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Basic Concepts of Plasticity and

Mohr Coulomb Model

Prof. Minna Karstunen
University of Strathclyde

Plastic Behaviour of Soils

Example of elasto-plastic behaviour: traction test (1D) in metals

Yielding

O B

F
A

C
A

L0

Elastic
behaviour

L
L0

sp ~Y (logscale

F
A

Idealization of elasto-plastic behaviour

Y
Yield point, the stress
cannot be higher than
this value

Plastic behaviour:
unrestricted plastic
flow takes place at
this stress level.

Elastic
behaviour

= e+ p

L
L0

Plastic Behaviour of Soils

 Idealization of elasto-plastic behaviour, different models

Rigid Perfectly
Plastic

Elasto-plastic
perfect plasticity

Elasto-plastic
hardening

d = d e + d p
{ { {
to ta l

e la s tic

Yield limit
depends on
(effective)
stresses

p la s tic

Elasto-plastic
softening

On softening models

Y0 = yield stress
YF = failure stress

Some Basic Concepts

 Plastic models allow
 to determine in a direct way the ultimate states and failure
 to model irrecoverable strains
 to model changes in material behaviour
 to model a more proper way the behaviour of fragile or
quasi-fragile materials

Some Basic Concepts

Strains ()
Total strains
Total strains = Elastic strains + Plastic strains

Stresses ()
Total stresses = Effective stresses + Pore Pressures

Some Basic Concepts

Stresses are related to elastic strains even in
nonlinear theories
Stresses are stresses - there is nothing like
elastic stress and plastic stress.
We talk mainly in terms of effective stress.

Elasto-Plastic Models
An elastic law

Stress
Ideal plastic

A criterion for yielding (Yield

function/surface)
Strain

(Flow rule)

Stress
Strain hardening

Does the yield function change

due to plastic flow? If yes, how?
(Hardening/Softening rule)
Strain

Yield Surface
1

 Used to delimit the

elastic domain

PLASTIC
On the surface

 It is a
generalization of
the 1D case
 Yield limit (1-D) 
Yield surface (2D3D)

ELASTIC
Inside yield
surface

IMPOSSIBLE
STATE
Outside

F ( ij , )=0
i) = 0
F(,h
i

Yield Surface

F({ },h ) = 0

F({ }+ {d },h + dh ) = 0

Yield Surface
 Fixed yield surface F (ij) = 0
 Perfect plasticity
 Expanding yield surface F(ij,hi) = 0
 Hardening plasticity
 Contractive yield surface F(ij,hi) = 0
 Softening plasticity
 The expansion or contraction of the YS is controlled by the hardening (or
softening) parameters hi
 The stress state must be either inside the surface or on the surface (stress
states outside the surface are not allowed).
 Stress inside the surface F(ij,hi) < 0  elastic strain only
 Stress on the surface F(ij,hi) = 0  elastic and plastic strain

Yield Surface
 The YS is often expressed in term of the stresses or stress invariants.
 p',q are typical stress variables used to describe soil behaviour and, also, to
define the YS
 Therefore typical expression of the YS are as follows:

f ( ij , h ) = 0
 where

p0

f ( p, q, p0 ) = 0

The hardening parameter(s) control the expansion or contraction of the YS.

Flow Rule
In one-dimensional problem, it is
clear that plastic strains take place
along the direction of applied stress
In 2D or 3D we need to make a
hypothesis regarding the direction
of plastic flow (relative magnitude of
plastic strain increments)

1, 1p
p

3, 3p

Plastic Potential and Flow Rule

 Plastic Deformations
 To evaluate plastic deformations the existence of a plastic potential (g or G ) is
assumed.
 The plastic potential provides the direction of the plastic strain:

g ( ij' , ) = 0
 where

g ( p, q, ) = 0

g
d = d
;
p
p
p

g
d = d
q
p
q

Plastic Potential and Flow Rule

 Plastic Deformations
 In general,

g
d = d
ij
p
ij

control the magnitude of

plastic deformation

control the direction of the

plastic deformations: the vector
of the plastic deformations is
normal to the g = constant
surfaces

g ( p, q, ) = 0

Plastic Potential and Flow Rule

 Yield Surface (f) and Plastic Potential (g) are generally different functions
 If f g

 The components of the plastic deformations are related, i.e. there is a

coupling, which is defined by the flow rule
 The plastic deformations depend on the stress state rather than the
increment of the stresses applied

Plastic Potential and Flow Rule

FLOW RULE ASSOCIATED

The flow rule defines direction of plastic strain increment

So, we know the plastic-strain direction, but how we can determine the
magnitude?

Hardening rule
 It is necessary to provide a description of the variation of the size and/or
position of the yield surface during plastic deformations (i.e. how the YS
evolve during yielding)
q

p0 = p0 ( pp , qp )

YS

p0
p0
p
dp0 = p d p + p d qp
p
q
po

p'

Consistency condition
 The plastic state is reached when the stress state is on the surface:

f ( p, q, p0 ) = 0
 It is assumed that once yield occurs (i.e. f = 0), the stresses must remain on the
yield surface during plastic deformation.
 This constraint is enforced by the consistency condition as follows:

df = 0

Consistency condition
f
f
f

df =
dp + dq +
dp0
p
q
p0
dp0 =

p0
p0
p0
g p0
g
p
p
d p + p d q = p d
+ p d
p
p q
q
p
q
p

f
f
f
df =
dp + dq +
p
q
p0
f ( p, q, p0 ) = 0

g
d = d

{ '}
p

Now we can
determine the
magnitude of the
plastic strain

p0
g p0
g
+ p d = 0
p d
p q
q
p
14444244443
dp0

f
f

dp + dq

p
q
d =
f p0 g p0 g

+ p
p

p0 p p q q

Plastics Deformations
f
f
f
f
dp + dq
dp + dq
g
g
p
q
p
q
d pp =
d qp =
f p0 g p0 g p
f p0 g p0 g q

+ p

+ p
p

p0 p p q q
p0 p p q q
f g
p p
d pp
1

p =
d q f p0 g p0 g f g
+ p

p
p q

q
q
0 p

f g
q p dp

f g dq
q q

Plastic modulus, H
H = 0 perfect plasticity and Eq. above not valid!
H > 0 plasticity with hardening
H < 0 plasticity with softening

Theory of Plasticity

1.

Elastic Strain

2.

Yield surface

3.

Plastic Potential

4.

Flow rule

d ep 1 K
0 d p
e =
d q

0
1
3
G

q

f ( p , q , p 0 ) = 0
g ( p, q, ) = 0
d pp = d

g
g
; d qp = d
p
q

Theory of Plasticity
 Summary
5.

Hardening law

p0 = p0 ( pp , qp )
dp0 =

6.

p0
p0
p
p
d

+
p
q
pp
qp

Plastic deformations
f g
p p
d pp
1
f g
p =

f p0 g p0 g
q
+ p

p q

q
q

0 p

7.

Total deformations

f g
q p dp
f g dq

q q

d p d ep d pp
d = e + p
q d q d q

Elastoplastic Matrix

{d } = [D ]ep {d }
[D ]

ep

= [D ]
e

{b}f {b}g
T

= H + {a }Tf [D ]e {a }g
F
H =
h

{a}g

{a }g
{ }

g
=
;
{ '}

{a}f

{b}g = [D ]e {a}g ; {b}f

f
=

{ '}
= [D ] {a }f
e

Elastoplastic Matrix
1. is a scalar quantity, for perfect plasticity

F
=0
h

H=0>

= {a} [D ] {a}q
T
f

2. Dep depends on state of stress / strain and represents a

tangential stiffness
3. Vectors {b}f and {b}g contain derivatives of the yield function and
the plastical potential function > Dep is symmetric only for associated
flow rule
4. Finite element stiffness matrix is also nonsymmetric for nonassociated flow rule

[K ] = [B ]T [D ] ep [B ]dV

Mohr Coulomb Model

Mohr--Coulomb Idealisation of
Mohr
Geomaterials

1 3

2=3
3

Mohr Coulomb Yield/Failure Condition

Yielding (and failure) takes place in the soil mass when
mobilised (actual) shear stress at any plane (m )
becomes equal to shear strength (f ) which is given by:

m = c+ n tan = f
where c and are strength parameters.
f( )= - n tan c= 0

Failure criterion

n
1 > 2 > 3

Note that the value of intermediate stress (2) does

not influence failure

= c + n ta n

f
D

3
A

90

nf

n
45 2

45 2

1 > 3

3
FAILURE
PLANES

F = ( 1 3 ) ( 1 + 3 ) sin 2 c cos = 0 1

Space
3

1=2= 3

Mohr Coulomb failure

surface is a irregular
hexagon in the principal
stress space

1
Space
Mohr-Coulomb

rp

sometimes create
problems in
computations

Flow Rule for Mohr Coulomb

For Mohr-Coulomb flow rule
is defined through the
dilatancy angle of the soil.
G(
)=

tan

Yield function

Plastic potential
function

const.= 0
3

angle and
.

n
1 > 2 > 3

Flow Rule
, &p

, d

F=0

G=0

n ,n&,np dn p

How to understand dilatancy

i.e., why do we get volume changes when applying shear stresses?

= + i
The apparent externally mobilized angle of friction on horizontal planes () is larger
than the angle of friction resisting sliding on the inclined planes (i)

How to understand dilatancy

When dense sands or
overconsolidated clays are
sheared they dilate
Larger the particle size, greater
the dilation
Mohr-Coulomb idealisation
implies dilation at a constant
rate when soil is sheared. This
is unrealistic.

MC model p'- q- space

F = ( 1 3 ) ( 1 + 3 )sin 2c cos = 0

'3 = '1 q

p' =

( '
3

1 +2 '3 )

q = '1 '3

'1 + '3 =

6 p' + q
3

3 p ' + 2q
3

3 p' q
3

MC model p'- q- space

6 p + q
or q = sin
+ 2 c cos
3
3q = 6 p sin + q sin + 6 c cos
6 c cos
6 sin
q=
p +
3 sin
3 sin
q = p + c*
6 sin * 6 c cos
,c =
where =

3 sin
3 sin

F = q p c = 0

MC - Model formulated
in p' - q

e

p
'
K
'
0

v
=
e

q 0 3G ' q

Assuming associated flow rule and ideal plasticity

F ( p, q) = q p c* = 0
F
F
condition
dp + dq = 0 : consistency
consistency
condition
p
q

Formulation of Dep for MC

dp = K ( d v d vp )

Hooks law

dq = 3G ( d q d qp )

F
d = d
: flow rule
p
p
v

F
d = d
q
p
q

F
F
F F
F
F
Kd v
Kd
+
3Gd q
3Gd
=0
p
p
p Q
q
q

F F K
F
F
,
Kd v +
3Gd q
0

q
p
Q

d =
=
F F F
F
K
+
3G
p p q
q
F F K
p , q 0

0 d v

3G d q
F
0 p

3G F
q

F
= ,
p

F
= 1,
q

p
v

d = d ,
dp K
=
dq 0
=

3G

K
0

3G

K + 3G

d = d

3G d
0

d =

p
q

K
0

Kd v + 3Gd q

d
d

{}
{}
d

d
d
d

p
v

p
q

F = q p c* = 0

{}
{}

d
3G

3G

[ K
2

{}

3G ] d

K + 3G

=

3G

0

3G

K
K + 3G

3GK
K + 3G
2

1
2

K + 3G

K
2

3G
K

+ 3G
3GK
2

1
2

K + 3G

9G

3G

K + 3G

9G

3 GK

3G

{}
d

{}

3 GK d
2

{}

3 G d

Formulation of Dep for MC

ep

2K 2
K 2 K + 3G
=

3GK
2 K + 3G

det D ep = 0

9G 2
3G 2

K + 3G
3GK
2 K + 3G

perfect plasticity

In general form :

F
D D

=
%T
F

%
e

D ep

F
eT
D

%
e F
D

Tips for fine-grained soils

Drawbacks of MC
Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion is well proven through
experiments for most geomaterials, but data for clays is still
An associated flow rule implies continuous dilation at a
constant rate upon shearing; this is unrealistic and leads to
negative pore pressures in undrained conditions. In an nonassociated flow rule with < , the rate of dilation is less, but
it is still constant. If = 0 then the rate of dilation is zero.
Care must be taken in applying the model for undrained
Drained and Undrained Analysis.

Drawbacks of MC
Soils on shearing exhibit variable volume change
characteristics depending on pre-consolidation pressure
which cannot be accounted for with MC
In soft soils volumetric plastic strains on shearing are
compressive (negative dilation) whilst Mohr-Coulomb model
will predict continuous dilation

To summarize the limitations of MC are:

bi-linearity (const. E)

unlimited dilation
isotropy
elastic response far from the limit state

 more advanced approximation of soil behavior:

Hardening Soil Model (sand), Soft Soil Model (clay)

Other elastic-perfectly plastic

models

Stress invariants
Mean effective stress

1
1
= ( 1 + 2 + 3 ) = ( x + y + z )
3
3

Deviatoric stress (in general form)

=
J2 =

J2

[
[

1
( 1 2 )2 + ( 2 3 )2 + ( 3 1 )2 =
6
1
( 1 M )2 + ( 2 M )2 + ( 3 M )2
2

J 3 = ( 1 M )( 2 M )( 3 M )
Lode angle

1
1 3 3 J 3

= sin
3
3
2

-30< < 30

Meaning of stress invariants

ON =

3 M

PN

= OP ON

= ( 1 M ) + ( 2 M ) + ( 3 M ) =
2

= 2J 2

PN =

2 J2 =

Von Mises
F =

3 Y0 = 0

r =

m space

2
Y0
3

Von Mises in 3D
F =

3 Y0 = 0

Y0 .. yield stress for axial compression or tension

Tresca
F = 1 3 Y0 = 0
in invariant formulation

F = 2 cos Y0 = 0
> dependent on Lode angle

Tresca in 3D
F = 2 cos Y0 = 0

Tresca Applications in geotechnics

Total stress analysis for undrained behaviour (
= 0)
cu .. undrained shear strength

Y0 = 2 c u
No volume change > = 0.5 (for numerical reasons 0.49)
Plastic volumetric strains ?
assume Lode angle = 0

F = 2 2 cu = 0
Assume associated flow rule
F
d MP = d
=0

F
= d
= 2d

P
vol

= d

P
M

=0

Tresca Applications in geotechnics

P
vol

= d

P
M

=0

MC Invariant formulation
F = M

1
sin + cos
sin sin c cos = 0
3

Drucker-Prager

Drucker-Prager vs MC

Nonlinear FE and solution

techniques
(as in PLAXIS)

Outline
 Local level
- nodes
- stress points or integration points
- elastic point, plastic point, apex point, tension point
- constitutive stress and equilibrium stress
- local error

 Global level
- initial stress method
- extrapolation
- arc-length control
- global error

- ultimate level
- number of steps

Main Topics on Non-linear Analysis

Calculation
Basic Concepts and Algorithms
Local Level
Global Level

Calculation
Initial situation

Material models and parameters
Initial stresses and pore pressures
Initial values of state variables

Calculation
Calculation phases
Calculation types
Plastic
Consolidation
Phi-c reduction (limit state analysis)

Calculation (continues)
Calculation phases (continues)
Staged construction

Switch on/off parts of geometry

Switch on/off structural elements (beams, anchors)
Switch on/off loads (change input values)
Change pore pressures

Total Multipliers (L.A. Ultimate level)

Incremental Multipliers (L.A. Number of steps)

Calculation (continues)
Output
Displacements, stresses, forces etc. per
step/phase
Displacements and pore pressures are nodal
values
Stresses, strains and state variables are Gauss
point level values

Basic Concepts
PHASE
Find equilibrium in final
situation

increment

Basic Algorithm per Step

u = K-1 P

2. Total increments

u = u +u

3. Strain increment

= Bu

4. Determine stresses

c = 0 + De( p)

5. Internal reaction

P in =Bt c dV

6. Equilibrium??

P in P ex

no: next iteration

u = K-1 (P ex - P in)

Local Level
Nodes and Stress Points
6-node triangle

15-node triangle

Plane strain

Phi-c reduction
Axisymmetry

exact integration for plane strain

no reduced integration (often used for quadrilateral elements)

Elastic & Plastic Stress Points for

Mohr Coulomb Model

Elastic point f < 0

dp=0

33

11

Plastic point f = 0
dp 0

Stress Points

standard setting: tension cut off is activated !

Local Error
Constitutive stress c:
Stress that follows from the constitutive
model (e.g. Mohr Coulomb)

Equilibrium stress eq:

Stress that is in equilibrium with the external

Inaccurate point:
Local Error =

c eq
c

Local Error > Tolerated Error

Standard setting:
Tolerated error = 0.01

Local Error
For MC model

Local Error =

e c =

e
x

Tmax = max

) (
2

) (

) (

c eq

) (
2

Tmax

) (
2

( 3 1 ), c' cos '

Standard setting: Input load = 1 stress unit
Actual load is specified before each calculation
Staged construction:
Total incr. multipliers:

Most calculations: Staged construction
Total load in last calculation step

Some calculations: Total multipliers

Total load in last calculation step

Very few calculations: Incremental multipliers

Nonlinear Analysis

Initial Stress Method or

Elastic Stiffness Method

initial stress method + extrapolation

cannot be controlled by user

Over Relaxation

Standard setting: 1.2

Absolute maximum: 2.0
For low friction angles (<20):
1.5 acceptable

is scaling of out-of-balance forces

can be controlled by user

Initial Stress Method +

Arc Length Control

in very sensitive cases > consider switching off

Global Error
Global Error =

unbalance

Unbalance = q e q c

Convergence requirement:
Global error Tolerated error

Standard setting:
qc= internal reaction forces (integral of c)

Tolerated error = 0.01

Convergence Requirements
Accuracy reached if:
1.
2.
3.

empirical

Global error Tolerated Error

Inaccurate stress points 3 + (pl. soil points)/10
Inaccurate interface points 3 + (pl. intf. points)/10

Global Error =

unbalance

Local Error =

c eq
c

Converged within desired
minimum number of
iterations
Scaling up by factor 2
is influenced by manual settings !

Not converged within

desired minimum number of
iterations:
Scaling down by factor 2
See p. 4.10-4.11 in PLAXIS Reference manual

Ultimate level procedure:
Staged construction
Plastic calculation (Total multipliers)
q

possible due to arc length control

u
Reaching prescribed
ultimate level

u
Failure before reaching
prescribed ultimate level