can also be used in the constitutive relationship of the MEBM. The dimensional model is rigorous and takes into account the most significant influencing parameters such as matric suction, net confining stress, initial void ratio, and degree of saturation. This model provides a comprehensive characterization of the modulus of elasticity of expansive soils under unsaturated conditions for different scenarios of loading conditions (i.e., both lightly and heavily loaded structures). The results of the present study are encouraging for proposing guidelines based on further investigations and research studies for the rational design of pavements, shallow and deep foundations placed on/in expansive soils using the mechanics of unsaturated soils.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -