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Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

Original Research Article

Comparison of sandy soil shear strength parameters

obtained by various construction direct shear

apparatuses

J. Ams iejus, N. Dirgeliene

n

, A. Norkus, S

. Skuodis

Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Saultekio al.11, LT-10223 Vilnius, Lithuania

a r t i c l e i n f o

Article history:

Received 13 October 2012

Accepted 10 November 2013

Available online 2 December 2013

Keywords:

Direct shear test

Movable lower shear ring of sample

Constant volume

Soil shear strength parameters

Angle of internal friction

a b s t r a c t

An analysis of test results performed by common type of direct shear apparatuses shows

that normal stress on the shear plane of soil sample is not equal to vertical component of

distributed external load applied to the top of soil sample. Performed measurements

cleared that only 6585% of total vertical load is transmitted to the sample shear plane.

Thus, determining of the soil shear strength depends on shear apparatus construction, i.e.

on actual magnitude of vertical load transmitted to the shear plane. The paper presents an

analysis of shear strength parameters of sand determined by two different construction of

direct shear apparatuses with movable lower shear ring. The soil shear strength para-

meters by employing direct shear apparatus SPF-2 have been obtained under constant

vertical load and measuring the vertical load at different positions, namely: at the bottom

and that of at the top of soil sample, respectively. The soil strength parameters by

employing the universal shear testing device ADS 1/3 were determined under two

conditions, namely: by maintaining constant soil volume and that of for constant vertical

load, respectively. In both cases the vertical load was measured at the top of soil sample.

& 2013 Politechnika Wroc"awska. Published by Elsevier Urban & Partner Sp. z o.o. All rights

reserved.

1. Introduction

At present the direct shear and triaxial tests are the most

common laboratory tests for determining soil shear strength

parameters. Direct shear test is the most widely applied

method in Lithuania. Direct shear and triaxial tests are

widely applied in other countries [1,2]. An angle of internal

friction (1) and a cohesion c (kPa) are the shear strength

parameters of the Mohr Coulomb strength criterion, gen-

erally being identied by the above listed methods.

Direct shear test is simple and relatively cheap method

for determining the soil shear strength parameters. The

construction of apparatus is not complicated, the test is fast

to perform, the output data can be relatively easily processed

to obtain the necessary parameters. Therefore the direct

shear apparatuses are widely applied in an engineering

practice and for research aims [5,11,16,20]. Despite an attrac-

tion of the method, the obtained experience and recognized

factors leading to many inaccuracies (as e.g. discrepancy to

introduced assumptions, boundary conditions, etc.) raise a

1644-9665/$ - see front matter & 2013 Politechnika Wroc"awska. Published by Elsevier Urban & Partner Sp. z o.o. All rights reserved.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acme.2013.11.004

n

Corresponding author. Tel.: 370 52745220.

E-mail addresses: Jonas.Amsiejus@vgtu.lt (J. Amiejus), Neringa.Dirgeliene@vgtu.lt (N. Dirglien),

Arnoldas.Norkus@vgtu.lt (A. Norkus), Sarunas.Skuodis@vgtu.lt (. Skuodis).

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4

necessity for deeper analysis and subsequent improvements

to ensure the more reliable and adequate testing and data

processing methods using this technique [4,18]. The efforts

are applied to eliminate/reduce an inuence of unexpected

factors, that inuencing the accuracy of shear strength

parameters to be determined [3,9,15,17]. But one can face

the cases when the tools being employed to eliminate

negative above mentioned factors of applied apparatuses

induce the new additional negative factors.

The main mentioned negative factors met in practice of

determining strength parameters via the usual direct shear

apparatuses can be listed as follow: non-uniform stress and

strain distribution in sample; the vertical compressive load

applied on the top is not completely transferred to the sample;

the actual distribution of normal load on shear plane is

unknown; the testing conditions do not imitate a soil sample

behavior in ground; one cannot perform the test under the

constant volume condition [10,19,21]. The distribution of stres-

ses in sample applying the direct shear box depends on: the

way of vertical load transmission; the position of the movable

part of shear ring; the horizontal displacement of the movable

part of the ring; the shape and stiffness of the loading plate; the

clearance between the upper and the lower rings of the box [3].

Generally it is assumed that vertical load applied onto the top

of shear box specimen is completely transmitted to the soil

shear plane. Hence the frictional force mobilized between the

specimen and that of the vertical walls of the shear box is not

taken into account [12,13]. It is obvious that the above listed

reasons inuence to the accuracy of determined actual soil

shear strength parameters. All the above factors nally result

that shear strength parameters to be either underestimated (for

contractant soils) or overestimated (for dilatant soils) [6,7,14,22].

The performed by authors measurements of normal stress

in the shear plane showed that it is of 6585% magnitude of

vertical force applied on the top of the sample. The tests have

been performed by direct shear apparatus SPF-2 with movable

lower shear ring. The normal stress magnitude on the shear

plane also depends on the magnitude of horizontal displace-

ment (varying from zero till the xed magnitude) of movable

part of shear box during the testing procedure. The testing

procedure was stopped when the following requirements have

been reached, namely: the horizontal displacement reached

6 mm, and the normal stress on the shear plane exceeded 10%

of normal stress being developed on the top of the dense

sample. The vertical load to the soil sample was applied via the

loading plate by using the special lever mechanism. When the

horizontal (lateral) force is applied, the soil in the front of an

upper ring is lifted, and in the contrary side of upper ring the

soil moves down. The tangential stresses being developed at

internal surface of upper ring front is much larger the ones

being developed at the internal surface of the contrary side of

the upper ring. The developed frictional forces between ring

and sample will be larger in the front of the upper ring.

So one can conclude, that the soil shear strength depends on

construction of the shear apparatus. Hence aiming to reduce the

inuence of shear apparatus construction on experimentally

determined shear strength parameters, one should manage the

actual regularity of normal stress distribution in shear plane.

The performed investigation is assigned to an analysis of

determined shear strength parameters of sandy soil being

obtained with two different constructions of direct shear

apparatuses with movable lower shear ring. The tests with

apparatus SPF-2 have been performed under constant normal

stress and by measuring the vertical load at the top and at the

bottom of the sample, respectively. The direct shear tests

with apparatus ADS 1/3 have been performed under two

conditions: by maintaining the constant soil volume and by

measuring the vertical load at the top of soil sample, and that

of by applying the constant vertical load and by measuring

the vertical load at the top of soil sample, respectively.

2. Construction of employed direct shear

apparatuses

The shear tests with modied standard apparatus SPF-2 have

been performed at Laboratory of Department of Geotechnical

Engineering of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University. Mod-

ication of apparatus has been developed via implementing a

vertical load measuring system at shear plane. The principal

scheme of employed apparatus is given in Fig. 1.

When applying the modied direct shear apparatus SPF-2

it is possible to measure not only the vertical compressive

force applied onto the sample, but also the normal stress

transferred on the shear plane. For determining the normal

force acting on the shear plane the load transducer is placed

onto the lower ring. One can also perform the test under the

constant volume. The cut cone loading plate, that reducing

probability of contact between ring and loading plate, is

employed. The loading plate can freely tilt.

The vertical load is transmitted to the sample via a hinge

transmission applying the lever mechanism. Such method of

loading ensures constant vertical load magnitude on the top

of sample i.e. developing constant normal stress per whole

loading history. During test the normal load is measured at

the bottom of the sample. The sample is sheared by moving

with a constant velocity the lower part of the ring. Thus, the

shearing velocity is controlled and the lateral force is perma-

nently measured.

Fig. 1 Principal scheme of modied shear box apparatus

SPF-2: 1 soil; 2 lower ring; 3 upper ring; 4 xed

support; 5 movable part of apparatus; 6 bell track;

7 lower part of apparatus; 8 load transducers; 9 table

of apparatus; 10 supports; 11 loading plate; 12 xator;

13 porous stone; 14 plate of support.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 328

The principal scheme of universal shear testing device

ADS 1/3 is given in Fig. 2. The sample is loaded by a chosen

vertical load via a stiff loading plate. The shearing is

performed by maintaining the constant sample volume, i.e.

the height, not allowing the dilation or contraction of the

sample. The process is maintained via regulating the normal

stress magnitude. The normal stress is measured at the top of

the sample. The sample horizontal loading is realized by

pushing a movable lower ring with a constant velocity and

permanently measuring the magnitude of the lateral force.

3. Soil properties and preparation of sample

The disturbed samples have been prepared by employing the

compacting procedure. The coarse soil, further referred as

sand is from the Moravia region quarry in Czechia. The

grading curve of sand is given in Fig. 3. The sand uniformity

coefcient is 2.0, the curvature coefcient 1.12, the specic

gravity of soil particles is

s

2.50 g/cm

3

, the mean of grain

size is 0.425 mm.

The samples have been prepared by compacting sand of

10% water content via three layers. The properties of pre-

pared samples are as follow: density 1.575 g/cm

3

, void

ratio e 0.746.

4. Test method

The samples have been sheared by above described appara-

tuses under four normal loads magnitudes, namely 50, 100,

150, 200 kPa. The samples under the same load magnitude

have been sheared at least three times.

The prepared sand sample is placed into the shear ring of

SPF-2. The cylinder form sample height is 3.41 cm, diameter

is 7.14 cm. The sample is loaded by the vertical load of chosen

magnitude. When the normal displacement stabilizes, the

lateral loading is applied. The lower part of shear ring is

pushed by the constant velocity of 0.5 mm/min. The test is

considered to be nished when horizontal displacement of

the ring reaches 6 mm.

The analogous procedures were performed with the appa-

ratus ADS 1/3. The sample is of the same cylinder form, the

height is 3.39 cm and the diameter is 7.14 cm. The develop-

ment of horizontal displacement was limited by 9 mm.

By processing the test data the shear strength parameters

have been calculated applying the least squares method. The

peak values of shear strength coincide the maximum ratio of

/s and that of the residual values coincide the minimum

ratio of /s. Both magnitudes correspond the maximal hor-

izontal displacements of lower shear ring part.

5. Test results

5.1. Analysis of experimental data obtained by SPF-2

apparatus

Investigations with the apparatus SPF-2 have been performed

via loading the sample by the constant vertical load on the

top of the sample and by measuring the vertical load at the

bottom. The measurements cleared, that not all magnitude of

vertical load is transmitted onto the sample shear plane.

The soil samples have been loaded by the constant vertical

forces of the following magnitudes: 50, 100, 150, and 200 kPa.

Fig. 4 illustrates that the listed load magnitudes have been

not reached at shear plane at the beginning of the test, i.e.

they have been reached only at the end of the test (see Fig. 4).

One can nd that the shear plane is loaded only by the

6585% of total vertical load magnitude at the beginning of

the experiment. When the sample is loaded by vertical load,

the developed lateral pressure push the sample to internal

surface of the ring, so constraining the vertical displacement

of the sample. During shear process the soil moves vertically

Fig. 2 Principal scheme of universal shear testing device

ADS 1/3: 1 lter plate; 2 movable lower ring; 3 xed

upper ring; 4 soil; 5 load piston; 6 xation of upper ring;

7 xed support; 8 water jacket; 9 plate of lower ring;

10 movable plate of base; 11 xators; 12 xation of

movable plate of base; 13 skids; 14 support of upper ring.

Fig. 3 Grading curve of sand.

Fig. 4 Stress paths for the tests with SPF-2 obtained under

constant vertical load condition and measuring vertical load

at the bottom of the soil sample.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 329

because of the volume change. The upper shear ring tries also

to displace, but a xator of clearance blocks its moving down.

Therefore a part of vertical load applied on the top of sample

is transmitted to the xator of clearance. Therefore the

vertical load magnitude applied to shear plane is less the

one applied on the top of the sample, i.e. that being devel-

oped at contact of the loading plate.

The shear tests performed with the apparatus SPF-2 have

been performed by applying the constant vertical stress and

measuring the normal stress at the top of the sample. From

Fig. 5, one can nd that the applied vertical load of magni-

tudes of 50, 100, 150, and 200 kPa with some inaccuracy

remained constant during all the test time. The determined

stress paths of the sample differ from those, measured on the

bottom of sample (see Fig. 4). The stresses measured at the

bottom varies during the test time.

Figs. 69 present the individual shear strength values,

processed by the rst test series performed with the appara-

tus SPF-2. The scatter of values is small, as normal stresses

have been measured at shear plane (see Figs. 6 and 7).

The second test series with the apparatus SPF-2 have been

performed. In this case the constant vertical stress was

measured at the top of the sample. One can nd that the

scatter of soil shear strength values is signicant for the case

under consideration (see Figs. 8 and 9). Hence, an inaccurate

of the normal stress magnitude, differing from actual induced

on the shear plane, was employed for calculations.

5.2. Analysis of experimental data obtained by ADS 1/3

apparatus

The shear tests have been performed with shear apparatus

ADS 1/3 by maintaining the constant volume of soil sample

and by measuring the vertical force on top of the sample. The

load magnitudes of 100, 150, and 200 kPa have been applied

Fig. 5 Stress paths for the tests with SPF-2 obtained under

constant vertical load condition and measuring vertical load

at the top of soil sample.

Fig. 6 Peak values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with SPF-2 under constant vertical load condition

and measuring vertical load at the bottom of the soil sample.

Fig. 7 Residual values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with SPF-2 under constant vertical load condition

and measuring vertical load at the bottom of the soil sample.

Fig. 8 Peak values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with SPF-2 under constant vertical load condition

and measuring vertical load at the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 9 Residual values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with SPF-2 under constant vertical load condition

and measuring vertical load at the top of the soil sample.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 330

(see Fig. 10). Aiming to keep the constant sample volume at

the beginning of testing, the loading primarily has been

reduced because the contraction of the soil started. When

the soil sample started to dilatate during shearing, the

normal stress was increased aiming to constrain the sample

dilatation in a vertical direction.

The amount of vertical load being transmitted to shear

plane is unknown as a support of upper ring is installed in the

shear apparatus ADS 1/3. This support keeps a clearance of

xed magnitude between the upper and the lower rings. The

support of upper ring constrains the moving down of the

upper ring but allows its lifting. Thus, the part of vertical load

is distributed to the apparatus construction.

Several tests have been performed when the clearance

between upper and lower rings was not xed. The clearance

varied during the test. Fig. 11 illustrates a variation of the

clearance during the test, when the sample was loaded by

50 kN vertical load magnitude. The clearance inuences the

shear strength magnitude.

When the upper ring moves down, it leans against the

lower ring. In this case not total magnitude of the vertical

load is transmitted to the shear plane, in contrary as it is

assumed in soil shear strength calculations. The actual load

is reduced. The moving of upper and lower rings in respect of

each other is inuenced by developed a friction force between

the rings, which magnitude is hardly determined.

The next test series with ADS 1/3 apparatus were

performed by maintaining the constant vertical load and

by measuring the normal stress on the top of the sample.

Fig. 12 illustrates that the set load is kept constant until the

moment soil starts to shear.

The scatter of individual shear strength is also small when

test series with ADS 1/3 apparatus were performed by main-

taining the constant sample volume and measuring the

normal stress on top of the sample (see Figs. 13 and 14).

Fig. 11 Variation of the clearance between upper and lower

rings recorded by four indicators.

Fig. 12 Stress paths for the tests with ADS 1/3 obtained

under constant vertical load and measuring normal stress at

the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 13 Peak values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with ADS 1/3 under constant soil volume condition

and measuring vertical load at the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 14 Residual values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with ADS 1/3 under constant soil volume condition

and measuring vertical load at the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 10 Stress paths for the tests with ADS 1/3 obtained

under constant soil volume condition and measuring

vertical load at the top of the soil sample.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 331

The sticking of the loading plate in the ring can be considered

as eventual reason of this result.

At the second case when the constant vertical stress was

measured on top of the sample, the scatter of individual

shear strengths values is also small (see Figs. 15 and 16).

5.3. Calculation of soil shear strength parameters

The mean values of soil shear strength parameters

0

and

c

0

were calculated applying the least squares method. The

magnitudes of the above values depend on the normal stress

magnitude on shear plane. If this magnitude being employed

for calculation is not an actual one, then the magnitudes of

subsequently calculated values of the angle of internal fric-

tion and the cohesion are inaccurate.

Fig. 17 illustrates the peak values of the angle of internal

friction of soil obtained with shear apparatuses ADS 1/3

(constant volume of sample and measuring normal stress at

sample top) and SPF-2 (constant vertical loading at top and

measuring normal stress at bottom of sample). One can nd

that the peak values are smaller in case of using apparatus

ADS 1/3. The residual values of the angle of internal friction

obtained by using the test data with both apparatuses are

the same.

Fig. 18 illustrates the results of the determined cohesion

by processing the test results with the above-mentioned

apparatuses. One can nd the magnitudes of residual values

of cohesion obtained with the apparatus ADS 1/3 are sig-

nicantly less the ones obtained with the apparatus SPF-2.

Figs. 19 and 20 illustrate the values of the angle of internal

friction and the cohesion for the test cases with both

apparatuses, when the sand samples have been loaded by

constant vertical load and the normal stress was measured at

the top of the samples. The peak value of the angle of internal

friction was less for the apparatus SPF-2 when comparing

with one obtained with the apparatus ADS 1/3. The residual

value of the angle of internal friction is greater when applying

the test data obtained with SPF-2 apparatus (see Fig. 19). An

analysis of cohesion values that obtained by processing the

test data with above apparatuses viewed that using appara-

tus ADS 1/3 leads to greater magnitudes versus the ones

obtained with SPF-2 (see Fig. 20).

The calculated characteristics values of soil shear strength

parameters according to requirements of EC 7 [8] are pre-

sented in the Table 1.

Fig. 17 Values of angle of internal friction obtained with

shear apparatuses SPF-2 (constant vertical loading at top

and measuring normal stress at bottom of sample) and

ADS 1/3 (constant volume of sample and measuring normal

stress at sample top).

Fig. 18 Values of cohesion obtained with shear

apparatuses SPF-2 (constant vertical loading at top and

measuring normal stress at bottom of sample) and ADS 1/3

(constant volume of sample and measuring normal stress at

sample top).

Fig. 15 Peak values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with ADS 1/3 measuring constant vertical load

at the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 16 Residual values of soil shear strength parameters

obtained with ADS 1/3 measuring constant vertical load at

the top of the soil sample.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 332

Let us summarize all performed test results. Characteristic

values of the angle of internal friction

0

k

varies within the

bounds of 24.01 and 34.61. The maximum magnitude corre-

sponds the tests performed with apparatus SPF-2 in case with

implemented measuring system of vertical load at shear

plane. It differs insignicantly comparing with the one of

0

cvk

32.81 obtained with the apparatus ADS 1/3. The mini-

mum value of

0

k

24.01 is obtained with the apparatus SPF-2

when the normal stress is measured at the top of the sample.

This case of testing also corresponds the minimum value of

the cohesion c

0

k

26.3 kPa. Thus, having not estimated the

actual normal stress at shear plane, one faces with the large

scatter of soil strength parameters, nally resulting the

smaller characteristic magnitudes of

0

k

and c

0

k

. Figs. 21 and

22 represent the condence interval bounds of shear strength

for tests performed with the apparatus SPF-2 when the

constant vertical load is measured at the top of the sample.

Table 1 Results of calculation of the characteristics values of soil shear strength parameters according to EC 7.

Methods Characteristics values of peak shear

strength parameters

0

k

,1 and c

0

k

, kPa

SPF 2 apparatus, constant vertical load measured at the bottom of soil sample

0

k

34.6 (0.691)

c

0

k

7.32

ADS 1/3 apparatus, constant soil volume, vertical load measured at the top of soil sample

0

cvk

32.8 (0.644)

c

0

cvk

14.3

SPF 2 apparatus, constant vertical load measured at the top of soil sample

0

k

24.0 (0.445)

c

0

k

26.3

ADS 1/3 apparatus, constant vertical load measured at the top of soil sample

0

k

31.9 (0.622)

c

0

k

1.99

Fig. 21 Diagram of shear strength. Bounds of condence

interval when

0

and c

0

are treated as independent values.

Fig. 22 Diagram of shear strength. Bounds of condence

interval when

0

and c

0

are treated as dependent values.

Fig. 19 Values of angle of internal friction obtained for

samples loaded by constant vertical load and measuring

normal stress at the top of the soil sample.

Fig. 20 Values of cohesion obtained for samples loaded by

constant vertical load and measuring normal stress at the

top of the soil sample.

a r c h i v e s o f c i v i l a n d m e c h a n i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 1 4 ( 2 0 1 4 ) 3 2 7 3 3 4 333

Fig. 21 corresponds the case when

0

k

and c

0

k

are treated as

the independent values, following the requirements of the

standard EC 7. Fig. 22 corresponds the case when

0

k

and

c

0

k

are treated as dependent values. When the values are

dependant the bound of condence interval (due prescribed

probability) is more narrow (see Fig. 22) when compared with

the case when values are independent (see Fig. 21).

Considering the characteristic values of the shear strength

parameters

0

k

24.01 (0.445) and c

0

k

26.3 kPa correspond-

ing the rst and the second cases, one can conclude that they

are out of a domain being xed by the bounds of condence

interval obtained for probability 0.95. The characteristic

values of the shear strength parameters according the Eurocode

7 should be determined in the way, that the probability of worse

shear strength parameters cannot exceed 5%. This requirement

is satised only for the case when normal stress at shear plane

is equal to zero. Applying the larger magnitude of normal stress,

this probability reduces. Hence, the characteristic values of the

shear strength parameters calculated for above cases do not

ensure the strength getting in the domain bounded by the

condence intervals obtained with probability 0.95. Hence,

the characteristic values are obtained with the larger margin of

safety comparing with that being provided by the Eurocode 7.

6. Conclusions

(1) An analysis of shear tests with sandy soil shows that the

normal stress on the shear plane of soil sample is not

equal to vertical component of the stress applied to the

top of the soil sample when using direct shear apparatus

SPF-2 with movable lower shear ring.

(2) Only the 6585% of vertical load magnitude is transmitted

on the soil shear plane when vertical load is applied to

sample top using the direct shear apparatus SPF-2.

(3) When determining the soil shear strength with the uni-

versal shear apparatus ADS 1/3, which maintains the

constant soil volume and measures the vertical load at

top of sample, it is not clear what part of the vertical load

is transmitted to the shear plane and that of to the

construction of apparatus, respectively.

(4) When applying the modied direct shear apparatus SPF-2

it is possible to measure the normal stress on the shear

plane. This constructional approach inuences for deter-

mining of the actual shear strength parameters.

Acknowledgement

An equipment and infrastructure of Civil Engineering Scien-

tic Research Centre of Vilnius Gediminas Technical Univer-

sity was employed for investigations.

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