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**to cyclic lateral loading
**

E. Bourgeois

a,⇑

, M.H.J. Rakotonindriana

a

, A. Le Kouby

a

, P. Mestat

a

, J.F. Serratrice

b

a

Université Paris-Est, LCPC-MSRGI, 58 bd Lefebvre, F-75732 Paris Cedex 15, France

b

Centre d’Etudes Techniques de l’Equipement Méditerranée, LRPC Aix en Provence, Pôle d’activité les Milles, CS 70499 – BP3700, 13593 Aix en Provence Cedex 3, France

a r t i c l e i n f o

Article history:

Received 8 April 2010

Received in revised form 19 July 2010

Accepted 23 August 2010

Available online 17 September 2010

Keywords:

Non-linear kinematic hardening

Lateral load

Pile

Finite element method

Centrifuge test

Validation

a b s t r a c t

This paper presents a ﬁnite element simulation of the behaviour of a vertical pile subjected to a cyclic

lateral loading. First, the choice of a suitable constitutive model is discussed. The analytical solution of

the model equations for a monotonic triaxial compression is given, and the model is compared with

monotonic and cyclic triaxial tests on dry Fontainebleau sand. Simulations of tests carried out on a model

pile with the geotechnical centrifuge of the French Public Works Research Laboratory (LCPC) were then

performed with the model parameters derived from the triaxial tests. Results are in good agreement with

experiments.

Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Deep foundations are widely used in civil engineering to pro-

vide the performance required by all types of structures. In most

cases, piles are vertical and designed to bear static vertical loads.

However, in some situations, static horizontal loads must be taken

into account. Design methods have been developed accordingly

and have proven efﬁcient and safe. However, the design of some

advanced structures of civil engineering (e.g. windmills, towers

several hundred of metres high, and high-speed train lines via-

ducts) makes it necessary to take into account variable and re-

peated horizontal loads due to winds, tides and waves, or other

types of mechanical loads. The amplitude of the load under discus-

sion can be considered constant, and the evolution of the structure

towards large permanent strain or failure is caused not only by its

magnitude but also by its repetition. In other words, in the ﬁrst ap-

proach, the variable loading can be seen as a cyclic load with a con-

stant amplitude.

Several modelling approaches have been proposed to account

for the behaviour of a single pile under a lateral load. Most of these

approaches fall into one of two categories. In the ﬁrst category, the

ground is modelled by a set of linear or non-linear springs with a

thickness depending on the ground layers. This type of approach

makes it possible to reproduce the variations of the properties of

the ground by adjusting the parameters of the springs, represented

by the so-called p–y curves. Various normalised design procedures

are available (for instance, the design rules of the API [1], or in

France, the recommendations of the so-called Fascicule 62 [2]).

The main difﬁculty in practice is to obtain realistic p–y curves for

a given site. The simplest way to adapt such methods is to extend

the static p–y curves in the cyclic domain (API [1]). An attempt to

do so has been carried out on the basis of experimental centrifuge

tests for a small number of cycles by Rosquoet et al. [36] and, more

recently, for a larger number of cycles by Rakotonindriana [3].

In the second type of approach, the soil is modelled as a contin-

uum (see for instance [4–9]). Brown and Shie [10] derived p–y

curves from the results of three-dimensional ﬁnite element simu-

lations to obtain a better representation of the non-linearity of

the soil–pile interaction, then used ﬁnite element simulations to

capture group effects on the response of laterally loaded piles

[11] and to investigate the effect on the soil response of some

parameters such as in situ soil stresses and sloping ground [12].

Kimura et al. [13] showed the ability of the ﬁnite element method

to investigate the ultimate behaviour of a laterally loaded pile

group on the basis of comparisons between simulations and full-

scale tests. More recently, three-dimensional ﬁnite element analy-

ses have been carried out by Wakai et al. [14] to simulate the

0266-352X/$ - see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.compgeo.2010.08.008

⇑

Corresponding author. Address: Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées, 58

boulevard Lefevre, F-75732 Paris Cedex 15, France. Tel.: +33 1 40 43 54 17; fax: +33

1 40 43 65 11.

E-mail addresses: emmanuel.bourgeois@lcpc.fr (E. Bourgeois), julio.rakotonin-

driana@lcpc.fr (M.H.J. Rakotonindriana), alain.lekouby@lcpc.fr (A. Le Kouby),

philippe.mestat@lcpc.fr (P. Mestat), jean-francois.serratrice@developpement-dura-

ble.gouv.fr (J.F. Serratrice).

Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Computers and Geotechnics

j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ compgeo

behaviour of model tests of free- or ﬁxed headed pile groups sub-

jected to lateral loading and to discuss the inﬂuence of the

mechanical connection between pile heads in the group. Yang

and Jeremic [15] used three-dimensional ﬁnite element simula-

tions to investigate the inﬂuence of a layered soil on the p–y

curves. On the whole, fully three-dimensional numerical simula-

tions are often considered as a way to overcome the limitations

of the classical p–y curve approach (or of Winkler-type ap-

proaches) because one is led to propose empirical modiﬁcations

of the curves when it becomes necessary to account for interac-

tions with neighbouring structures, slopes, group effects, or com-

bined loadings.

The aim of this study was to show that three-dimensional ﬁnite

element simulations can be used to analyse the cyclic behaviour of

a laterally loaded pile, provided that a suitable constitutive model

is used. The main interest of the approach is to solve the problem

of adjusting p–y curves to account for the progressive degradation

of the soil–pile interaction. However, special attention must be

paid to the difﬁculty of the determination of the model parameters

on the basis of standard laboratory or ﬁeld tests. First, an overview

of the numerous models available in the literature is brieﬂy pre-

sented, which provides the basis for the choice of a model suitable

for the simulation of a pile under cyclic lateral loading. The main

criterion is that the model must capture the main features of the

soil behaviour under cyclic loading with a small number of param-

eters. The results obtained in the case of a monotonic triaxial com-

pression test are presented. Then the model parameters are

adjusted by comparing simulations with monotonic and cyclic tri-

axial tests carried out on dry Fontainebleau sand. In the last sec-

tion, the results of a three-dimensional ﬁnite element simulation

of the behaviour of a single pile subjected to a cyclic lateral load

are compared with the results of experiments carried out in the

geotechnical centrifuge of the French Public Works Research Labo-

ratory (LCPC) in Nantes, France. Finally, the possibility of deriving

p–y curves from the numerical simulations and predicting their

evolution under cyclic loadings is discussed.

2. Theory

2.1. Constitutive models for cyclic behaviour

Constitutive models that make it possible to reproduce cyclic

behaviour such as adaptation, accommodation or ratcheting have

been discussed in numerous works (see, among many others, the

surveys by Dafalias [16], Hicher and Shao [17] for soils and rocks

or Besson [18] for other materials). Most models introduce a kine-

matic hardening law because isotropic hardening does not make it

possible to reproduce plastic strain accumulation under cyclic

stress, but can be divided into several categories:

– models with several yield surfaces, such as the CJS model [19],

which combines an isotropic mechanism and deviatoric mech-

anism deﬁned by a yield surface that depends on the Lode

angle.

– other models that involve nested yield surfaces within a bound-

ing yield surface; see for instance [20–24].

The choice of the model features (e.g. the number of nested sur-

faces) depends on the precision required in the representation of

the behaviour. On the whole, such advanced models prove to be ex-

tremely polyvalent. On the other hand, they have two drawbacks:

– From the numerical point of view, the introduction of the mod-

els can prove difﬁcult because of the large number of variables

needed to store the state and positions of the different surfaces.

– From a practical point of view, the identiﬁcation of parameters

is an awkward problem that relies on laboratory tests in which

the soil sample is subjected to complex stress paths. Such a

complex determination procedure is acceptable for artiﬁcial

materials, for which one can prepare a large number of samples

with similar properties, but is far less useable for geomaterials,

especially if the model is to be used to discuss the behaviour of

actual structures, because of the natural variability in space of

the mechanical properties of soils. This problem is a strong

motivation to choose the simplest possible model.

Such models can accurately describe the evolution of stresses

and strains around a pile subjected to a cyclic lateral load but prove

costly to use if the number of cycles under discussion is large.

Wichtmann [25] combined a hypoplastic model of the same type

as the models mentioned above with a law describing the accumu-

lation of plastic strain over a large number of cycles. The approach

was developed in the case of triaxial tests and must store six sca-

lars for each integration point to describe the evolutions of the

plastic strain.

We chose to retain the approach consisting of reproducing the

behaviour cycle by cycle by means of an appropriate constitutive

law. However, keeping in mind that the simulation of a pile sub-

jected to a horizontal load is signiﬁcantly more complex than the

simulation of triaxial tests (because the directions of the principal

stresses can rotate and because the values of the stresses are not

controlled), we tried to keep the model formulation as simple as

possible.

2.2. Choice of a model

To be able to perform numerical simulations of the behaviour of

real structures, the constitutive model must be formulated in a

general three-dimensional framework with no assumptions on

the principal directions of the stress tensor or on the relative values

of the principal stresses. Apart from this basic requirement, it was

preferable to use the familiar framework of elastoplasticity with a

linear elastic law characterised by Young’s modulus E and Poisson’s

ratio v; the model involves only one plastic (deviatoric) mechanism

with a smooth yield surface.

To account for plastic strain accumulation during cyclic load-

ings, a kinematic hardening law is needed. The yield surface is

translated in the stress space as plastic strain occurs, and the yield

function is given by

f ðrÞ ¼ Fðr ÀXÞ

where X denotes the hardening variable, and F(r) stands for the ini-

tial yield function. The simplest choice is the Drucker–Prager func-

tion [26]:

FðrÞ ¼

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

1

2

s : s

_

þa tr r Àk

where a and k are two material constants. As mentioned previously,

F is clearly a function of the ﬁrst two invariants of the stress tensor

and does not depend on the Lode angle in the deviatoric plane.

The accumulation of plastic strain can be obtained with a non-

linear law to describe the evolution of the kinematic hardening

variable X. The simplest choice seems to be the law proposed by

Armstrong and Fredericks [27]:

_

X ¼ 2=3C

_

e

p

ÀDX

_

n

where C is a reference stress value, D is a dimensionless parameter

and

_

n ¼ ð2=3

_

e

p

:

_

e

p

Þ

1=2

. The term

_

n ¼ ð2=3

_

e

p

:

_

e

p

Þ

1=2

remains positive

even if the plastic rate changes sign; this makes it possible to in-

crease the plastic strain continuously. This simple formulation

1000 E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007

makes the number of parameters as low as possible, which is the

reason why it is used hereafter. However, numerous improvements

can be used for better control of the rate of plastic strain. Among

other possibilities (for instance, [28,29]), one can introduce a varia-

tion of the coefﬁcient of

_

e

p

:

_

X ¼ 2=3CuðnÞ

_

e

p

ÀDX

_

n

where u(n) is an additional scalar function. Other models activate

the back stress component ÀDX

_

n only if X matches an extra condi-

tion, making it possible to deﬁne conditions under which no rat-

cheting occurs (see [30]). However, such improvements to the

model increase the number of parameters and the difﬁculty of

determining these parameters on the basis of standard laboratory

tests.

For the plastic ﬂow rule, the plastic potential is assumed to be

given by

gðrÞ ¼ Gðr ÀXÞ

with

GðrÞ ¼

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

1

2

s : s

_

þb tr r

Within this framework, one obtains a model with a single devi-

atoric plastic mechanism that includes a basic representation of

the accumulation of plastic strain during a cyclic load. The lowest

possible number of parameters seems to be seven: the Young’s

modulus E and Poisson’s ratio for the isotropic elastic linear law,

a and k for the Drucker–Prager yield surface, C and D for the

non-linear hardening mechanism, and b for the ﬂow rule. The for-

mulation of the hardening law makes the model relatively easy to

implement in a ﬁnite element code. On the other hand, it appears

that the parameters C and D control both the behaviour under a

monotonic loading and the behaviour under cycling loadings.

2.3. Integration of the constitutive equations for a monotonic loading

The simplicity of the model formulation makes is possible to de-

rive the solution of the constitutive equations for a monotonic tri-

axial compression test analytically (in the case where both a and b

are positive and smaller than 1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

). Assume, for instance, that a

sample is initially in an isotropic stress state r ¼ Àr

3

1 and sub-

jected to a monotonically increasing vertical stress while the con-

ﬁning pressure r

3

remains constant. The vertical compressive

stress r

1

is such that r1 < r

3

< 0. In what follows, we adopt the fol-

lowing notations:

r ¼ r

1

e

1

e

1

þr

3

ðe

2

e

2

þe

3

e

3

Þ; q ¼ r

3

Àr

1

X ¼ X

1

e

1

e

1

þX

3

ðe

2

e

2

þe

3

e

3

Þ; X

3

¼ X

1

þx

The lateral stress is constant r

3

= Àr°. The value of the yield

function is given by

f ðr ÀXÞ ¼

jq Àxj

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p það3ðr

3

ÀX

3

Þ Àðq ÀxÞÞ Àk

and the ﬂow rule is

_

e

p

1

¼

_

k À

q Àx

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

jq Àxj

þb

_ _

_

e

p

1

¼

_

k

q Àx

2

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

jq Àxj

þb

_ _

where

_

k denotes the plastic multiplier. Initially, X

1

= X

3

= 0 and

q = 0. Assuming that q–x is positive, one ﬁnds

_

e

p

1

¼

_

kðb À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ ;

_

e

p

1

¼

_

kðb þ1=2

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ

_

n ¼

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2

3

_

e

p

:

_

e

p

_

¼

_

k

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_

which leads to

_

X

1

¼

2

3

C

_

e

p

1

ÀDX

1

_

n ¼

_

k

2

3

Cðb À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ ÀDX

1

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_ _ _

X

1

¼

2Cðb À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ

3D

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_ 1 Àexp ÀD

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_

k

_ _ _ _

and similarly

X

3

¼

2Cðb þ1=2

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ

3D

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_ ½1 ÀexpðÀD

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_

kÞ

which shows that there is a simple relationship between X

1

and X

3

:

X

1

b À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p ¼

X

3

b þ1=2

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

It is then easy to state that

e

p

1

¼ kðb À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ !X

1

¼

2Cðb À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Þ

3D

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_ 1 Àexp D

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_

1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Àb

e

p

1

_

_

_

_

_

_

_

_

and the consistency condition makes it possible (after some calcu-

lation) to derive the expression of the deviatoric stress as a function

of the axial plastic strain:

q ¼ q

el

þðq

max

Àq

el

Þ½1 Àexpðce

p

1

Þ

with

q

el

¼

k À3ar

3

1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Àa

ð1Þ

q

max

Àq

el

¼

C

D

1 þ6ab

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

3ð1 þ6b

2

Þ

_

1

1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Àa

ð2Þ

c ¼

D

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_

1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

Àb

In addition, the volumetric plastic strain is related to the axial

plastic strain by

e

p

v

¼ e

p

1

þ2e

p

3

¼ 3

_

kb ¼

3b

b À1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p e

p

1

Thus, one can establish the relationship between the axial and

volumetric strains and the deviatoric stress

e

1

¼ e

e

1

þe

p

1

¼ À

q

E

À

1

c

ln

q

max

Àq

el

q

max

Àq

_ _

e

v

¼ e

e

v

þe

p

v

¼ À

1 À2v

E

q þ

3b

cð1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

ÀbÞ

ln

q

max

Àq

el

q

max

Àq

_ _

which shows that the rate of the total volumetric strain changes

sign for q = q

cr

, with

q

cr

¼ q

max

À

3bE

cð1=

ﬃﬃﬃ

3

p

ÀbÞð1 À2vÞ

¼ q

max

À

3bE

ð1 À2vÞD

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

2b

2

þ1=3

_ ð3Þ

The analytical solution makes it possible to draw the q À e

1

and

e

v

Àe

1

curves. Typical curves and characteristic values are shown

in Fig. 1. The analytical solution shows that the ultimate value of

E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007 1001

the deviatoric stress is the sum of the value q

el

of the deviatoric

stress at the end of the elastic regime and of a term depending only

on C/D, a and b. Because q

el

is linear with respect to the conﬁning

pressure r

3

, q

max

varies also linearly with r

3

. However, the differ-

ence between the ultimate deviatoric stress q

max

and the elastic

limit q

el

does not depend on r

3

.

The analytical integration of the model equations for non-

monotonic load paths is more difﬁcult because the increase in plas-

tic strain over a cycle depends on the maximum and minimum val-

ues of the axial stress. Given that the cyclic behaviour of the sand is

our main concern and that we were able to derive the analytical

solution of the triaxial compression only in the monotonic case,

the choice of the parameters used in the subsequent simulations

was not based on the analytical expressions obtained above;

parameters were chosen by searching sets of parameters, making

it possible to reproduce the results of monotonic and cyclic triaxial

tests reasonably well (see Section 3.2).

3. Modelling of the behaviour of a centrifuged model pile under

lateral cyclic loading

The model presented above was implemented in the ﬁnite ele-

ment software package CESAR-LCPC [31] (‘‘research” version). To

conﬁrm the ability of the model to reproduce the cyclic behaviour

of a pile subjected to a cyclic lateral load, a numerical simulation of

the behaviour of an experimental model pile subjected to a lateral

cyclic loading was performed. The experiments were carried out

with the geotechnical centrifuge of LCPC (French Public Works Lab-

oratory) in Nantes, France. The centrifuge basket platform offset

from the axis is equal to 5.5 m, and the maximum mass of the

model is 2000 kg. The maximum acceleration is equal to 200 g

[32]. Details on the measurement techniques used can be found

in [33]. The centrifuge was used previously to model the behaviour

of piles submitted to cyclic loading (see for instance [34–36]).

The experimental setup is presented in [3,37,38] and shown in

Fig. 2. The bending moments in the pile were calculated using the

strains measured from the strain gauges along the pile shaft. Dis-

placements of the pile head were also monitored by means of

the transducers D37 and D76 shown in Fig. 2. The analysis of the

results is focused on the comparison between the measured and

computed values of the bending moments and the displacement

of the pile head. The displacement referred to as the ‘‘displacement

of the pile head” is the displacement of the point where the load is

applied, 40 mm above the sand sample surface; it is obtained as

the average of the measurements of both transducers.

3.1. Presentation of centrifuge tests

Tests were carried out with dry, clean, siliceous sand (Fontaine-

bleau sand NE34). A sand sample was prepared by pluviation in a

rectangular steel container. Its dimensions were 1200 mmÂ

800 mm for a depth of D = 360 mm. With this procedure, the sand

density is homogeneous in the central part of the container. The

sand sample was then subjected to several cycles of acceleration

in the centrifuge up to 40 g. The sand had a density index of 48%,

corresponding to a volume weight c = 15.5 kN/m

3

. Cyclic load tests

were performed under an acceleration of 40 g. The model pile used

in the centrifuge tests was made of aluminium AU4G with the fol-

lowing dimensions and properties.

Depth of the pile toe d = 300 mm; outer diameter B = 18 mm;

inner diameter b = 15 mm; Young’s modulus E = 74 GPa;

moment of inertia of the section I = 2.67 10

À9

m

4

; bending stiff-

ness EI = 197.6 N m

2

.

A variable horizontal force was applied on the pile 40 mm above

the sand surface. In the ﬁrst stage of the test, the applied force in-

creased from 0 to 450 N. Then a large number of cycles was per-

formed, during which the force was reduced to 150 N, then

increased again up to 450 N. A speciﬁc experimental device was

used to ensure that no bending moment was applied at the pile

head.

3.2. Parameter determination on the basis of triaxial tests

In this section, we present the simulation of triaxial tests on the

dry sand used in the centrifuge experiments discussed below. Gi-

ven the depth D of the sand sample and the centrifuge acceleration

(40 g), it was roughly estimated that the mean stress in the centri-

fuged sand sample would vary between 0 and 40 c d = 220 kPa.

(Note, however, that simulations give higher values at the pile

toe because the contrast between the moduli of the pile and the

sand leads to stress concentrations.) To account for the inﬂuence

of the conﬁning pressure, three monotonic triaxial compression

tests were carried out for conﬁning pressures of 50, 100 and

200 kPa, with a density D

R

= 48%.

0

ε

v

ε

1

0

0

121

q

q

max

q

el

q

cr

ε

1

0

Fig. 1. Representation of the analytical solution of the model for a monotonous

triaxial compression test. Values of qmax, q

el

, and q

cr

are given by Eqs. (1)–(3).

40 mm

20 mm

Fig. 2. Picture of the centrifuged pile head with the loading device (left) and the

displacement transducers (right).

1002 E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007

In the analytical solution derived above, the deviatoric stress in-

creases monotonically as the axial strain increases. In contrast,

during the experiments, the deviatoric stress was not continuously

increasing but reached a peak value before decreasing. Model

parameters were chosen in such a way that the maximum devia-

toric stress of the model was close to the ultimate stress (not the

peak stress) of the tests.

A fourth triaxial compression test with a cyclic load was per-

formed on the same sand for a conﬁning pressure of 100 kPa. The

axial stress was ﬁrst increased up to 200 kPa, then decreased down

to 50 kPa (thus putting the sample in extension), and the axial

strain increased with the number of cycles. Trying to achieve a

good ﬁt between the analytical expressions and the test results

led to the following set of parameters:

Young’s modulus E = 110 MPa; Poisson’s ratio v = 0.2.

Parameters of the yield function a = 0.127; k = 1.8 kPa.

Parameter of the plastic potential b = 4.05 Â 10

À2

.

Parameter of the hardening law C = 22 MPa; D = 1200.

For these values, the comparison between simulations and

experimental tests is shown in Figs. 3 and 4 (for the monotonic

tests) and 5 (for the cyclic test). On the whole, a reasonable agree-

ment was obtained for all tests, but the volumetric strain during

monotonic loadings was not very well reproduced. For the cyclic

test (Fig. 5), the axial strain increased with the number of cycles,

but the loops obtained by the simulation were relatively narrower

than in the experimental curves.

3.3. Presentation of the numerical model

Around a pile subjected to a lateral load, the stress and strain

ﬁelds are clearly three-dimensional. The pile behaviour cannot be

represented in a realistic way by means of a bi-dimensional analy-

sis without making a number of assumptions that are not easy to

justify, which was why a fully three-dimension ﬁnite element sim-

ulation was undertaken.

As mentioned before, simulations were carried out with the ﬁ-

nite element software CESAR-LCPC [31]. The hardware used was a

Sun Ultra 40 M2 Workstation powered by a 2.8-GHz AMD Opteron

CPU, running under a 64-bit Ubuntu Linux 9. The mesh (shown in

Fig. 6) was relatively coarse. The buried part of the pile is divided in

only seven quadratic elements in the vertical direction. In the hor-

izontal directions, the element size gradually increased from 1 mm

close to the pile to approximately 10 mm close to the mesh bound-

aries. On the whole, the mesh was made of 1200 elements, 20-node

hexahedra outside the pile and 15-node pentahedra for the pile it-

self and the sand beneath the pile toe. Interpolation was quadratic

0

100

200

300

400

500

600

0 0.05 0.1 0.15

q

(

k

P

a

)

ε

1

200 kPa

100 kPa

50 kPa

Fig. 3. Simulations of three monotonic compression triaxial tests on Fontainebleau

sand: deviatoric stress q vs. axial strain e1 (solid lines: experimental results, dotted

lines: simulations).

-0.0025

0

0.0025

0.005

0 0.005 0.01 0.015

ε

v

ε

1

200 kPa

100 kPa

50 kPa

Fig. 4. Simulations of three monotonic compression triaxial tests on Fontainebleau

sand: volumetric stress ev vs. axial strain e1 (solid lines: experimental results,

dotted lines: simulations).

-50

-25

0

25

50

75

100

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015

q

(

k

P

a

)

ε

1

experiment

simulation

monotonous

loading +cycle 1

simulation

cycle 4

Fig. 5. Cyclic triaxial test on Fontainebleau sand: deviatoric stress q vs. axial strain

e1. Comparison of simulation with experiment.

Fig. 6. View of the three-dimensional mesh used for the simulations (CESAR-LCPC).

E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007 1003

for all elements, which led to a total number of degrees of freedom

of approximately 16,000. The number of unknowns was therefore

relatively small, and it would be easy to reﬁne the mesh if needed.

It can be noticed, however, that the non-linear kinematic harden-

ing law leads to heavy non-linearities and large computation times

(typically around 4 h for 30 cycles of loading, each cycle being di-

vided into six computation steps).

Given the existence of a vertical plane of symmetry of the pile

and the load, only one half of the structure was included in the

mesh. A simple preliminary sensitivity analysis was carried out

to reduce the dimensions of the mesh, in order to reduce computa-

tion times. This analysis showed that the horizontal displacements

along the model pile were very close for a mesh with the same ex-

tent as the actual sand sample (1200 Â 800 Â 360 mm) and for a

mesh with reduced dimensions of 520 Â 400 Â 360 mm. Because

measurements were made on the centrifuge model, it was decided

to conduct the computations at the model scale and not at the pro-

totype scale. However, the simulation results were in perfect

agreement with the theoretical scaling laws.

Regarding the sand/pile interaction, no special contact elements

were used. Using contact elements leads to introducing additional

parameters, for which the choice of appropriate values on the basis

of simple tests is difﬁcult; using contact elements with assumed

parameters, especially when complex cyclic loadings are taken into

account, can lead to errors that are not easy to quantify. Instead,

following the approach of Kooijman [8] or Wakai et al. [14], two

layers of standard elements were placed around the pile shaft, each

layer having a thickness of 1 mm.

The pile was represented in the mesh by a full cylinder with the

same diameter as the hollow aluminium tube used in the centri-

fuge experiments. Because of the difference between the moments

of inertia of the full and hollow sections, a ﬁctitious value of the

Young’s modulus was adopted for the pile in the simulations

E

f

= 3.83 Â 10

4

MPa. This value was chosen in such a way that the

bending stiffness was the same in the simulation as in the centri-

fuge experiments.

Initially the stresses were set to zero in the sand and in the pile.

The numerical procedure consisted of three phases:

– In the ﬁrst phase, the volume weight was increased progres-

sively in ten equal substeps to reproduce the centrifuge acceler-

ation phase.

– The second phase corresponded to a monotonic horizontal load-

ing; a horizontal force was applied on the pile, 40 mm above the

sand surface. The monotonic loading included nine substeps.

– Once the maximum value of the applied load was reached, the

simulation of the cyclic behaviour started; the applied load var-

ied between its maximum and minimum values. As mentioned

previously, each cycle was performed in six substeps.

4. Results

A numerical simulation of the behaviour of the centrifuged

model pile under cyclic lateral loading was performed with the

set of parameters obtained on the basis of the triaxial tests, given

in Section 3.2 above. The displacement of the pile head for the ﬁrst

two cycles is plotted against the applied horizontal force in Fig. 7.

The response of the pile to the initial monotonic loading is qualita-

tively well reproduced in terms of displacements of the pile head.

The model then predicts a progressive accumulation of strain,

which shows that the model makes it possible to reproduce a cyclic

behaviour. However, it seems that the predicted increase in the

head displacement for the ﬁrst two cycles is smaller than the mea-

surements, which is discussed in detail below.

At the end of the monotonic loading, the extent of the zone in

which plastic strains were signiﬁcant was relatively small com-

pared with the size of the mesh. Fig. 8 shows the extent of the area

in which the equivalent plastic strain was greater than 0.5% at the

end of the initial loading and after 10, 25 and 100 cycles. The plas-

tic zone around the pile tended to spread in the horizontal direc-

tion, especially behind the pile (in the area that was not

subjected to compression when the applied force increased), but

its rate of extension decreased with the number of cycles. It can

also be noted that the plastic zone did not reach the mesh

boundaries.

Results are discussed below in more detail, while the discussion

is focused on the pile head displacement and on the bending mo-

ments in the pile. In each case, we discuss the results obtained at

the end of the initial monotonic loading and the evolution of the

results when the number of cycles increased.

4.1. Head displacement

Fig. 7 shows that there is a good agreement between the

numerical simulations and experimental results for the initial

monotonic lateral loading of the single pile in terms of displace-

ment of the pile head. Note, however, that the apparent stiffness

of the pile is larger in the simulation than in the experiments, lead-

0

100

200

300

400

500

0 1 2 3 4

simulation

centrifuge test

F(N)

∆ (mm)

Fig. 7. Displacement of the centrifuged pile head for the ﬁrst two cycles (simulation

vs. experiment).

Fig. 8. Extent of the zone where the equivalent plastic strain is greater than 0.5% at

the end of the monotonic loading and after 10, 25 and 100 cycles.

1004 E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007

ing to a somewhat smaller head displacement at the end of the

monotonic loading. The computed value is equal to 3.21 mm, and

the measured value is equal to 3.74 mm; the relative difference

is less than 15%. To explain this difference, one can make the

assumption that the sand density obtained after the centrifuge

acceleration reaches its ﬁnal value of 40 g is smaller in the vicinity

of the pile. The sand located at the interface with the pile could be

less compacted and therefore less stiff. Besides, the phase during

which the pile is driven in the sand was not taken into account

in the numerical simulations.

Fig. 9 shows the pile head displacement D at the end of each cy-

cle for an increasing number of cycles (cycle 0 indicates the end of

the initial monotonic loading). Experimental results show that the

accumulation of strain tends to decrease with the number of cy-

cles. Numerical simulations reproduce this trend, but the predicted

strain accumulation seems to be smaller for the ﬁrst cycles in the

simulation than in the experiment. Again, it is likely that the initial

density of the sand near the pile is not as large as that of the sand

far from the pile and that the initial density is also smaller than the

density of the samples used for the triaxial tests.

However, after 20 cycles, the displacement accumulation per

cycle (shown in Fig. 10) is in very good agreement with the mea-

sured evolution; the accumulated displacement between the

20th and the 100th cycles is equal to 0.49 mm in the simulation

and 0.55 mm in the experiment, which corresponds to a relative

error of 11%.

4.2. Bending moments

There is a good agreement between numerical simulations and

experimental results for the initial monotonic lateral loading of the

single pile in terms of bending moments in the pile (Fig. 11),

although the value of the maximum bending moment is slightly

underestimated and the depth of the point where it is located is

slightly overestimated.

Fig. 12 shows the bending moments in the model pile after 10

and 100 cycles. Experimental results show that:

– Near the surface, bending moments in the pile are almost con-

stant during the ﬁrst 100 cycles.

– At larger depths, the curve drifts downwards as the number of

cycles increases.

Both of these results are reproduced by the numerical simula-

tions. However, the measures show an increase in the maximum

value of the bending moments, which is not captured by the

numerical model. It must be recalled that the mesh is relatively

coarse in the vertical direction, and better results could probably

be obtained by increasing the number of nodes in the mesh.

It can be noted that the depth of the measured and computed

maximum bending moment is in good agreement with classical

estimates. According to Broms [39], for instance, for a load F and

a pile diameter B, the depth of the maximum bending moment f

is given by

f ¼ 0:82

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

F

cBK

p

¸

ð4Þ

2

3

4

5

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of cycles

D

i

s

p

l

a

c

e

m

e

n

t

o

f

p

i

l

e

h

e

a

d

(

m

m

)

Fig. 9. Displacement of the pile head vs. the number of cycles (bold solid line:

centrifuge test, dotted line: simulation).

0

0.01

0.02

0.03

0.04

0.05

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of cycles

D

i

s

p

l

a

c

e

m

e

n

t

a

c

c

u

m

u

l

a

t

i

o

n

p

e

r

c

y

c

l

e

(

m

m

)

Fig. 10. Evolution of the increase in pile head displacement for one cycle (bold solid

line: centrifuge test, dotted line: simulation).

0

0.05

0.1

0.15

0.2

0.25

0.3

0 10 20 30 40 50

simulation

centrifuge test

depth (m)

bending moment (kN.m)

Fig. 11. Bending moment in the pile at the end of the monotonic loading:

simulation vs. experiment.

0

0.05

0.1

0.15

0.2

0.25

0.3

0 10 20 30 40 50

depth (m)

simulation

N=10

simulation

N=100

experiment

N=100

experiment

N=10

bending moment (kN.m)

Fig. 12. Bending moments after 10 and 100 cycles: comparison of simulations with

experiments.

E. Bourgeois et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 37 (2010) 999–1007 1005

where c is the volume weight of the ground, and K

p

= (1 + sin u)/

(1 À sin u), where u is the friction angle. For the centrifuged model

pile, the results of the triaxial compression tests gave the friction

angle a value of 34°, which leads to f = 88 mm. This value is slightly

larger than the measured and computed depths of the maximum

bending moment at the end of the monotonic loading (75 and

80 mm, respectively). As the number of cycles increases, the depth

of the maximum increases in the experiments and becomes larger

than the analytical value given by Eq. (4).

The aim of this study was to provide a way of investigating the

behaviour of a pile under cyclic loading without having to ‘‘adapt”

empirically monotonic p–y curves to account for the effect of load

cycles. However, an attempt was made to derive the earth pressure

distribution along the pile from the results of the ﬁnite element

simulations by evaluating the second derivative of the bending

moment. The results were not satisfactory (compared with the val-

ues of p obtained from the experimentally obtained bending mo-

ments) because the mesh used was too coarse to allow for a

precise evaluation of the second derivative of the bending mo-

ment; there were only 17 nodes in the vertical direction between

the ground surface and the pile toe. To investigate numerically

the evolution of the p–y curves, it would be necessary to use a

much ﬁner mesh.

5. Discussion and conclusions

The design of structures subjected to variable, pseudo-periodi-

cal loads is an important issue in many areas of civil engineering

(e.g. for the foundations of offshore windmills). The questions un-

der discussion are on the one hand, the strain accumulation during

cycles, and on the other hand, the evolution of the bending mo-

ments in the piles during the normal service life of the foundations.

In this study, the choice was made to perform three-dimensional

ﬁnite element computations using a relatively simple constitutive

model, which combines a linear isotropic elastic law with only one

single deviatoric plastic mechanism (with a yield function that

does not depend on the Lode angle); the formulation of the hard-

ening law was also very simple. In spite of these theoretical short-

comings, the model presents the great advantage of a very small

number of parameters that could be relatively easily obtained from

the results of three monotonic and one cyclic triaxial tests, which

makes it possible to use the model to simulate the behaviour of

real geotechnical structures and to discuss practical applications.

The model was used to simulate centrifuge tests on a pile sub-

jected to a cyclic lateral loading. The results showed that the model

was able to reproduce the behaviour of the pile during the initial

monotonic loading phase and to reproduce the strain accumulation

as the number of cycles increased. The evolution of the bending

moments in the pile was also consistent with the experimental re-

sults. However, it was not possible to derive the evolution of the p–

y curves induced by the repeated loading from the numerical re-

sults; such an analysis would require a ﬁner mesh than the one

used for this study.

Further research could be undertaken to widen the applicability

of the model (for instance, by simulating other structures subjected

to periodical loadings, especially groups of piles) or to improve its

numerical efﬁciency if a very large number of cycles are to be taken

into account. In addition, other enhancements could be brought to

the model, such as a more complex yield surface, a non-linear elas-

tic law, or a hardening law coupling the elastic moduli and the

hardening parameter.

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