Volume 19, Issue 3 (September 1996)
The Relationship Between the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve and the Unsaturated Shear Strength of a Compacted Glacial Till
Soils compacted at various “initial” water contents and to various densities should be considered as “different” soils from a soil mechanics behavioral standpoint even though their mineralogy, plasticity, and texture are the same. The engineering behavioral change from one specimen to another will vary due to differences in soil structure or aggregation. The shear strength of an unsaturated soil and the soil-water characteristic curve are dependent on soil structure or the aggregation, which in turn is dependent on the “initial” water content and the method of compaction. The laboratory preparation of specimens must, therefore, closely represent the physical conditions and the stress state conditions likely to occur in the field if a proper assessment of the shear strength parameters is to be achieved. This paper is primarily concerned with the study of the relationship between the shear strength of an unsaturated soil and its soil-water characteristic curve.
Consolidated drained direct shear tests were conducted on statically compacted glacial till specimens, both under saturated and unsaturated conditions, representing three “initial” water contents and densities. The “initial” water contents and densities of the specimens were selected to represent the dry, optimum, and wet of optimum water content conditions with reference to the compaction curve. Multistage, unsaturated, direct shear tests were conducted under three different net normal stresses with varying matric suction values for each case. The soil-water characteristic curves were also developed on specimens with “initial” conditions similar to those used for the unsaturated shear strength tests.
The shear strength variation with respect to matric suction was found to be nonlinear for all the tests. The rate of increase in the shear strength contribution due to matric suction, however, was found to be related to the rate of desaturation of the soil. The desaturation characteristics are a function of the “initial” water content of the compacted specimens. For any particular net normal stress and matric suction, specimens compacted wet of optimum water content offered more resistance to desaturation and exhibited a higher shear strength when compared to specimens compacted at dry of optimum or at optimum water content conditions. Under similar “initial” conditions, the soil-water characteristic curve bears a close relationship to the unsaturated shear strength behavior of the soil.