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# Stress Paths

As you know, states of stress, point in equilibrium can be represented by a Mohr circle in a τ-σ coordinate system. Sometimes it is convenient to represent that state of stress by a stress point, which has the coordinates (σ1 - σ3)/2 and (σ1 + σ3)/2 shown in Fig.1. For many situations in geotechnical engineering, assume σ1 and σ3 act on vertical and horizontal planes, so the coordinates of the stress point become (σv - σh)/2 and (σv + σh)/2, or simply q and p, respectively; or

Fig.1 A Mohr circle of stress and corresponding stress point. q = (σv - σh)/2 p = (σv + σh)/2 (1) (2)

Both q and p could, of course, be defined in terms of the principal stresses. By convention, q is considered positive when σv > σh ; otherwise it is negative. We often want to show successive states of stress which a test specimen or a typical element in the field undergoes during loading or unloading. A diagram showing the successive states with a series of Mohr circles could be used (fig.2a), but it might be confusing, especially if the stress path were complicated. Therefore it is simpler to show only the locus of the stress points. This locus is called the stress path, and it is plotted on what we call a p-q diagram (Fig.2b). Note that both p and q could be defined either in terms of total stresses or effective stresses. As before, a prime mark is used to indicate effective stresses. So from Eqs.1 and 2 the effective stress equation, we know that q' = q while p' = p - u, where u is the excess hydrostatic or pore water pressure. Very often in geotechnical engineering practice, if you understand the complete stress path of your problem, you are well along the way towards the solution that problem. A simple case to illustrate stress paths is the common triaxial test which s3 remains fixed as we increase s1. Some Mohr circles for this test are shown in Fig. 2a along with their stress points. The corresponding stress path shown in Fig. 2b is a straight line at an angle of 45° from the horizontal because the stress point represents the state of stress on the plane oriented 45° from the principal planes. (Note that this is the plane of maximum shear stress.)

. we can define a ratio Kf for stress conditions at failure. represent a non-hydrostatic state of stress. Finally. and σ’vf = the vertical effective stress at failure.Some examples of stress paths are shown in Figs. In Fig. 2 (a) Successive Mohr circles. 3 the initial conditions are σv = σh an equal-all-around or hydro. this ratio is K = σ’h/σ’v (4) where Ko is called the coefficient of lateral earth pressure at rest conditions of no lateral strain.3 and 4. 1969). where the initial vertical stress is not the same as the initial horizontal stress. (5) σ1 increasing σ3 (a) σ q 45ο p (b) Fig. We defined a lateral stress ratio K. 4.static state of stress: Those in Fig. You should verify that each stress path in Figs. It is often convenient to consider stress ratios. Kf = σ’hf /σ’vf where σ’hf = the horizontal effective stress at failure. 3 and 4 has in fact the direction as indicated in the figures. (after Lambe and Whitman. (b) stress path for constant s3 and increasing s1. K = σh/σv (3) In terms of effective stresses. which is the ratio of horizontal to vertical stress.

Other initial conditions are. but it may just as well be in terms of total stresses. Usually Kf is defined in terms of effective stresses.5). These lines could also be stress path for initial conditions of σv = σh = 0 with loadings of K equal to a const (that is. . constant σh / σv). possible such as those shown in Figs. 3 and 4. Constant stress ratios appear as straight lines on a p-q diagram (Fig.4o 0 F -q A p Fig.3 Different stress paths for initially hydrostatic stress conditions (after Lambe and Whitman.∆σv σv ∆σh σh σv σh σv ∆σv ∆σh σh σv σh q D C 45o E 45o B 18. of course. 1969).

σh and σv can readily be found graphically. as show in. there is no reason why σv must always be greater than σh. 1969). Note that or in terms of K K = (1-tanβ)/(1+tanβ) (7) (q/p) = tan β = (1-K)/(1+K) (6) where β is the slope of the line of constant K when K < Kf. 4 Different stress paths for initially non-hydrostatic stress conditions (after Lambe and Whitman. At failure. but there are many important situations in geotechnical engineering where σh > σv . (for example point A in Fig.In these cases. that is. Fig. 5). Finally. the slope of the Kf. lines at 45° from the stress point intersect the σ-axis at σh and σv. It usually is.5 . line is indicated by the symbol ψ. by convention q is negative and K> 1.∆σv σv ∆σh σh σv σh σh σv ∆σv σv σh ∆σh Fig. Note also that for any point where you know p and q.

5 = K0 for normally consolidated clays β σv > ση K<1 Κ = 1 (σv = σh) 0 45o 45o p. The stress path follows approximately line BC in Fig. p’ K>1 σv > ση −ψ Kf (extension) -q Fig. then it seems reasonable that the compression is essentially one dimensional.6. If the area of deposition is relatively large compared with the thickness of the deposit. A good average value is about 0. As this stress increases. there is a gradual build up of overburden stress as additional material is deposited from above. and the soil specimen ends up someplace on the hydrostatic (σh = σv) or K = I axis.4 and at point A in Fig. Sometimes in engineering practice a test specimen is reconsolidated in the laboratory under Ko conditions so as to reinstate the estimated in situ stresses. 6. After consolidation. Typical values of Ko for granular materials range from about 0. This stress path and its relation to the strength of clays will be discussed later. Such conditions are shown in Fig. the path could extend to a point well below the p-axis. the sediments consolidate and decrease in volume.5 up to 0.9. and the stress path during sedimentation and consolidation would be similar to path AB in Fig. If. an unloading stress path similar to BC would be followed.8 or 0. stress decrease occurs because the overburden stress σ’v0 has to be removed to get at the sample. whereas for normally consolidated clays Ko can be a little less than 0. When soils are deposited in a sedimentary environment like a lake or the sea.q Kf (compression) −ψ K = 0.0. instead of sampling. Now we shall describe some stress paths which are important in geotechnical engineering. 5 Different constant stress ratios and examples of stress paths. If the vertical stress continued to be removed.7. When a sample of the soil is taken. starting from σv = σh = 0 (after Lambe and Whitman. The soil would then be over consolidated and Ko would be greater than 1. In this case the stress ratio would be constant and equal to Ko. the overburden stress was decreased by erosion or some other geologic process.4 to 0.5. 1969). the loading (or unloading) path followed to failure depends on .6.

Four common field conditions and the laboratory stress paths which model them are shown in Fig.decrease σv.increase σh. σh constant LC: Lateral Compression Passive earth pressure.1967).the field loading conditions one wishes to model. therefore total stresses equal effective stresses and the total stress path (TSP) for a given loading is identical to the effective stress path (ESP). Fig. 6 Stress paths during sedimentation and sampling of normally consolidated clay. . 7. σv constant Fig. σh constant LE: Lateral Extension Active earth pressure-decrease σh. Note that these stress paths are for drained loading (discussed in the next chapter) in which there is no excess pore water pressure. where Ko < 1 Symbol Geotechnical Engineering example AC: Axial Compression Foundation loading-increase σv. 7 Stress paths during drained loadings on normally consolidated clays and sand (after Lambe. σv constant AE: Axial Extension Unloading (excavation).

in degrees. from a p-q diagram the shear strength parameters f and c may readily be computed.9. in general. Another useful aspect of the p-q diagram is that it may be used to show both total and effective stress paths on the same diagram. We said before that for drained loading. Fig.8 Relationship between the K. Therefore the ESP lies the left of the TSP because σ' = σ.As suggested by Eq.5.∆u. represents failure in terms of the p-q diagram. Consider the two Mohr circles shown in Fig.10. The identical circle on the right is the same failure circle on the Mohr τ-σ diagram. were used. determined over a range of stresses. To establish the slopes of the two lines and their intercepts. as shown in Fig. The equation of the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope is τ ff = σff tan φ + c From the geometries of the two circles. line and the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope. during undrained loading the TSP is not equal to the ESP because excess pore water pressure develops. and ψ= the angle of the Kf line with respect to the horizontal. For axial compression (AC) loading of a normally consolidated clay (Ko < 1) positive excess pore water pressure ∆u develops. This is because the pore water pressure induced by loading was approximately equal to zero at all times during shear. Fig. drawn for illustrative purposes only. in stress units. The circle on the left. However. At any point during the loading the pore water pressure ∆u may be scaled off any horizontal line between the TSP and ESP. we are often interested in conditions at failure. . the total stress path (TSP) and the effective stress path (ESP) were identical. The equation of the Kf line is qf = a + pf tan ψ (8) where a = the intercept on the q-axis. and it is useful to know the relationship between the Kf line and the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope. several Mohr circles and stress paths. it can be shown that sinφ = tan ψ and C = a/cos φ (9) (10) So. 9 Stress paths during undrained axial compression loading of a normally consolidated clay.

stress paths like those shown in Fig. the ESP. (Remember: we are talking about undrained loading in which. then negative pore w: pressure (. 11 for a normally consolidated clay with an initial I water pressure uo undergoing AC loading. So there are really three stress paths we should consider. thus an initial pore water pressure u0. the TSP. uo does not affect either the ESP or the conditions at failure.) For AC loading on an overconsolidated clay. is acting on the element in question. we can plot total and effective stress paths for other types of loadings.10 will develop. TSP and (T-uo)SP for a normally consolidated clay . Fig.If a clay is overconsolidated (Ko > 1). Note that as long as the ground water table remains at the same elevation. These three paths shown in Fig. 10 Stress paths during axial compression of a heavily overconsolidated clay Fig. 11 ESP. unloadings. for both normally and overconsolidated soils.∆u) develops because the clay tends to expand during shear. there exists static ground water table. In most practical situations in geotechnical engineering. no volume change is allowed. Similarly. but it can't. and the (T – uo)SP.