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Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31 – 44 www.elsevier.


The causes of the high friction angle of Dutch organic soils
X.H. Cheng a,⁎, D.J.M. Ngan-Tillard a , E.J. Den Haan b

Department of Geotechnology, TU Delft The Netherlands b GeoDelft Delft The Netherlands

Received 24 May 2006; received in revised form 28 February 2007; accepted 7 March 2007 Available online 12 April 2007

Abstract Dutch organic soils have been found in past experiments to possess extremely high effective strength parameters. Since this finding is not expected and the phenomenon has yet to be explained, the high yield strength value is not used in practice. Understanding the abnormal properties of Dutch organic soils would thus be beneficial from the practical point of view. A programme aimed at understanding the unusual properties of Dutch organic soils, non-peat soils in particular, was performed on the representative organic soils in Dutch nature reserve park, Oostvaardersplasen (OVP) near Almere. Highly variable fabric of these organic soils was characterized by Computed Tomography X-ray scanner and environmental electronic microscope. Recognized fabric is in line with the geology of the OVP site. The multi-scale investigation as presented eventually identified the major role played by subhorizontal laminae and other non-organic microstructural elements (microfossil skeleton) in the high φ′ values of OVP organic soils. Deformation mechanisms of the microstructural elements are proposed and these make the unusual geotechnical properties explainable. Organics as involved were believed to have a primary contribution in increasing Atterberg limits and compressibility, and to allow the generation of high pore water pressures and low effective confining pressures during shearing. It has been also observed that high φ′ value is always correlated to the low effective confining pressure. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Organic soils; Microfabric; Laminated soils; High friction angle

1. Introduction Past experiments involving a large number of undrained triaxial tests conducted on Dutch organic soils have led to the conclusion that the soils possess extremely high effective strength parameters which increase while the bulk density of the soil decreases (Den Haan, 1995). Since this finding is not in line with expectations and the phenomenon has yet to be

⁎ Corresponding author. E-mail address: (X.H. Cheng). 0013-7952/$ - see front matter © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.enggeo.2007.03.009

explained, the high yield strength value is not used in practice. Organic soils cover a large part of the Netherlands. Infrastructure lines are founded on top of organic deposits and dikes are made of organic soils. Understanding the abnormal properties of Dutch organic soils would thus be beneficial from the practical point of view. Depending on the mechanisms responsible for the high effective strength of organic soils, less conservative values could be used in the design of embankments, and more realistic estimations of the strength of dikes could be made. One might also think of mimicking nature to strengthen soils.

24 303 3. Angles were found to increase up to 57° with effective mean stress pressures decreasing from 300 to 50 kPa.7 1. and the 2 to 4% organic content was found to increase Atterberg limits.210 1..32 X.695.365 + (1 − N)/2. recorded minimum effective mean stresses were above 50 kPa. the effective mean stress ranged between 25 and 150 kPa. e) Organic clay from Cubzac-les-Ponts in France with organic contents up to 25% and bulk densities in the range 12 to 16 kN/m3.16–2.06–2. c) The 10% to 60% organic content of Juturnaiba organic clays in Brazil was found to increase the φ′ of natural samples according to the following empirical relationship: φ′ = 23° + 0.35–1. However.06–2.5 – Calculated by the relation 1/ρs = N/1. It was related to the abundance of micro-fibers discovered by electron scanning microscopy.35 144 1.264 2. This is higher than the stress levels reported by others for clays with a higher organic content.93 (c) Dark brown–black peat.L. Effective mean stresses up to 100 kPa and as low as 15 kPa were recorded during testing.332 1. back calculation reveals only φ′ ≈ 28–34° or less. Effective mean stresses between 100 and 300 kPa were recorded during testing.40–4. The role of 2 to 4% organic content was not emphasized.44 212 CIU11C 2.074 1. 1995).61 360 4.84 257 33 2. with very closely spaced thin laminae of medium–grained silt and with vertical rootlets 3.64–2.53 167 1. From the reported CIU tests on normally consolidated clay under effective mean stresses between 30 and 70 kPa. The reasons for this high effective friction angle were given by the interlocking and rough surface features of diatoms at low stress level.226 1.198 2.149 1.04–3. Depth (m) Wn (%) γn (g/cm3) εa/εr CIU10A CIU10B 1.56–2.51–3. A microfossil identified as diatom was accounted for both the high-φ′ and high Atterberg limits. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 An international literature review reveals that organic soils with a high effective friction angle.24–3.51 355 3. The multi-scale fabric of organic soils is highly variable and the fundamentals of their behaviour are not Table 1 Geotechnical classification and index properties of OVP organic soils Depth (G.58 Mixed layers of very organic soils: (c) peat soil+ (d) Very organic clayey SILT a 10–20 2. did not reveal particularly high φ′ angles (Shahanguian.0 70 1.22 323 1. with very closely spaced thin laminae of fine grained silt (Almere deposits) 2. Spongy structure 2. d) A very high φ′ ranging between 60 and 90° was found for Swedish clayey gyttja with 10% organic content (Larsson. 1990).41–3. This relation was obtained for Dutch organic soils according to the method used by Skempton and Petley (1970) for organic soils. and found values of φ′ ranging from 44° to 74°.2 to 1. m) Geotechnical classification and identification. Berlin and Rotterdam.0 1. 1989). whether the microfibers are organics or was not established.295 1.085 12 – CAU11B 2. with very closely spaced thin laminae of medium-grained silt (Almere deposits) 2.255–2.02–4. Bulk density varied from 1. During testing.93–3.40 (d) Very organic light gray clayey silt. 1981). N (%) ρs a D50 Samples for triaxial compression (μm) No.0 1. with significant amounts of fine wood fibers.26–2.602 – CIU14A CIU14B CAU13 1.H.26 203 CAU11D 2. the organic content expressed in percentage (Coutinho and Lacerda.039 8 CIU12C CIU12A 3. 1999). b) “Relatively high” φ′ between 25 and 40° are reported for the reconstituted Osaka bay clay (Tanaka and Locat.42 148 3.78 (b) Very organic clayey dark brown silt.5 t/m3 with organic contents up to 30%.5 – – 1.074 1. .0 1. Diatoms and remains of plant fibers were thought to be the cause of the high strength values.18–1.06 (a) Very organic brown silty clay. f) Krieg (2000) studied the geotechnical properties of various organic clays from Schwerin. The dominant angular silt fraction was thought to be responsible for the high-φ′. Cheng et al.5766 OC with OC. An effective friction angle of 44° was also found for the diatomaceous fill that has a low dry density and high moisture (Day..455 5 30 2. φ′ are not unique to the Netherlands: a) An apparent φ′ of 34° was considered as “particularly high” for a slightly organic clay known as the Bothkennar clay in Britain (Hight et al. During testing.145 1. The temperature used in loss-on-ignition test (N) was 550 °C. 1992).

The geology of the OVP site can be schematised using Van Loon and Wiggers (1975). was chosen as sampling site. which consist of layers of organic clay and silt and peat. a peat layer was formed above Pleistocene sands. The OVP Holocene soil deposits are believed to be representative of Dutch organic soils. They contain an upwards diminishing amount of organic matter derived Fig. Cheng et al.H. . / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 33 well understood. was launched in the 1990's. After the sea level rose at the end of the last ice age (Weichselien up to 8000 BC). During transgressions large areas of peat were eroded and clay was formed. the silts and clays of the Almere deposits were formed. During regression. A programme aimed at understanding the unusual properties of Dutch organic soils. the Netherlands. 1. The Dutch nature reserve park in Oostvaardersplasen (OVP) near Almere. the connection of the Flevo lake to the Wadden Sea to the North became wider. A detritus-gyttja layer started to form at about 1250 BC from the eroded peat in the fresh water environment of the lake. Sea transgressions and regressions succeeded each other. Around 0 BC. Stress paths and radial strain changes (a) silts b and d (b) clay a and peat c. peat was formed. non-peat soils in particular. In the fresh to slightly brackish waters of the newly formed Zuiderzee lagoon. Peat was eroded by wave action and the lake expanded.X. At the end of the subboreal (3000 to 900 BC) several sea transgressions led to the formation of the Flevo lake.

33 εr (−) 0..19 0. X-ray CT scanner allowed a major breakthrough in the understanding of shear strain localisation in sand specimens subjected to triaxial testing (Desrues et al. the connection to the Wadden Sea rapidly widened even further. It also appeared suitable for the study of strain localisation in clayey materials in few occasions. The laminations are believed to be the result of wave and storm actions (Van Loon and Wiggers.10 σ′3 (kPa) 83 39 121 30 19 25 41 83 40 79 s′ (kPa) 83 39 121 45 32 38 41 83 40 79 Failure. Profile description Samples down to 5 m below the ground level were recovered using the Delft Continuous Begemann OVP b.09 −0. 1996). recognized by Computed Tomography X-ray scanner and electronic microscope to the high resistance of the OVP soils. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 Table 2 Triaxial compression properties of OVP organic soils Soil type Test No.0.186 8.02 0.5 (R2 = 0. CIU12C and CIU12A 35.05 0. environmental scanning microscopy (ESEM) is useful.6.04 0.05 0.074 3.01 t (kPa) 40 17 49 27 23 19 22 35 22 41 s′ (kPa) 57 25 81 34 28 23 31 57 25 49 σ′3.15 0.0 (R2 = 0. 1976). 2004).01 −0.18 0.1.6 3 CAU tests CAU11B. 2003).38 0.0.09 0.1.17 0. The φ′ values were calculated assuming zero cohesion and the mobilized effective angle of internal friction was at maximum.6 (R2 = 0.05 0.11 0.33 0.314 8.03 0 0. End of consolidation εa (−) Organic silt CIU11C CIU12A CIU12C CAU11B CAU11D CAU13 CIU10A CIU10B CIU14A CIU14B 0.13 0. In the study.e. To discover the real-time fabric change of clayey soils at different loading states.35 0. 2004).01 − 0..09 0.02 0.16 0.211 4. The upper layer has gone through several stages of weathering in recent decades.12 0. by using advanced microscopy technologies. At about 1600 AD..974) 1. From the results of a preliminary laboratory testing programme which focussed on the soft organic clays of the Almere deposits. CAU11D and CAU13 44.13 0.20 0. d very organic clayey silt 3 CIU tests CIU11C. maximum shear stress state εa (−) 0.22 0.8 (R2 = 0.17 0.6.H.05 − 0. 5.1 OVP c peat 2 tests: CIU14a and CIU14b 29. 1992) or existing fissures affect macro-cracking (Sun et al.04 − 0. The use of these technologies is shown to be decisive for the comprehension of the behaviour of heterogeneous soils like OVP organic soils. 31.990) 1.15 0. particularly when equipped in the ESEM chamber with a microloading module (Cheng et al. sample size and consolidation history (Den Haan. The water became brackish to salty and the marine deposits of the Zuiderzee were formed.7 1.f (kPa) electronic microscope. The Zuiderzee was closed by a dike in 1932. 7. 4. 2004 and Cheng. The latter results eventually stimulated the multi-scale investigation of the OVP organic soils.31 εr (−) 0.17 0.34 X.3 . excluding peat.7.f (kPa) 17 8 32 7 5 4 9 22 3 5 φ′ (°) assuming c = 0 45 43 38 52 56 56 46 38 63 65 Organic clay Peat from peat and gyttja and several laminations of various thickness and gradation. i. Cheng et al. when compacted shear bands form under large confining pressures (Tillard.01 0. and the presence of silty laminations.3 0 1. observed by means of Table 3 Variation in φ′ and c′ with organic soil type and effective confining stress OVP a very organic silty clay 2 tests: CIU10A and CIU10B φ′(°) c′(kPa) γn (g/cm3) σ′3. Triaxial compression of OVP organics soils: Macro-level observations 2.17 0. 16.06 0. Human activities resulted in the formation of a thin and reworked cover of fresh water soils: the Ijsselmeer deposits. the samples were found to fail in undrained triaxial compression with φ′ values of 50 to 60°. 2.16 0.29 0. 22 64.30 0. Lake Ijssel was created and then reclaimed to form the Zuiderzee polder in 1968. The results are presented hereafter. even if it is not new.974) 4.08 0. one attempts to relate the presence of microfossils.02 0 0.08 0.990) 4.26 0. The high φ′ values were found to remain irrespective of the sampler.02 − 0.27 0.15 εv (−) 0.7 7. The OVP are a nature reserve in this polder where little reworking has taken place.

For example. loss-on-ignition and particle size distribution) were determined. Organics present in the OVP soils are derived from eroded peat and gyttja formed in an earlier period. Using XRD analysis. The ratio of the axial to the radial strain was calculated at the end of the isotropic . Sand layers and the top deposits are not considered. the OVP soils do not disintegrate under light to moderate finger pressure due to the binding effect provided by their amorphous organic and clay fractions. The clay-size fraction consists of illite. In the dry state. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 35 Fig. CT-number–depth profile. the water content of two neighboring samples CIU12A and CIU12C was found to deviate by 155%. geotechnical indices of OVP organic soils were found to be highly variable at the centimeter scale of resolution of routine test measurements. 2. The pore pressure was monitored in the traditional way at the sample ends and further by using a needle probe in the middle of sample.94. 10 samples were selected. The bulk density of OVP soils was found to decrease and fluctuate with depth. 2. sampler.H. size distribution analysis and petrographic analysis on 30 μm thick thin sections and natural samples. Cheng et al. Some thin laminations of medium to coarse silts could be observed with the naked eye.X. silt and fine sand-size fractions. The fine sand-size fraction consists of quartz. However. the soil profile was schematised as shown in Table 1 and four types of organic soils (a to d) have been identified accordingly. it was shown that OVP organic soils are mixtures of clay. shells and organics. The results from the analysis are summarized in Table 1. Visual inspection of the OVP cores and index properties (bulk density. Description of testing programme After classification. calcium carbonate and organics. abbreviated CIU and CAU respectively. quartz. amorphous organics and silicate and calcium carbonate microfossils. Wood fragments. stems and rootlets co-exist in the OVP soils with micro-organisms such as algae and plankton.2. natural water content. Samples 66 mm in diameter and 150 mm in height (whenever sufficient material was available) were subjected to undrained triaxial tests after isotropic and anisotropic consolidation. Application of a back pressure of 200 kPa ensured saturation to a satisfactory level with B-values greater than 0. pyrite. specific density. calcium carbonate and organics. Denomination of the OVP organic soils has not been possible due to the diversity of classifications proposed in the literature to distinguish true peats from organic soils. As expected. Progressive transition from one soil type to another renders the segmentation of the organic soils profile even more difficult. it can be expected that they are high quality samples which behave as Laval samples during consolidated triaxial testing. The medium silt-size fraction dominates in the mixture and is made of quartz. From Den Haan (2003). disregarding the top and bottom sandy layers.

f) are also indicated.36 X.H. 2. The observed strength results are summarized in Table 2 per soil type and consolidation path. The radial strain was derived from measurements of axial strain and volumetric strain made from the start to the end of the isotropic consolidation phase. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 Fig. consolidation. 3. Laminations in sample 10B (a) CT-number profile (b) sample reconstitution after test (c) nebulous material in bright lamina. 1 illustrates the stress paths followed during testing in the deviatoric stress (t = 1/2(σ′1 − σ′3))–effective mean stress (s = 1/2(σ′1 + σ′3)) plane as well as the change in radial strain as function of the effective mean stress. 7. Fig. d) shell-like structures in zone in between bright laminae. The purpose of the socalled remoulding process in place was to examine the degradation of strength due to de-structuring. 5. Two undrained creep tests on anisotropically consolidated specimens were carried out under constant deviatoric stress to examine the possible reduction of strength due to an extremely low shear rate.0 cm from bottom.0 cm from bottom. Results and discussions As can be seen in Table 1. One sample was brought to failure by undrained shear and subsequently subjected to a few cycles of unloading–reloading. Cheng et al. the very organic clayey silts (soils b and d) form the important constituent of the . Initial soil bulk density and effective confining stress at failure (σ′3. Special attention was paid to the effects of shear rate and remoulding process on shear strength.3.

OVP organic soils. Despite having such properties. Failure mode of Sample CAU11D: CT images are enhanced pictures with the threshold range of CT-number values in [400. The presence of vertical rootlets in soil d caused several aborts during the triaxial tests and explains the divergence observed between the deformation behaviour of soils b and d. all b and d specimens present more or less the same loss-on-ignition. Despite some deviation in water contents. as far as strength parameters are concerned. the natural water content. soils b and d will not be distinguished later on. the specific density. γn and εa/εr are listed in Table 1. They indicate respectively that all organic OVP soils are very organic. the position of their failure envelopes in the t-s' plane .X. For the sake of simplicity. Cheng et al.H.680]. Wn. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 37 Fig. very light and slightly anisotropic. They are the loss-on-ignition. the bulk density and the ratio of axial strain to radial strain at the end of isotropic consolidation. Values of N or ρs. 4.

219 1. ○ All samples were found to fail with high φ′ at a considerably low effective confining stress (b 35 kPa). 2. 1a and b. This post-“failure” behaviour can be explained by considering the sample geometry and the boundary conditions at the moment of “failure”: the samples became very flat after around 30% vertical compression.7 44 44 35. Unusual minifabric of OVP organic soils at submillimeter scale The observation of high variability of the OVP indices and the inverse correlation between their high-φ′ values and bulk density have given reason to study the density distribution at submillimeter scale (0. The triplet of CAU tests on OVP soils b and d led to a lower effective confining stress and a φ′ 8° higher than the triplet of CIU tests as indicated in Table 3. probably due to the inclusion of several vertical rootlets. The attenuation of the X-rays is called the CT-number and is measured in Hounsfield units (HU) which are defined as HU = 1000 (μ − μwater) / μwater where μ and μwater are the linear attenuation coefficients of the material and water. 3.25 1. Scans of 1 mm thick 66 mm diameter soil slices were made at 1. 1) are extremely high and the following observations can be made on their strength and their deformation characteristics. The images of the specimens after the test are displayed in Figs. and close to those observed by Coutinho and Lacerda (1989) and Larsson (1990) for organic soils. ○ All samples were strongly compressed during shear. ○ If cohesion is ignored. (1967). Microscopic observations presented in next section will clarify this point. 3 and 4 respectively. i. both vertical and lateral compressions were allowed with slight anisotropy as mentioned earlier. values of φ' increase of 5 to 15° and range between 38 and 56° for non-peaty soils and 65° for peaty soils (see Tables 2 and 3).22 1. Variations in CT-numbers are known to correlate to either changes in bulk density or chemistry or both. the “failure” was reached without any subsequent decrease in shear stress. ○ The amount of binding (cohesion) is scattered and remains limited to a few kPa. ○ The remarkably high values of φ′ were found to increase in the order of very organic clay.e. 1a) was an extreme exception. φ′ values of the OVP soils were found to be significantly higher than those reported by Kenney et al. Sample CIU12C (shown in Fig. This deformation feature indicates that all organic soil samples at their initial state had little possibility of lateral extension except to collapse. In Fig. Nevertheless.1–0. ○ As far as the peat soil samples (CIU 14A and 14B) are concerned. Cheng et al.29 × 1 mm3 . see Table 2. Microscopic observations presented in the next section will elucidate this point. which eventually led to a constant Maximum φ′at the post-“failure” state. A medical Computed Tomography X-ray scanner (Cheng and Ngan-Tillard. 4 or 100 mm intervals. ○ The influence of consolidation history on strength for very organic clayey silt is noticeable. But.38 X. ○ The high φ′ of non-peat soils was found to be slightly related to the anisotropy of the samples in terms of the ratio of axial to radial strain measured at the end of isotropic consolidation (see Table 1) and independent of the loading rate and remoulding process (CIU12A and CAU11A in Fig. 2006) was used to inspect undisturbed sample cores in depth (see Fig. at around εr = 0% in the graphs of Fig. i. The . / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 Table 4 Correlation of CT-numbers.8 1.e. for clayey soils up to a normal stress of 100 kPa. Six samples as listed in Table 1 were also scanned after the triaxial tests in order to visualize the failure mode.. This stress feature is sufficient to distinguish peat soil from other organic soils.405 1. in addition to the abundance of plant remains.204 (Fig. 2) with a resolution of 0.29 × 0. respectively. This observation is in agreement with the trend observed by Kenney et al.H. silt and then peat soils. and possible activation of permanent shear bands was limited by the end restraints on flat samples. bulk densities and φ′ of all scanned samples Scanned sample φ′ (°) γn (g/cm3) Mean of CT-number values ðPHU Þ 498 619 440 432 370 208 Standard deviation of CT-number values 91 133 236 87 128 211 CAU11A (undrained creep) CIU10B CAU13 CAU11D CIU11C CIU12C – 29. and failed near the point where the sample diameter was restored to its initial size by the lateral extension during shear. each solid point corresponds to the average CT-number of four 1 mm thick slices and the arrows indicate the positions of two samples CIU10B and CAU11D subjected to detailed scanning after shearing.8 35. 1).307 1.5 mm). ratio of axial strain to radial strain at the end of isotropic consolidation and rebound of radial strain at the near failure state.

5. the following observations can be made on the material variability: ○ The CT-numbers of the OVP soils oscillate but gradually decrease with depth ○ Several magnitudes and lengths of oscillations are observed both in overall CT-number profile (Fig. 2) and at the meso-scale within the samples (Figs. Changes of CT-number profiles of sample CAU11D caused by triaxial testing are shown in Fig. Statistical analyses of CT-numbers over sample CAU11D.X. 3c).H. 3a. ○ Peaks in CT-number profiles correspond to the presence of light subhorizontal laminae in the CT images. 5. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 39 CT-number profile of sample CIU10B is shown in Fig. Its cross-section is characterized by the presence of a nebula of more attenuating material (see Fig. ○ A light subhorizontal laminae appears about every 3 cm in sample CIU10B. Visual inspection of sample CIU10B after failure allowed to correlate the light subhorizontal laminae of the CT images to 2–3 mm thick silty layers. Cheng et al. . Other slightly darker laminae are visible on the CT images of sample Fig. 3 and 5). From the CT analysis.

Lenses can be oriented vertically rather than horizontally. the splitting failure mechanism cannot be excluded in the inter-laminate zones especially when the effective lateral stress is low. lenticular elements are noticeable. Cheng et al. 4). The CT analysis also allowed to visualize the 3D geometry of the failed samples. It can be seen that around this section more vertical cracks (the dark zones in the image) were developing when the sample failed. 4(e). ○ The failure mode of sample CAU11D combined an inclined shear plane in the upper part with a major Fig. even at a micro-CT level shown in Fig.H. Microstructure of marked denser lamina of sample CAU11D (after triaxial test). One cross-section of sample CAU11D changed due to triaxial shear as visualized in Fig. ○ Lenses of attenuating material can be found in crosssections recorded outside the light and slightly darker laminae. The shear plane formed across several dense laminae while the vertical cracking detached the weak part at the bottom. So. 4b) will have to be clarified. 7. In the cross-section at 8 cm from the bottom where the shear band is present (Fig. .0 cm from the bottom of sample CIU10B and shown in Fig. 4(b) and (c). 3d. CIU10B and CAU11D but cannot be detected with the naked eye on the failed samples. 4d). / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 vertical crack at the bottom (Fig. Microstructure of marked denser lamina of sample 10B (after triaxial test). This is the case for the slice recorded at a distance of 5. The role played by weak zones present in the sample before testing (Fig. Fig.40 X. 6.

. 17% and 30% for the three parts. 27%.8cm3 (ø = 6. As the average of these ratios of 24% does not agree with average volume change of 18. broken diatoms as indicated).e.7° at bending point against 60° at the end of the test. 1b. i. Assuming a homogeneous chemistry for all samples. The exceptional stress behaviour might be correlated to the CT observations. The six samples scanned after testing were grouped in pairs according to the soil type and the bulk density level in Table 4. Its mobilized φ′ is 29. 1995) but could not be used for the OVP soils as they were established for materials of different nature and structure and using different CT parameters. The volume of three different parts after test are determined by fitting the maximum square inside each CT image of the core. A continuous increase of shear stress during triaxial testing was observed as shown in Fig. the relative volume changes are 24%. The increased CT-number values shown in Fig.3 × 0. i. middle and top. each of them 5 cm long) the axial strains at the end of test are calculated to be approximately 20% for both bottom and middle part and 40% for the top part respectively. well agrees with the axial strain value measured by means of LVDT during the test. the corrected relative volume change with respect to the measured average volume change are used to represent the local volume .X. The CT-number per voxel over different parts of this sample as shown in Fig. Similar correlations are available in the literature (Cortellazzo et al.35 g/cm3. By analyzing the length changes of three parts (bottom. the following relationship has been derived by fitting all the data in the table. Bright subhorizontal laminae were found in abundance in the CT images and no permanent shear band could be identified across the sample in the CT images. With respect to the initial volume of 160.84 and is valid for OVP soils with a bulk density ranging from 1. the middle and the top parts respectively. the ones with less deviations of CT-numbers necessarily correlate with higher φ′ values. Cheng et al. Neither do more homogenous samples. Results are gathered in Table 4.5.3 cm3 for the low. (a) Representative microfabric of OVP non-peat organic soils: deflocculated matrix of fine flat/porous silts (before consolidation test. A statistical analysis of CT-numbers for all the scanned samples has made possible the correlation of the mean and deviation values of CT-numbers per The relationship has an R-square of 0. gn ¼ 0:0006 HU þ 1 P ð3:1Þ Fig. This sample would have reached a much higher φ′ than if the maximum shear stress had been reached.e. It may be seen that a clear correlation of density to φ ′ does not exist. They are 121.4 cm. 1 with a bending point marked with a star in the Fig. 8. But more detailed analysis of CT-numbers over sample CAU11D enables a better understanding of local deformation.H.3 × 1 mm). 5b does not follow a normal distribution since the histogram envelopes are skewed and present several peaks especially for the middle part of the sample because of the presence of laminae. 132.05 to 1. ○ Sample CIU10 B turned out to be exceptional. The mean of these three local deformations. (b) Organics: plant remains in the debris aggregate. possibly wood cellular walls indicated by arrows (after consolidation test). / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 41 sample together with the bulk densities (after triaxial compression) and φ′-values measured in the laboratory. which enabled the transformation of average CTP numbers ( HU) to the bulk density (γn) for any volume (minimum volume: 0.6% measured at the end of triaxial test. H = 5 cm) of each part. 5a after the test are obviously the consequence of the consolidation that made the sample denser.8 and 112.

5% and 8. strain of different parts of sample CAU11D. Local radial strain of the bottom. the splitting failure mechanism cannot Fig. These values of local deformations confirm that denser laminae as more presented in bottom and middle parts than in the top part could more restrict axial compressive and radial extensional deformation.42 X. Schematic diagram of micro-deformation mechanisms of observed different layers (inside and outside denser laminae.H. all in extension. middle and top parts then follow equal to 1%.e. 9. . In conclusion. The sulphate may be also present as a relatively high amount of S indicates). Cheng et al. Two types of ministructures are thought to affect the shear strength and deformation of OVP samples: subhorizontal light and slightly darker laminae and. and 13% for the middle and 23% for the top. 18% for the bottom. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 Fig. the unusual minifabric of the OVP nonpeat soils has been studied by means of the CT-scanner. 10. outside laminae light lenses.5%. 3. Zones containing more laminae were found to deform less both axially and radially. Intact diatom embedded in amorphous organics (Existence of much carbon in EDAX results indicates the presence of organics and calciferous matter together with Ca as indicated. In the weakest part of the samples. i.

We propose to elucidate their role in the high strength of the OVP soils in a Distinct Element Modelling environment. shown in Fig. which eventually identified non-organic microstructural elements serving as internal confinement in OVP organics soils.9–2. shell and faeces fractions while organics were present in variable size and form (see Figs. The laminae are shown to be rich in angular and platy particles of medium silt size which are believed to interlock during deformation and contribute to the high strength of the OVP soils. all OVP organic soils exhibit extremely high values of φ′ during consolidated undrained triaxial compressions. We have defined a programme focused on the influence of laminae on the strength and deformation of OVP soils by testing samples with and without laminae in simple shear and Ko oedometer. 3) In the OVP tested soils organic materials were believed to have a primary contribution in increasing Atterberg limits and compressibility. either angular or elongated or even lenticular. 4(a) (sample CAU11D). one can imagine that they can sustain considerable amount of tensile stress rather than compressive stress. very organic silt and peat soil.X. e. very organic clay. / Engineering Geology 93 (2007) 31–44 43 be excluded when confining stress is low. lense-like structures are observed at several scales outside dense laminae and are believed to have a role of selfconfinement in much the same way as horizontally orientated plant fibers in peat. Concluding discussions 1) From geotechnical classification point of view. Cheng et al. The microstructure of the laminae and lenses is analyzed in the following section to better understand their contribution to the strength of the OVP soils. broken diatoms. More or less the same microstructures were found for the bright lamina besides the shear band zone in sample CAU11D. Despite a large spread in index properties. natural OVP organic soils contain three types of soft soils. while organic micro-fibers were also identified with EDAX (Fig. This chosen microfabric is believed to be representative. The silts generally included quartz fractions. The macro-mechanical properties of OVP organic soils depend on details of multi-level fabric to varying degrees. the presence of dense subhorizontal laminae is revealed. a looser microfabric was identified in which much finer silts and clay dominated the soil matrix with a much higher content of organics. Main siliceous silts involved in OVP organic soils were broken diatoms with lighter specific density (1.g.H. 4. unlike in fibrous peat the fibrous microstructural elements were difficult to detect in a back-swap light microscopy equipped in several geotechnical laboratories. 2) On one hand. platy and elongated siliceous silts. Broken diatom-related silts have very rough surfaces because of their nano-pores. 5. Microfabrics of OVP soils (up to a few tens of micrometers across) Optical and electron microscopy equipped with EDAX (energy diffraction analysis of X-rays for chemical element identification) were used for the close-up observation of the areas marked in Fig. The interlocking mechanism prevails inside denser laminae because of the higher contact opportunity of silts. But their role in increasing strength was not evident except in peat soil. which are considered to be responsible for the high friction angle of OVP organic soils. 3(b) (sample CIU10B) and Fig. Fig. Outside the laminae. Deformation mechanisms of the microstructural elements are proposed and these make the unusual geotechnical properties explainable. with the impression that more elongated and lenticular siliceous silts (broken diatoms) were present. Although the micro-mechanical properties of lenticular elements deserve further study. 4) Organics and microfossils are associated to high water content and allow the generation of high pore water pressures and low effective confining pressures during shearing. The medium-coarse siliceous silts inside denser laminae and the fine siliceous/carbonate silts outside interlock during deformation due to their shapes.2 g/cm3) than quartz (2. 8a illustrates such a microfabric of the organic silts of soil type d. Broken diatoms led to many elongated or lenticular silt-size fractions in OVP organic soils. 7. Moreover samples show little possibility of lateral extension other than collapse. The multi-scale investigation as presented bridged the gap between laboratory observations and microstructure. The denser lamina of sample 10B was dominated by angular. simply because of their non-organic nature. Coexistence of organics and microfossils made identification of organics difficult. This kind of deflocculated matrix is capable of holding much water and contributes greatly to the high compressibility of the soil.65 g/cm3). 10. The close observation of the material inside and outside the dense laminae allows to postulate the following micro-mechanisms as sketched in Fig. 8b and 9). It has been observed that high φ′ value is always correlated to low effective confining pressure. . On the other hand. But it can also take place in the looser material when samples have gone through a consolidation process. 6). Lenses found on the CT images outside the laminae can be microfossils (diatom or shell or unknown microfossils) or other silicates etc. On the other hand.

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