ASTM D5311 / D5311M - 13

    Standard Test Method for Load Controlled Cyclic Triaxial Strength of Soil

    Active Standard ASTM D5311 / D5311M | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.09

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.08


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    Significance and Use

    5.1 Cyclic triaxial strength test results are used for evaluating the ability of a soil to resist the shear stresses induced in a soil mass due to earthquake or other cyclic loading.

    5.1.1 Cyclic triaxial strength tests may be performed at different values of effective confining pressure on isotropically consolidated specimens to provide data required for estimating the cyclic stability of a soil.

    5.1.2 Cyclic triaxial strength tests may be performed at a single effective confining pressure, usually equal to 100 kN/m2 [14.5 lb/in.2], or alternate pressures as appropriate on isotropically consolidated specimens to compare cyclic strength results for a particular soil type with that of other soils, Ref (2).

    5.2 The cyclic triaxial test is a commonly used technique for determining cyclic soil strength.

    5.3 Cyclic strength depends upon many factors, including density, confining pressure, applied cyclic shear stress, stress history, grain structure, age of soil deposit, specimen preparation procedure, and the frequency, uniformity, and shape of the cyclic wave form. Thus, close attention must be given to testing details and equipment.

    5.4 There are certain limitations inherent in using cyclic triaxial tests to simulate the stress and strain conditions of a soil element in the field during an earthquake.

    5.4.1 Nonuniform stress conditions within the test specimen are imposed by the specimen end platens. This can cause a redistribution of void ratio within the specimen during the test.

    5.4.2 A 90° change in the direction of the major principal stress occurs during the two halves of the loading cycle on isotropically consolidated specimens.

    5.4.3 The maximum cyclic shear stress that can be applied to the specimen is controlled by the stress conditions at the end of consolidation and the pore-water pressures generated during testing. For an isotropically consolidated contractive (volume decreasing) specimen tested in cyclic compression, the maximum cyclic shear stress that can be applied to the specimen is equal to one-half of the initial total axial pressure. Since cohesionless soils are not capable of taking tension, cyclic shear stresses greater than this value tend to lift the top platen from the soil specimen. Also, as the pore-water pressure increases during tests performed on isotropically consolidated specimens, the effective confining pressure is reduced, contributing to the tendency of the specimen to neck during the extension portion of the load cycle, invalidating test results beyond that point.

    5.4.4 While it is advised that the best possible intact specimens be obtained for cyclic strength testing, it is sometimes necessary to reconstitute soil specimens. It has been shown that different methods of reconstituting specimens to the same density may result in significantly different cyclic strengths. Also, intact specimens will almost always be stronger than reconstituted specimens.

    5.4.5 The interaction between the specimen, membrane, and confining fluid has an influence on cyclic behavior. Membrane compliance effects cannot be readily accounted for in the test procedure or in interpretation of test results. Changes in porewater pressure can cause changes in membrane penetration in specimens of cohesionless soils. These changes can significantly influence the test results.

    5.4.6 The mean total confining pressure is asymmetric during the compression and extension stress application when the chamber pressure is constant. This is totally different from the symmetric stress in the simple shear case of the level ground liquefaction.

    Note 1The quality of the result produced by this standard is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection/etc. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method covers the determination of the cyclic strength (sometimes called the liquefaction potential) of saturated soils in either intact or reconstituted states by the load-controlled cyclic triaxial technique.

    1.2 The cyclic strength of a soil is evaluated relative to a number of factors, including: the development of axial strain, magnitude of applied cyclic stress, number of cycles of stress application, development of excess pore-water pressure, and state of effective stress. A comprehensive review of factors affecting cyclic triaxial test results is contained in the literature (1).2

    1.3 Cyclic triaxial strength tests are conducted under undrained conditions to simulate essentially undrained field conditions during earthquake or other cyclic loading.

    1.4 Cyclic triaxial strength tests are destructive. Failure may be defined on the basis of the number of stress cycles required to reach a limiting strain or 100 % pore pressure ratio. See Section 3 for Terminology.

    1.5 This test method is generally applicable for testing cohesionless free draining soils of relatively high permeability. When testing well-graded materials, silts, or clays, pore-water pressures monitored at the specimen ends may not represent pore-water pressure values throughout the specimen. However, this test method may be followed when testing most soil types if care is taken to ensure that problem soils receive special consideration when tested and when test results are evaluated.

    1.6 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guide for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026. The procedures in Practice D6026 that are used to specify how data are collected, recorded, and calculated are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that should generally be retained. The procedures do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the objectives of the user. Increasing or reducing the significant digits of reported data to be commensurate with these considerations is common practice. Consideration of the significant digits to be used in analysis methods for engineering design is beyond the scope of this standard.

    1.6.1 The method used to specify how data are collected, calculated, or recorded in this standard is not directly related to the accuracy to which the data can be applied in design or other uses, or both. How one applies the results obtained using this standard is beyond its scope.

    1.7 The values stated in either SI units or inch-pound units [presented in brackets] are to be regarded separately as standard. The values stated in each system may not be exact equivalents; therefore, each system shall be used independently of the other. Combining values from the two systems may result in non-conformance with the standard. Reporting of test results in units other than SI shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this test method.

    1.8 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D422 Test Method for Particle-Size Analysis of Soils

    D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids

    D854 Test Methods for Specific Gravity of Soil Solids by Water Pycnometer

    D1587 Practice for Thin-Walled Tube Sampling of Soils for Geotechnical Purposes

    D2216 Test Methods for Laboratory Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil and Rock by Mass

    D2850 Test Method for Unconsolidated-Undrained Triaxial Compression Test on Cohesive Soils

    D3740 Practice for Minimum Requirements for Agencies Engaged in Testing and/or Inspection of Soil and Rock as Used in Engineering Design and Construction

    D4220 Practices for Preserving and Transporting Soil Samples

    D4253 Test Methods for Maximum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils Using a Vibratory Table

    D4254 Test Methods for Minimum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils and Calculation of Relative Density

    D4318 Test Methods for Liquid Limit, Plastic Limit, and Plasticity Index of Soils

    D4767 Test Method for Consolidated Undrained Triaxial Compression Test for Cohesive Soils

    D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 93.020 (Earth works. Excavations. Foundation construction. Underground works)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil)


    DOI: 10.1520/D5311_D5311M

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