Constitutive and Numerical Modelling of Unsaturated Soils

Gallipoli, Domenico (2000) Constitutive and Numerical Modelling of Unsaturated Soils. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The thesis focuses on three different areas: development of constitutive models for unsaturated soils, improvement of the finite element code "Compass" for coupled flow-deformation analysis involving unsaturated soils and application of the improved code to the simulation of pressuremeter tests in unsaturated soils. On the constitutive side, a unique relationship is proposed between degree of saturation, suction and specific volume, by introducing dependency on specific volume in the simplified van Genuchten [48] equation. This is a significant improvement over the common assumption of a state surface expression for degree of saturation. If combined with an elasto-plastic stress-strain model predicting the variation of specific volume, the proposed relationship is capable of reproducing irreversible changes of degree of saturation and changes of degree of saturation experimentally observed during shearing. Predictions show very good agreement with experimental results from tests on compacted Speswhite Kaolin published in the literature. On the numerical side, a number of changes to the code "Compass" have been performed. The new relationship for degree of saturation is implemented in the code and the implementation is validated against three benchmark problems. Use of the new relationship for degree of saturation results in significantly different predictions to those obtained if a conventional state surface expression for degree of saturation is used (as present in the original code). Implementation of the water and air continuity equations in "Compass" has been corrected by expressing these equations in terms of flux velocities relative to the soil skeleton. This is the form in which the equations should be expressed if they are to be combined with Darcy's law for liquid and gas flows. The simulation of a notional laboratory test shows that the incorrect combination of Darcy's law with absolute flux velocities, as present in the original code, causes significant errors. The convergency algorithm at constitutive level employed in the code has been corrected by introducing residual flux terms in the two flow equations, analogous to residual forces in the equilibrium equation. These terms must be taken into account if a convergency algorithm for an elasto-plastic stress-strain model is used and the relationship assumed for variation of degree of saturation involves any dependency on net stresses. A numerical study of a notional laboratory test shows that omission of residual flux terms results in substantial errors and may cause failure to converge. The plane-strain formulation of code "Compass" has been corrected by imposing the condition of nullity only on the out-of-plane component of the total strain rate vector instead of the out-of-plane component of each single contribution to the total strain rate, as was done in the original code. Such inconsistency, due to the history of development of finite element programs, also appears in other examples published in the literature. Numerical simulations of two types of bi-axial tests show that significantly different results are generally predicted by the correct and incorrect formulations, and also provide an explanation why this type of error was difficult to detect in codes implementing traditional models for saturated soils. The potential of the enhanced version of code "Compass" for analysing boundary value problems is demonstrated by simulations of pressuremeter tests in unsaturated soil. This study also provides some initial insight into the interpretation of pressuremeter tests in unsaturated soil, by simulating tests at different loading rates in a normally consolidated soil. The mechanical behaviour of the soil is represented by the elasto-plastic model of Alonso, Gens and Josa [1] while the variation of degree of saturation is modelled by the new relationship proposed in the thesis. The entire range of loading rates, from undrained to fully drained (with respect to liquid), is simulated. Relatively small changes of suction are predicted even in the fastest test and the computed cavity pressure-cavity strain relationships are all very similar regardless of loading rate. It may therefore be possible to model even rapid pressuremeter tests in unsaturated soils as a drained (constant suction) process. Further work is required to investigate the generality of this conclusion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Simon Wheeler
Keywords: Civil engineering, Soil sciences
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-75822
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:57
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:57

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