Journal Published Online: 20 January 2023
Volume 46, Issue 3

Geotechnical Characterization of Laponite as Transparent Clay Surrogate



The use of so-called “transparent soils” as proxy geotechnical materials has allowed for the nonintrusive observation of a variety of models representing different engineered systems. Laponite is one such soft clay surrogate that has seen increased usage in recent years. However, this material has yet to be subjected to a thorough characterization and quantification of its physical and mechanical properties. The study presented herein followed a systematic approach toward the characterization of Laponite RD colloids from a geotechnical perspective across a wide range of mixes and additive dosages. Rheology tests were conducted to study the variation in apparent viscosity with time and after remixing. These tests identified two sources/types of strength gain: a reversible thixotropic strength gain and an irreversible particle aggregation strength gain. Different mixtures tested in a one-dimensional consolidation oedometer showed that mixes with laponite colloid contents as high as 21 % could be achieved from mixes with an initial colloid content of 11 % by mass. Finally, results from vane shear tests showed that the undrained shear strength increased with: (1) increasing laponite colloid content, (2) decreasing additive dosage, (3) aging time, and (4) increasing temperature. The base geotechnical characteristics and mechanical properties of the clay surrogate as provided in this study are expected to facilitate proper interpretation of the behavior of this surrogate material in geotechnical physical models involving transparent clays.

Author Information

Almikati, Abdurrahman
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
Pierozan, Rodrigo Cesar
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Brazil
Sadek, Salah
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
Zornberg, Jorge G.
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
Pages: 24
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Stock #: GTJ20220106
ISSN: 0149-6115
DOI: 10.1520/GTJ20220106