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Title: Multiphase modelling of desiccation cracking in compacted soil
Authors: Stirling, Ross Alexander
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The development of cracking as a result of desiccation is increasingly under investigation. This work is set within the context of climate change effects on surface processes influencing infrastructure slope stability. The inherent changes to the mechanical and hydrological behaviour of clayey soils subjected to desiccation are significant. The preferential transmission of water due to cracking is widely cited as a source of strength reduction that leads to infrastructure slope failure. In order to gain a better understanding of the cracking mechanism in typical compacted fill conditions, finite difference continuum modelling has been undertaken using FLAC 2D. The two-phase flow add-on has enabled the unsaturated behaviour of the desiccating soil to be included within the mesh. Physical behaviour observed in laboratory experiments has informed the development of the numerical model by allowing better constraint of boundary conditions. Model development has featured the inclusion of several non-linear processes that are fundamental to the changing soil response during drying. The influence of significant parameters has been identified and by means of a varied experimental program, the design, manufacture and testing of a laboratory test apparatus and procedure to define the tensile strength of compacted fills under varying saturation conditions was undertaken and subsequently validated. The factors affecting crack initiation and propagation have been investigated via parametric study. This demonstrated the significant influence of basal restraint on the generation of tensile stresses conducive to cracking and the fundamental importance of the tensile strength function within the proposed modelling methodology. Experimentation with the shape of the SWRC has shown the model to be very sensitive to the hydraulic properties of the material with not only the occurrence of primary cracking being affected but also the development of the desiccated crust. The findings of this work are relatable to the incorporation of desiccation effects in the development of coupled hydrological-mechanical continuum models where atmosphere-soil interactions are increasingly significant.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

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