Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and

geogrid strip reinforcements
M. C. Alfaro
1
and Y. P. Pathak
2
1
Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V6,
Canada, Telephone: 1 204 474 8155, Telefax: 1 204 474 7513, E-mail: alfarom@cc.umanitoba.ca
2
Research Assistant, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V6,
Canada, Telephone: 1 204 474 8072, Telefax: 1 204 474 7513, E-mail: umpathak@cc.umanitoba.ca
Received 22 May 2004, revised 25 April 2005, accepted 23 May 2005
ABSTRACT: Design guidelines for geosynthetic-reinforced soil walls recommend the use of
densely compacted granular soils as select fills. The prevailing construction practices employ two
reinforcement layouts. In one, geosynthetics are laid out continuously throughout the length of
reinforced area (sheet reinforcement): this layout is usually associated with wrap-around and
modular block-type facing units. In the other, geosynthetics are laid out discretely (strip
reinforcement): this is usually associated with panel-type facing units. These two reinforcement
layouts interact differently with densely compacted granular fills, which are inherently dilatant.
Sheet reinforcement corresponds to a free dilatancy condition whereas strip reinforcement
corresponds to a restrained dilatancy condition. The effect of restrained dilatancy results in an
increase in normal stresses or mobilization of dilatant stresses at the soil–reinforcement interface
during reinforcement pullout and in turn generates additional localized compressive stresses in the
surrounding granular fill. This has a generally positive influence because it enhances the pullout
resistance of the reinforcement and also raises the effective stresses, resulting in an increase in the
shear strength of the granular fill and thus improving the internal stability of reinforced soil walls.
This paper presents an extension to earlier work by Alfaro et al. on the pullout interaction
mechanisms of geogrid strip reinforcements. It examines the mobilization of dilatant stresses at the
soil–reinforcement interface during reinforcement pullout. The study shows that it is essential to
take into account the influence of dilatant stresses in the internal stability analysis of reinforced
soil walls that use geogrid strip reinforcements.
KEYWORDS: Geosynthetics, Geogrid, Restrained dilatancy, Granular soil, Soil–geosynthetic
interaction, Reinforced soil
REFERENCE: Alfaro, M. C. & Pathak, Y. P. (2005). Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular
fills and geogrid strip reinforcements. Geosynthetics International, 12, No. 5, 239–252.
1. INTRODUCTION
Current internal stability analyses of geosynthetic-rein-
forced soil walls consider two reinforcement failure
modes: (1) rupture due to tensile over-stressing in the
high-stress zone within the reinforced soil mass, and (2)
pullout or slippage of the reinforcement in the low-stress
zone within the reinforced soil mass. The recommended
method of analysis to determine the arrangement and
number of reinforcement layers is based on the tie-back
wedge method of limit equilibrium analysis. In this
approach the factor of safety of each layer of reinforce-
ment against over-stressing and pullout is referenced to an
internal Rankine active plane propagating from the toe of
the wall at an angle 45 + ö/28 to the horizontal, where ö
is the internal friction angle of the reinforced soil. The
design tensile load in each layer of reinforcement based
on the contributory area about each reinforcement layer
must be in excess of the allowable long-term design load
of the reinforcement. The pullout resistance in each layer
of reinforcement is dependent on the interface normal
stress, the anchored length of reinforcement beyond the
failure plane, and the soil–geosynthetic interaction. Fac-
tors that influence soil–geosynthetic interaction include
the mechanisms of interaction, the physical and mechani-
cal properties of the soil, and the mechanical properties,
shape and geometry of the geosynthetic reinforcement
(Lopes 2002). Soil–geosynthetic reinforcement interaction
is usually evaluated in the laboratory by direct shear test
and pullout test.
There are three main soil–geosynthetic reinforcement
interaction mechanisms, as illustrated in Figure 1 (Jewell
et al. 1984): (1) skin friction along the reinforcement; (2)
soil-to-soil shear; and (3) passive thrust in the form of
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
239 1072-6349 # 2005 Thomas Telford Ltd
punching shear on the transverse members of reinforce-
ment. The interaction mechanism for planar geosynthetic
reinforcements such as geotextiles is purely through skin
friction. Interaction parameters for geotextile reinforce-
ments are conveniently evaluated by performing direct
shear tests. For geosynthetic grid reinforcements such as
geogrids, the passive thrust of transverse members of the
grids and the soil-to-soil shear are also considered, if
relative movements occur in the soil at the apertures of the
grids. The interaction parameters related to geogrids are
evaluated using pullout tests.
Most design guidelines (e.g. Elias et al. 2001; AASHTO
2002) recommend the use of densely compacted granular
soils as select fills because of their strength, stiffness,
good drainage, and ease of construction. The prevailing
construction practices employ two reinforcement layouts:
(1) sheet reinforcement and (2) strip reinforcement. In
sheet reinforcement layout, geosynthetic reinforcements
are laid out continuously throughout the length of the
reinforced area (full coverage): this is usually associated
with wrap-around and modular block-type facing units, as
shown in Figure 2a. In strip reinforcement layout, the
geosynthetic reinforcements are laid out discretely (partial
coverage): this is usually associated with panel-type facing
units, as shown in Figure 2b. These two reinforcement
layouts interact differently with densely compacted gran-
ular fills, which are inherently dilatant. Sheet reinforce-
ment corresponds to the condition of free dilatancy
whereas strip reinforcement corresponds to the condition
of restrained dilatancy (Alfaro et al. 1995; Sobolevsky
1995). The outcome of restrained dilatancy is the develop-
ment of increased normal stresses or the mobilization of
dilatant stresses that enhance the pullout resistance of the
reinforcement.
Investigators (Lo 1998, 2003; Wang and Richwien
2002) have proposed simplified analytical models to
evaluate the pullout resistance of strip reinforcements in
dilatant soils. These models were validated through the
apparent interface friction coefficient derived from pullout
force measurements. The apparent interface friction coef-
ficient is calculated as (Schlosser and Elias 1978)
f ¼
F
2BL
e
ó
n
(1)
where F is the pullout force, B is the strip width, L
e
is the
effective length of the pullout strip, and ó
n
is the average
normal stress acting at the reinforcement level. The
resulting apparent interface friction coefficient was found
generally to be greater than unity, which was attributed to
the increase in normal stress through a mechanism of
restrained dilatancy. Increases in normal stresses at the
soil–reinforcement interface are generally not known, but
Hayashi et al. (1997, 1999) attempted to measure the
normal stresses directly near the interface. These measure-
ments, together with a selected analytical model found in
the literature, were used in this paper to study the
mobilization of dilatant stresses at the interface during
pullout of geogrid strip reinforcements, and to investigate
their influence on the internal stability of reinforced soil
walls.
2. CONDITIONS OF FREE AND
RESTRAINED DILATANCY
The condition of free dilatancy is illustrated in Figure 3a.
A geosynthetic reinforcement placed at a certain level
Slip planes
Transverse
member
(b)
(a)
ó
b
Figure 1. Soil–geogrid interaction mechanisms (re-plotted
from Jewell et al. 1984): (a) shear between soil and plane
surfaces; (b) soil bearing on reinforcement surfaces
(a)
(b)
Figure 2. Two types of geosynthetic reinforcement layout: (a)
sheet reinforcement; (b) strip reinforcement
240 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
within a densely compacted granular fill is subjected to a
normal stress, ó
n
. The application of pullout force, F,
generates shear in the soil at the vicinity of the interface,
which is accompanied by grain repacking. Shearing of soil
can be generated by one or more of the interaction
mechanisms described earlier: skin friction along the
reinforcement, soil-to-soil shear, and passive thrust on the
transverse members of reinforcement. Associated with soil
shearing of densely compacted granular fill is the volume
increase, or what is called dilatancy. For the sheet
reinforcement layout, dilatancy in the process of shearing
does not influence the value of the applied normal stress,
ó
n
. Soil dilatancy would only cause uplifting of the
backfill soil lying uppermost.
The condition of restrained dilatancy is illustrated in
Figure 3b. Geosynthetic reinforcement is placed under the
same situation as before. The application of pullout force
leads to the mobilization of shear at the vicinity of the
interface, and generates soil dilatancy. But for strip
reinforcement, dilatancy will be restrained by the sur-
rounding non-dilating soil, which induces an increase in
normal stress or dilatant stress, ˜ó
n
, at the soil–reinforce-
ment interface (Sobolevsky 1995; Hayashi et al. 1996).
This dilatant stress generates an increase in the interface
shear resistance and subsequent enhancement of the pull-
out resistance.
Early reinforced soil structures utilized narrow metallic
strip reinforcements (Schlosser and Elias 1978) and, more
recently, high-tenacity polyester straps (Lo 2003). Geogrid
strip reinforcements were also used in lieu of metallic strip
reinforcements (e.g. Jones 2002). The width of geogrid
strip can range from 200 mm to 1000 mm, which is larger
than that commonly used for metallic strips (about
100 mm). Alfaro et al. (1995) have shown that, as the strip
becomes wider, combined free and restrained dilatancy
conditions can develop (Figure 4). The free dilatancy
condition develops at the middle portion, and the re-
strained dilatancy develops at both edges of the strip
reinforcement. An expedient assumption of this conceptual
mechanism is setting the extent at which restrained
dilatancy develops at the edge of strip (represented by
width B
e
in Figure 4). Plausible support for this assump-
tion comes from the results of pullout tests conducted with
various strip widths, B. Studies (Ochiai et al. 1992; Farrag
et al. 1993) show that, as B increases, the pullout
resistance decreases. Here, pullout resistance is defined as
the pullout force per width of geogrid (F/B) measured at a
specific condition of displacement. Our interpretation of
these studies implies that the effect of restrained dilatancy,
which developed dilatant stresses and thus enhanced pull-
out resistance at the soil–reinforcement interface, was
averaged out over the entire width of the strip even though
it was localized only at a certain extent of the strip edge
(see Figure 5). Distributing the effect of restrained
Initial conditions Stress conditions during shear
Reinforcement
H
ó
n
5 ã H
ó
n

d
ä
d
ä
d
ó
n
ó
n
ô
F
ó
n
5 ã H
Initial conditions
ó
n
H
Reinforcement
ä
d
< 0
ä
d
< 0
Stress conditions during shear
ô
ó
n
Äó
n
Äó
n ó
n
F
(a)
(b)
Figure 3. Stress conditions in reinforced soil (re-plotted from Hayashi et al. 1996): (a) free dilatancy condition in sheet
reinforcement layout; (b) restrained dilatancy condition in strip reinforcement layout
Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and geogrid strip reinforcements 241
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
dilatancy to the whole portion of the strip, even if the free
dilatancy condition applies in the middle portion, will
result in a decrease of pullout resistance with increasing
strip width.
The development of the restrained dilatancy condition
for strip reinforcements has practical implications in
optimizing the width of the geogrid strip. The use of
narrow rather than wide geogrid strip has both technical
and economical implications in relation to the pullout
resistance that can be achieved in a geogrid strip. The
mobilization of dilatant stress, ˜ó
n
, at the soil–reinforce-
ment interface will also result in additional compressive
stresses in the surrounding granular soil. This has a direct
positive effect in the vicinity of the strip reinforcements
because it raises the effective stresses, resulting in an
increase in the shear strength of the granular fill and thus
improving the internal stability of the reinforced soil walls.
By exploiting the superposition of additional compressive
stresses within the granular fill, geogrid strip reinforce-
ments can be positioned in both vertical and horizontal
directions, providing optimal design spacing (Sobolevsky
1995). However, it is recognized that the development of
dilatant stresses at the soil–reinforcement interface is
associated with a decrease in compressive stresses away
from the reinforcements (Hayashi et al. 1997; Milligan
and Tei 1998). Any additional stresses generated by super-
position at zones away from the reinforcements may be
compensated for by that decrease in compressive stresses.
Future studies can be undertaken to incorporate this effect
in a 3D numerical analysis of reinforced soil structures
with strip reinforcement layouts.
3. PULLOUT TEST DATA
3.1. General
Before discussing the mobilization of dilatant stresses, it
may be of interest to describe briefly the pullout test data
that partly form the basis of this particular study. The test
set-up, procedures and materials used in the pullout tests
will be briefly described here; the details can be found in
Non-dilating
zone
Dilating zone
Shear stress
occurs at
border between
dilating zone
and non-dilating
zone
Dilating zone
Non-dilating
zone
Restrained dilatancy interaction
Applied
normal stress
ó
n
Äó
n
B
e
B 2 2B
e
B
e
Free dilatancy interaction
ó
n
Äó
n
B < 2B
e
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
Increase in
normal stress
Figure 4. Conceptualized pullout interaction mechanisms of strip reinforcement (re-plotted from Alfaro et al. 1995): shear
stress and strain mobilized around (a) wide strip, (b) narrow strip; distribution of normal stress on (c) wide strip, (d) narrow
strip
Strip reinforcement
B
e
B
B
e
Äó
n
ó
n
Figure 5. Idealized distribution of normal stress at soil–
reinforcement interface for wide strip
242 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
Alfaro et al. (1995) and Hayashi et al. (1997, 1999). The
pullout box is 1500 mm long by 600 mm wide by 400 mm
deep. The test apparatus is capable of performing pullout
tests following both the American standard test method
(ASTM D 6706) and the Japanese standard test method
(as described in Hayashi et al. 1994). Friction between the
soil and the side walls of the box was minimized by using
lubricated rubber membranes. This was verified by instal-
ling pressure cells across the width of the box near the
reinforcement level. Pressure cell readings indicated simi-
lar measured values at the center and near the side wall
locations, demonstrating effective reduction of wall fric-
tion. The pressure cell readings at different applied normal
stresses also allowed calibration of the pressure cells when
placed within the soil. This was important, because the
measured normal stresses were generally greater than the
applied normal stresses (air pressure plus overburden soil
pressure). With greater cell stiffness relative to the
surrounding soil, a stress concentration or arching effect
occurred on the pressure cells, resulting in measured
normal stresses that were higher than those that were
applied (Dunnicliff and Green 1988; Lazebnik and Tsinker
1998). The normal stresses in the vicinity of the soil–
reinforcement interface during reinforcement pullout were
measured with 450 mm-diameter miniature earth pressure
cells (Kyowa Electronic Instruments 1993). Load cells
were used to measure the applied pullout force. Linear
variable differential transformers (LVDTs) were used to
measure the junction (or node) displacements along the
length of the geogrid reinforcement length, and the soil
dilatancy during pullout load. Measuring junction displa-
cements along the reinforcement length allows for proper
interpretation of the interface load transfer and also
provides proper evaluation of the pullout resistance.
The granular fill used is a well-graded sandy gravel
with the following grain size properties: average particle
size, d
50
¼ 4.74 mm; uniformity coefficient, C
u
¼ 15; and
coefficient of curvature of the gradation curve, C
c
¼ 1.67.
The maximum and minimum dry unit weights are
19.10 kN/m
3
and 14.32 kN/m
3
respectively. Triaxial tests
carried out by Inaba (1994) on the compacted soil
indicated that the internal friction angle, ö, is about 438
for a relative density of 90%. For the material and stress
range of 20–100 kPa, the corresponding shear modulus,
G, is estimated to be about 7 MPa. Tensar SR-80, a
uniaxial geogrid normally used for reinforced soil walls
and steep slopes, was employed as the geogrid strip
reinforcement specimen. The shape and geometry of the
geogrid used are shown in Figure 6.
3.2. Free dilatancy test set-up
The condition of free dilatancy is simulated in the
laboratory using a reinforcement width that is slightly less
than the width of the pullout box (width of strip, B ¼
580 mm; width of pullout box, B
o
¼ 600 mm; B/B
o
! 1).
The free dilatancy condition is representative for this type
of test set-up, as the lubricated side walls do not induce a
restraining effect. Soil dilatancy associated with soil
shearing at the interface would only cause uplifting of the
backfill soil lying above the reinforcement. Relationships
between measured soil dilatancy, ä
v
, and shear displace-
ment, ä
h
, for various applied normal stresses are given in
Figure 7. A schematic of measurement locations is also
given in the figure. The shear displacements in Figure 7
represent the average of the two junction displacements at
locations encompassing the point where dilatancy was
measured. It can be seen that soil dilatancy is suppressed
at higher applied normal stresses. This implies that
dilatant stresses, ˜ó
n
, resulting from the restrained dila-
tancy condition are expected to diminish with increasing
applied normal stresses, ó
n
. The measured soil dilatancy
with shear displacements from the free dilatancy test set-
up will be used later to provide an expression for the
mobilization of dilatant stress.
3.3. Restrained dilatancy test set-up
The condition of restrained dilatancy is simulated in the
laboratory using a reinforcement width that is much
smaller than the width of the pullout box (width of strip,
B ¼ 300 mm; width of pullout box, B
o
¼ 600 mm; B/B
o
¼ 0.50). The restrained dilatancy condition is representa-
tive for this type of test set-up because dilatancy will be
restrained by the surrounding non-dilating soil, which
induces dilatant stresses, ˜ó
n
, at the soil–geogrid inter-
R
o
l
l

w
i
d
t
h

(
t
r
a
n
s
v
e
r
s
e
)
Roll
length
(longitudinal)
Transverse members (junctions)
16 mm
16 mm
6.4 mm
Ribs
160 mm
1.4 mm
3.9 mm max
3.6 mm min
Typical dimensions
Figure 6. Geometry of geogrid used in pullout test
Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and geogrid strip reinforcements 243
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
face. The results indicate that, for the type of geogrid and
granular fill used, the restrained dilatancy condition begins
to cover the whole strip when the strip width B % 200 to
300 mm or B
e
% 100 to 150 mm (Alfaro et al. 1995;
Hayashi et al. 1997). This was determined by conducting
pullout tests at various strip widths and by subsequently
distinguishing the pullout resistance due to restrained
dilatancy from that due solely to the free dilatancy
condition. The pullout resistance due to restrained dila-
tancy begins to decrease with decreasing B: that is, when
B
e
at both ends of the strip begins to merge (see Figure 8).
Hayashi et al. (1997, 1999) measured the changes in
dilatant stresses with shear displacements directly using
pressure cells placed near the interface of a geogrid strip
with width B ¼ 300 mm. Only one applied normal stress

n
¼ 20 kPa) was investigated, but the data should
provide information on the mobilization of dilatant stres-
ses with shear displacements. Figure 9 shows the position-
ing of the pressure cells. Four pressure cells, positioned
across the width of the box, represent one section along
the length of the geogrid specimen. Three sections were
identified as follows: Section I is right in front of a
transverse member (junction); Section II is further away in
front of a transverse member; and Section III is right at
the back of a transverse member. Sections II and III are
both located at the ribs of the geogrid, whereas Section I
is located right in front of the transverse member or
junction. The junction is defined as the point at which the
ribs are interconnected in order to provide structure and
dimensional stability; the rib is the continuous elements of
the geogrid (ASTM D 6706).
4. MOBILIZATION OF DILATANT
STRESSES AT SOIL–GEOGRID
INTERFACE
4.1. Measured dilatant stresses
Figures 10a and 10b show the changes in measured
normal stress during reinforcement pullout. Figure 10a
corresponds to the test set-up in which the reinforcement
width is much less than the width of the pullout box (B/B
o
, 1; strip reinforcement layout, condition of restrained
dilatancy). Figure 10b corresponds to the test set-up in
which the reinforcement width is slightly less than the
width of the pullout box (B/B
o
! 1; sheet reinforcement
layout, condition of free dilatancy). The two cases have
shown similar negative changes in measured normal stress.
However, in general, higher positive changes in measured
normal stress were observed for B/B
o
, 1 than for B/B
o
! 1. This demonstrates the effect of restrained dilatancy
as illustrated in the preceding section of this paper. It is
recognized that positive changes in normal stress are
measured for the condition of free dilatancy (Lopes 2002).
This is most likely attributed to the 3D nature of geogrids
that have apertures. The effect of restrained dilatancy in
the context of this paper can then be estimated from the
difference between the changes in measured normal stress
of the two conditions.
An interesting observation about the results in Figure
10 is the general trend of an increase changes in measured
positive normal stress in front of the junction and then a
decrease with shear displacements for pressure cell read-
ings at Section I (pressure cells located in front of the
geogrid junction). This trend is related to the horizontal
distance of the transverse member (junction) relative to
the position of the pressure cells. Note that displacements
of junctions were monitored during the reinforcement
pullout using tell-tales. As the junction approaches the
pressure cell location at Section I, the normal stress
increases, but once it passes that location the dilatant
stress begins to decrease. Conversely, the pressure cells at
Sections II and III, which are located in the ribs of the
geogrid, recorded negative values. A reasonable explana-
tion for the decreasing normal stresses at the rib locations
during reinforcement pullout comes from the study of
soil–geogrid interaction by Milligan et al. (1990) using
photoelastic stress patterns, as shown in Figure 11. Recall
the interactions mechanisms in Figure 1, where the
20.5
0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
V
e
r
t
i
c
a
l

d
i
s
p
l
a
c
e
m
e
n
t
,

ä
v

(
m
m
)

Shear displacement, ä
h
(mm)
Location of normal displacement measurements
Reinforcement junction
150 mm
250 mm
a
0 10 20 30 40
b
ó
n
5 20 kPa
ó
n
5 30 kPa
ó
n
5 40 kPa
6 5 4 3 2 1
Figure 7. Measured soil dilatancy against shear displacement
during geogrid pullout for various applied normal stresses
(re-plotted from Alfaro et al. 1995)
Strip reinforcement
B < 2B
e
B
e
B
e
Äó
n
ó
n
Figure 8. Idealized distribution of normal stress at soil–
reinforcement interface for narrow strip
244 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
transverse members of the geogrid reinforcement induced
punching shear in front of the transverse members during
pullout. The punching shear in front of the transverse
members can be viewed as the zone where there is an
intense development of dilatant stresses. As for the non-
development of dilatant stresses at the rib locations, this
observation may be explained by the behavior of anchor
plates in sand reported by Rowe and Davis (1982). It was
shown in their theoretical investigation through the velo-
city fields that, when anchor plates were pulled, there was
flow of soil into the back of the anchors; in the case of a
geogrid this is at the ribs or the back of the transverse
members. The tendency of soil to flow into the back of
the transverse member during geogrid pullout results in
decreasing normal stress at the ribs.
4.2. Mobilized dilatant stresses from measured soil
dilatancy
Dilatant stresses are not normally measured in standard
pullout tests (e.g. ASTM D 6706). However, soil dilatancy
measurements are easily incorporated in such a test.
Measured soil dilatancy with shear displacements can be
used to determine the mobilized dilatant stresses with
shear displacements. Simple analytical models are avail-
able in the literature to provide an expression for the
mobilized dilatant stresses at the interface during pullout
of soil nails. Milligan and Tei (1998) developed an
analytical model for estimating the average dilatant stress,
˜ó
n
, at the interface of a soil nail:
˜ó
n
¼
4G
2r þ h
ä
r
(2)
where G is the shear modulus of the soil, r is the radius of
the nail, ä
r
is the radial expansion of the soil in the
sheared zone around the nail (in the context of this paper
ä
r
is soil dilatancy), and h is the thickness of the sheared
zone. The value of h has been found to be a function of
the mean particle size of the soil, d
50
, and the angle of soil
dilatancy, ł (Milligan and Tei 1998). Another form of
equation was given by Luo et al. (2000):
20
Position
no. 2
Position
no. 4
Position
no. 3
Position
no. 1
110 190 130 130 40
Pressure cells
Rubber membrane
with silicone grease
Wall of pullout
test box
(Note: All dimensions are in mm)
(a)
Pullout
direction
I III II
Pressure
cells
3 @ 42.5
Section no.
Position no.
No. 3
No. 1
No. 4
No. 2
Transverse members
(junctions) no.
Geogrid
170
1500
40
130
130
190
110
B
o
3 2 1 4 5 6
C
L
A
C
L
Geogrid
-B-
-B
o
5 600-
(b)
A
B
Figure 9. Schematic showing locations of pressure cells (re-plotted from Hayashi et al. 1997): (a) plan: (b) cross-section A–A
Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and geogrid strip reinforcements 245
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
˜ó
n
¼
2Gä
r
r
(3)
The equation developed by Luo et al. (2000) to estimate
dilatant stresses will result in about the same estimate as
that by Milligan and Tei (1998). The former is simpler, as
it does not require the value of the thickness of the
sheared zone. As the shearing of soil is related mainly to
the interface area, it is therefore reasonable to convert the
circular section of the nail to an equivalent rectangular
section of the strip with the same perimeter as that of the
circular section (Luo et al. 2000). Neglecting the thickness
of reinforcement, the dilatant stress, ˜ó
n
, at the interface
of strip reinforcement can be approximated by
˜ó
n
¼
2ðGä
v
B
(4)
where ä
v
is the vertical displacement (soil dilatancy) of
the soil during pullout of the geogrid strip under free
dilatancy (unrestrained) conditions, and B is the width of
the strip. Sobolevsky (1995) has a similar expression:
2160
2120
280
240
0
40
80
120
160
200
240
280
320
360
Geogrid
Pullout direction
Section II
Ä
rel
Section I
Ä
rel
0 20 40
40 20 0
C
h
a
n
g
e
s

i
n

m
e
a
s
u
r
e
d

n
o
r
m
a
l

s
t
r
e
s
s

(
k
P
a
)
Relative horizontal displacement of pressure cell and junction 2, Ä
rel
(mm)
(a)
Pressure cell position no. 2
Pressure cell position no. 3
Pressure cell position no. 4
Transverse member (junction 2)
Section III
Ä
rel
0 20
40
100 80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100
2160
2120
280
240
0
40
80
120
160
200
240
280
320
360
C
h
a
n
g
e
s

i
n

m
e
a
s
u
r
e
d

n
o
r
m
a
l

s
t
r
e
s
s

(
k
P
a
)
100
Relative horizontal displacement of pressure cell and junction 2, Ä
rel
(mm)
(b)
80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100
Section II
Ä
rel
40 20 0
Section I
Ä
rel
0 20 40
Section III
Ä
rel
0 20
40
Geogrid
Pullout direction
Transverse member (junction 2)
Pressure cell position no. 2
Pressure cell position no. 3
Pressure cell position no. 4
Figure 10. Measured change in normal stresses against horizontal displacements of transverse member relative to location of
pressure cells for ó
n
20 kPa (re-plotted from Hayashi et al. 1997): (a) strip reinforcement layout; (b) sheet reinforcement
layout
Figure 11. Photoelastic stress patterns during pullout of
geogrid reinforcement (after Milligan et al. 1990)
246 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
˜ó
n
¼
2Gä
v
1 þí ð ÞøB
(5)
where í is the Poisson’s ratio of the soil and ø is a factor
for conversion from circular cross-section to rectangular
cross-section of reinforcement, which is a function of
length and width of sheared area.
For simplicity, Equation 4 will be used in estimating the
mobilization of dilatant stresses. Recall that relationships
between soil dilatancy and shear displacement vary with
applied normal stress, as shown in Figure 7. A polynomial
equation representing these relationships can be expressed
as follows:
ä
v
¼ aä
2
h
À bä
h
(6)
where ä
v
is the soil dilatancy, ä
h
is the shear displace-
ment, and the coefficients a and b are fitting parameters
that vary with the applied normal stresses. Values of these
fitting parameters are determined from pullout tests
simulating the free dilatancy condition (see Figure 7). The
values are summarized in Table 1. Substituting Equation 6
in Equation 4 results to an expression for the mobilization
of dilatant stresses with shear displacements:
˜ó
n
¼
2ðG
B

2
h
À bä
h

(7)
It should be noted that, in geosynthetics testing, the
pullout test is considered to be a performance test. This
means that it is necessary to determine the interaction
properties (i.e. the ä
v
–ä
h
relationships) of geosynthetics
and soil materials in association with site-specific environ-
ments. Evaluation of the dilatant stress from ä
v
–ä
h
relationships under free dilatancy follows the same line of
thought as Goodman (1980) applied in rock mass disconti-
nuities. The relationships between shear stress and shear
displacement (ô–ä
h
relationships) under restrained condi-
tions had been estimated from ä
v
–ä
h
relationships under
free dilatancy conditions.
Figure 12 shows the relationships between dilatant
stresses and shear displacements for various applied
normal stresses using Equation 7. Also shown in the
figure are the measured dilatant stresses under an applied
stress, ó
n
¼ 20 kPa (the difference of the changes in
measured normal stress between Figures 10a and 10b).
Overall, the tendency of increasing dilatant stresses with
shear displacements using the analytical model developed
by Luo et al. (2000) seems to be reasonable. No attempt
has been made to capture the decrease in dilatant stress
after reaching the peak value at large shear displacements
(. 25 mm). The mobilization of dilatant stress was ver-
ified further by converting the mobilized dilatant stress
(peak value) into an equivalent apparent interface friction
coefficient and comparing the resulting value with the
value recommended by AASHTO (2002) for metallic strip
reinforcements. To do this, the equation given by Alfaro et
al. (1995) to estimate the pullout force of strip reinforce-
ment is used:
F ¼ 2BL
e
ó
n
tan ä þ4B
e
˜ó
n
tan ä (8)
where F is the pullout force, B is the strip width, L
e
is the
effective length of the pullout strip, ó
n
is the normal stress
acting at the interface, ä is the interface friction angle, B
e
is the width at the edge of strip where dilatant stress is
developed, and ˜ó
n
is the dilatant stress. The first term of
the equation is the pullout capacity from the free dilatancy
condition. The second term is from the effect of the
restrained dilatancy condition through the development of
dilatant stress. Using Equation 8 and appropriate material
properties derived in Alfaro et al. (1995), the estimated
pullout force for a strip reinforcement located at about
1 m from the top of the wall (ó
n
% 20 kPa) is
F ¼ 2 30:3 31:17 320 3tan 328 þ4
30:15 31:17 3160 3tan 328 ¼ 79 kN
The apparent interface friction coefficient can then be
calculated using Equation 1:
f ¼
79
2 30:3 31:17 320
¼ 5:6
This value is about three times higher than the value given
in the AASHTO guidelines, but conforms with field
pullout test results by Runser et al. (2001), whose values
of f back-calculated from measured pullout force ranged
from 4 to 6.8 for reinforcements located a few meters
below the top surface of the wall.
Although dilatant stresses are produced at relatively
lower applied stresses (less than 100 kPa), they have
implications especially for reinforcements at upper levels
of the wall, because the internal stability at these levels is
likely to be governed by reinforcement pullout rather than
Table 1. Fitting parameters for measured dilatancy against
shear displacements
ó
n
(kN/m
2
) a b
20 0.0007 0.0085
30 0.0006 0.001
40 0.0005 À0.0109
250
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
D
i
l
a
t
a
n
t

s
t
r
e
s
s
,

Ä
ó
n

(
k
P
a
)
Shear displacement, ä
h
(mm)
Measured (ó
n
5 20 kPa)
Calculated (ó
n
5 varies)
0 10 20 30 40
ó
n
5 20 kPa
ó
n
5 30 kPa
ó
n
5 40 kPa
Figure 12. Mobilization of dilatant stresses with shear
displacements for various applied normal stresses
Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and geogrid strip reinforcements 247
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
reinforcement rupture. The mobilization of dilatant stres-
ses at the interface enhances the pullout resistance of the
reinforcement and induces localized additional compres-
sive stresses in the surrounding granular fill, and thus
influences the internal stability of reinforced soil walls.
5. INFLUENCE OF DILATANT STRESSES
ON INTERNAL STABILITY OF
REINFORCED SOIL WALLS
Pullout of reinforcements from the granular fill mobilizes
dilatant stresses within the reinforced zone. The maximum
shear displacements associated with reinforcement pullout
occur along the internal Rankine active plane (potential
failure plane shown in Figure 13). Therefore it is in the
vicinity of this plane where the maximum dilatant stresses
are expected to be mobilized at each reinforcement layer.
The mobilization of dilatant stresses at the soil–reinforce-
ment interface induces localized compressive stresses in
the surrounding granular fill, the distribution of which can
be approximated using a solution of a uniform strip
loading within a soil mass. No analytical solution is
readily available for determining compressive stresses
within the soil for this type of loading, but a classical
solution for point load acting in the interior of an infinite
elastic body as shown in Figure 14 is available. This
solution can be written in Cartesian coordinates (Davis
and Selvadurai 1996) as follows:
ó
z
¼
P
4ðm
nz
R
3
þ
3z
3
R
5

(9)
where R ¼
ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
z
2
þ x
2
þ y
2

, m ¼ (1 À í), n ¼ (1 À 2í), í
is the Poisson’s ratio of the soil, and the rest of the terms
are as shown in Figure 14. Integrating Equation 9 results
in an expression to calculate the compressive stresses due
to line loading within the soil mass, Q (load per unit
length):
ó
z
¼

1
À1
Q dy ð Þ
4ðm
nz
R
3
þ
3z
3
R
5

¼
Q
4ðm
nz
x
2
þ z
2
þ
2z
3
x
2
þ z
2
ð Þ
2
¸ ¸
(10)
Equation 10 can be integrated to calculate the compressive
stresses due to strip loading, q (load per unit area), as
shown in Figure 15:
ó
z
¼

x
2
x
1
q dx ð Þ
4ðm
nz
x
2
þ z
2
þ
2z
3
x
2
þ z
2
ð Þ
2
¸ ¸
(11)
If we let x ¼ z tan Ł and q ¼ ˜ó
n
, the result of the
integration can be written in a simpler trigonometric form:
ó
z
¼
˜ó
n
4ðm
n

Æþâ
â
dŁ þ2

Æþâ
â
cos
2
ŁdŁ

(12)
Interface shear
stress, ô
Distribution of interface
shear stress along
reinforcement length
Potential failure plane
Reinforcement length, L
45° 1 ö/2
ô
max
Figure 13. Interface shear stress distribution along reinforce-
ment length
y
z
2P
x
Infinite
elastic
body
Figure 14. Point load acting in the interior of an infinite
elastic body using Kelvin’s solution (after Davis and
Selvadurai 1996)
2x
z
ó
z
ó
x
z
â
á
è

x
B
Infinite
elastic
body
q
x dx
Q 5 qdx
`
Figure 15. Induced normal stress components in an infinite
elastic body (soil) due to strip loading acting in the interior of
body
248 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
ó
z
¼
˜ó
n
4ð 1 Àí ð Þ
2 1 Àí ð ÞÆ þ sin Æcos Æ þ2â ð Þ

(13)
Equation 13 represents stresses within the soil mass due to
dilatant stress, ˜ó
n
. Using the superposition concept of
elastic theory, these stresses can be added to the over-
burden pressures and the stresses induced by surcharge
loading (if any).
Two cases were investigated to show the influence of
dilatant stresses on the granular fill. In Case 1 B ¼
300 mm: the dilatant stresses are imposed throughout the
width of the geogrid strip (full restrained dilatancy condi-
tion, B ¼ 2B
e
: see Figure 8). In Case 2 B ¼ 1000 mm: the
dilatant stresses are acting only at a certain extent of the
edges of the geogrid strip (B
e
¼ 150 mm). This is the case
of combined free and restrained dilatancy conditions (see
Figure 5). Figure 16 shows the isobars of additional
compressive vertical stresses for Case 1, and Figure 17
shows them for Case 2. Note that the isobars are the same
for different elevations of reinforcement layers. However,
their magnitudes vary as the dilatant stress decreases with
decrease in reinforcement elevation. It can be seen that the
narrower strip width is more effective in inducing addi-
tional compressive stresses in the soil mass. If dilatant
stresses can reach up to 100 kPa, the superposition of
isobars can result in considerable additional compressive
stresses in the soil mass that are worthy of consideration
in the internal stability analysis of geosynthetic-reinforced
soil walls.
A typical reinforced soil wall as shown in Figure 18
was analyzed to illustrate the influence of dilatant stresses
on the internal stability of reinforced soil walls. A uniform
surcharge equal to 10 kPa was assumed, and the reinforce-
ment layout in Case 1 above was used (full restrained
dilatancy condition). The total vertical stress distribution
along the height of the wall is shown in Figure 18.
Dilatant stresses at the interface increase the interface
normal stresses and subsequently the pullout resistance.
These values decrease with reinforcement locations from
top to bottom of the wall, until the elevation where the
applied normal stresses completely suppress the develop-
ment of dilatant stresses.
The stress conditions within the reinforced zone are
examined through the stress path of a soil element at the
vicinity of the soil–reinforcement interface. Soil elements
without and with mobilization of dilatant stresses are
considered (soil elements A and B respectively in Figure
19). Note that reinforcement pullout is associated with
lateral movements of the wall and thus reduction of
horizontal stress. Assuming there is no change in the
intermediate principal stress (ó
2
), and the vertical and
horizontal stresses are the major and minor principal
stresses respectively (ó
1
and ó
3
), the stress path followed
for soil element A will be
0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
D
e
p
t
h
,

z

(
m
)
0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Horizontal distance (m)
Horizontal spacing 5 0.6 m on centres
Vertical spacing 5 0.6 m
Figure 16. Normalized vertical dilatant stress (ó
z
/˜ó
n
) iso-
bars mobilized from geogrid strip width B 300 mm
0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
D
e
p
t
h
,

z

(
m
)
0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Horizontal distance (m)
Horizontal spacing 5 0.6 m on centres
Vertical spacing 5 0.6 m
Figure 17. Normalized vertical dilatant stress (ó
z
/˜ó
n
) iso-
bars mobilized from geogrid strip width B 1000 mm
Dilatant stresses at the interface of granular fills and geogrid strip reinforcements 249
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
˜q ¼ ˜ó
1
À˜ó
2
À˜ó
3
¼ 0 þ0 À À˜ó
3
ð Þ ¼ ˜ó
3
˜p ¼
1
3
˜ó
1
þ˜ó
2
þ˜ó
3
ð Þ
¼
1
3
0 þ0 þ À˜ó
3
ð Þ ½ Š ¼ À
1
3
˜ó
3
and thus stress path ˜q/˜p will have a negative slope. The
stress path followed for soil element B will be
˜q ¼ ˜ó
1
À˜ó
2
À˜ó
3
¼ ˜ó
n
À0 À À˜ó
3
ð Þ
¼ ˜ó
n
þ˜ó
3
˜p ¼
1
3
˜ó
1
þ˜ó
2
þ˜ó
3
ð Þ
¼
1
3
˜ó
n
þ0 þ À˜ó
3
ð Þ ½ Š ¼
1
3
˜ó
n
À˜ó
3
ð Þ
It is expected that the absolute value of ˜ó
n
will be higher
than that of ˜ó
3
so that the stress path of soil element B
(˜q/˜p) will have a positive slope. Moreover, the mobili-
zation of dilatant stresses enhances the pullout resistance
of the reinforcements and in turn reduces pullout displace-
ments and lateral movements of the wall. This means that
the reduction in lateral stress ˜ó
3
for soil element B is
lower than the corresponding reduction for soil element A.
It can be seen in Figure 19 that soil element B has a stress
path with an increasing mean effective stress, whereas soil
element A has a stress path with a decreasing mean
effective stress. Even if the absolute value of ˜ó
n
is lower
than that of ˜ó
3
, the stress path for soil element B is
always to the right of the stress path for soil element A.
This implies that the presence of dilatant stresses increases
the mean effective stresses (and therefore the shear
strength) of the granular fill and thus enhances the internal
stability of the wall. These particular influences were also
shown in a finite element analysis carried out by Otani
et al. (1992).
It is recognized that the analysis presented here regard-
4.0
3.5
3.0
2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5
0
Geogrid strip
(width 5 0.3 m)
q 5 10 kPa
D
e
p
t
h
,

z

(
m
)
Dilatant stress
Surcharge
Geostatic stress
L 5 geogrid length
45° 1 ö/2
ã 5 20 kN/m
3
ö 5 43°
ó
1
ó
3
0 40 80 120 160
Normal stress, ó
n
(kPa)
Figure 18. Typical geogrid-reinforced soil wall with total vertical stress distributions
Mean effective stress, p¢
Deviatoric
stress, q
M
1ve
2ve
A2
A1
A
B
Critical-state line
Initial stress state
Äó
1
5 0
Äó
3
Äó
1
5 Äó
n
Äó
3
Figure 19. Stress paths for soil element within reinforced
zone with and without restrained dilatancy effect
250 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5
ing the influence of dilatant stress on the internal stability
of reinforced soil walls is simplistic. The internal stability
of reinforced soil walls is strongly coupled and interactive.
Pullout of reinforcements results in lateral movements and
produces shear displacements at the soil–reinforcement
interface. The mobilization of dilatant stresses enhances
pullout resistance of the reinforcement, increases the
strength of the granular fills, and in turn reduces pullout
displacements and lateral movements of the wall. In terms
of improvement towards a more realistic analysis of the
stress and strain conditions in the reinforced soil zone,
numerical modeling that incorporates the appropriate
stress path of the soil and the coupled and interactive
behavior within the reinforced soil is recommended.
6. CONCLUDING REMARKS
A study was undertaken of the mobilization of dilatant
stresses at the interface between soil and reinforcement
during pullout of geogrid strip reinforcements. Mobiliza-
tion of dilatant stresses using the measured soil dilatancy
was represented through a simple analytical model avail-
able in the literature. The mobilization of dilatant stresses
at the soil–reinforcement interface can result in additional
localized compressive stresses in the surrounding granular
fill. This can have a positive influence, because it
enhances the pullout resistance of the geogrid strip
reinforcement and raises the effective stresses, resulting in
an increase in the shear strength of the granular soil in the
vicinity of strip reinforcements. It is therefore essential to
take the influence of dilatant stresses into account in the
internal stability analysis of reinforced soil walls using
geogrid strip reinforcements.
NOTATIONS
Basic SI units are given in parentheses.
a, b fitting parameters (dimensionless)
B width of geogrid specimen (m)
B
e
width along edge of reinforcement influenced
by restrained dilatancy (m)
B
o
width of pullout box (m)
C
c
coefficient of curvature of soil particle size
distribution curve (dimensionless)
C
u
coefficient of uniformity of soil particle size
distribution (dimensionless)
d
50
average particle size (m)
F pullout force (N)
f apparent interface friction coefficient
(dimensionless)
G shear modulus of soil (N/m
2
)
H overburden height (m)
h thickness of sheared zone (m)
K coefficient of earth pressure (dimensionless)
K
a
coefficient of earth pressure in active state
(dimensionless)
K
0
coefficient of earth pressure at rest
(dimensionless)
M slope of critical-state line (dimensionless)
P applied point load (N)
p mean normal stress (N/m
2
)
Q load per unit length (N/m)
q strip load per unit area, surcharge load,
deviatoric stress (N/m
2
)
r radius of nail (m)
x x-coordinate, horizontal distance (m)
y y-coordinate (m)
z z-coordinate, depth (m)
Æ, â, Ł angles of rotation (degrees)
ª unit weight of soil (N/m
3
)
˜
rel
relative horizontal displacement between
pressure cell location and junction (m)
ä
h
shear displacement of soil (m)
ä
r
radial expansion of soil in shear zone around
a soil nail (m)
ä
v
vertical displacement of soil due to dilatancy
(m)
í Poisson’s ratio of soil (dimensionless)
ó
b
bearing stress of soil on reinforcement
surfaces (N/m
2
)
ó
n
applied normal stress (N/m
2
)
˜ó
n
dilatant stress (N/m
2
)
ó
napp
applied normal stress (N/m
2
)
ó
nmeas
pressure cell reading (N/m
2
)
ó
x
horizontal stress (N/m
2
)
ó
vo
initial vertical stress (N/m
2
)
ó
z
vertical stress (N/m
2
)
ó
1
major principal stress (N/m
2
)
ó
2
intermediate principal stress (N/m
2
)
ó
3
minor principal stress (N/m
2
)
ö soil internal friction angle (degrees)
ł angle of dilatancy (degrees)
ø conversion factor from circular cross-section
to rectangular cross-section of reinforcement
(dimensionless)
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The Editors welcome discussion in all papers published in Geosynthetics International. Please email your contribution to
discussion@geosynthetics-international.com by 15 April 2006.
252 Alfaro and Pathak
Geosynthetics International, 2005, 12, No. 5

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