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Finite element analysis of embankments supported on geocell layer

K. Rajagopal G. Madhavi Latha N.R. Krishnaswamy
Associate Professor Research Scholar Professor
Department of Civil Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai India 600 036

ABSTRACT: The geocell reinforcement provides 3-dimensional confinement to the soil thus improving both
the strength and stiffness of the soil. The improvement in these two parameters is quantified in this paper
through standard triaxial compression tests on geocell reinforced sand samples. The results from these exper-
iments have been analyzed to develop simple relations to estimate the shear strength and stiffness of the geo-
cell reinforced soil in terms of the geocell properties. The frame work of hyperbolic model has been employed
to develop simple equation to estimate the stiffness of the geocell reinforced soil. This model has been im-
plemented in a finite element program to analyze the performance of geocell reinforced soils. The perfor-
mance of laboratory-scale embankments has been back-predicted using this model to verify its accuracy. This
model was found to be able to simulate the effect of the various parameters, viz. dimensions of the geocell
pockets, modulus of geocell material etc.

1 INTRODUCTION these tests are reported in Rajagopal et al. (1998).
Typical test results from the triaxial compression
The geocell is a 3-dimensional cellular mattress tests on geocell confined soil are shown in Figure 1.
made of geogrids or geotextiles, which provides all The results have shown that the geocell confinement
round confinement to the soil. Because of this con- does not change the friction angle of the soil where-
finement, the strength and stiffness of the soil in- as it induces some apparent cohesion even to granu-
creases. This type of soil reinforcement is ideally lar soils.
suited for the construction over extremely soft soils
1200
where the use of planar geosynthetics may not be
adequate.
The 3-dimensional finite element simulation of
problems with geocell reinforcement requires the
generation of membrane type elements in a criss-
cross manner to model geocell walls. This is rather 800
(s1-s3) kPa

cumbersome and hence it is preferable to work with
a 2-dimensional equivalent model that can very well
replicate the behavior of a 3-dimensional system.
This paper deals with development of such a model four geocells
and its verification from back-analysis of laboratory 400 three geocells
tests on large-scale model embankments.
two geocells
single geocell
2 TRIAXIAL COMPRESSION TESTS
0
The strength and stiffness behavior of geocell en-
0 5 10 15 20
cased granular sands was investigated through a se-
ries of triaxial compression tests. The tests have used axial strain %
configurations of one geocell, two, three and four in-
terconnected cells. The geocells were made of four
different types of geotextiles whose 5% secant stiff- Fig 1. Typical stress-strain results from triaxial
ness ranged from 0.5 to 70 kN/m. The details of compression tests

Its value for the case with three and four cells was found to be equal to 4.s 3 )  2 n s3  E t  1 . The follow. moisture content. The unit ing well known hyperbolic equation was used to weight. The soil within each cell was compacted uniformly by tamping with a steel (1970). The above 3 EQUIVALENT COHESIVE STRENGTH OF constants in the equation were determined by regres- GEOCELL CONFINED SOIL sion analysis of the test data.sin  )(s 1 . The tank was fitted with 20 mm thick perspex sheet 2M c 1 2M 1 . It was found that the parameter “n” was rod having an enlarged base. s 3 cr  kp (1) 5 LARGE-SCALE LABORATORY 2 in which kp is the Rankine’s passive earth pressure EMBANKMENT MODEL TESTS coefficient and s3 is the additional confining pres- sure due to the membrane stresses given as. the secant modulus of geocell walls (M in kN/m) as creased beyond three. The clay soil was initially mixed with excessive amounts of water and poked with steel rods to obtain 4 STIFFNESS OF GEOCELL CONFINED SOIL uniform mixing and then consolidated under a sur- charge pressure of 10 kPa for one week. undisturbed samples were collected from the bed af- ties of the geocell and the material properties of the ter consolidation to determine the CBR value and geosynthetic used to make the geocell. The increase in the duce a soft clay bed with uniform properties. testing undisturbed core samples collected from at tile used to fabricate the geocell. the geocell confined soil terms of geometric and material properties of the was represented using the equivalent shear strength geocell based on the membrane correction theory. when the number of cells was in. geocell pockets. This result shows that the strength and stiffness behavior observed in Kr . These tests were performed within a steel test tank 1800 mm long.f  K Pa   (3) uniform mixing procedures. the vane shear strength of the clay soil. consolidation. follows. All the sides of the tank were lined d (1 . vane shear strength and quantify the effect of the confining pressure on the CBR value of the clay foundation were maintained Young’s modulus.1 . properties derived from Equations 1 and 2 and the The additional cohesive strength (cr) due to single stiffness derived from equations 3 and 4. the above constitutive model in a finite element pro- mate the apparent cohesion induced to the soil in gram.Ku =  50 M0. Several confining pressure depends on the geometric proper. crease in the strength and stiffness. fill soil was maintained at 17 kN/m3 for all the tests. geocell encasement was obtained as. After this Due to the increase in the confining pressures exert.  2c cos   2s 3 sin    Pa  On this clay bed a layer of geocells was formed with different pocket sizes and geogrids. a   with two layers of plastic sheets whose inner layers were coated with lubricating oil to create perfect The modifications to above equation to consider plane strain conditions in the tank. pockets of the geo- determined as described by Duncan and Chang cells were filled with soil. The unit weight of in- nearly equal to 0. least six individual cells. model in terms of the Ku of the unreinforced soil and creased.70 for all the samples and the mod. 1. In these analyses. a . its stiffness will also depth for all tests. The validity of the above equation was verified by successfully back- Based on the results from the above triaxial com. almost the same for all the model tests by carefully controlling the amount of water added and using  R (1 . the strength and stiffness of the soil in. After the The different parameters in the above equation were formation of the geocell layer.16 (4) laboratory tests with three inter-connected cells is representative of geocells in real cases with many in- in which  is an interaction parameter between the ter-connected cells. an equation has been derived to esti. This procedure was found to pro- increase as illustrated in Fig. a  on one longitudinal side and thick steel plates on all s 3     (2) the other sides. ulus parameter “K” was found to depend on the The compaction quality of this layer was verified by number of geocells and the modulus of the geotex.It could be observed that as the number of geocells cell-soil composite was expressed in the proposed is increased. predicting the experimental data by implementing pression tests. multiple cells are reported in Rajagopal et al. there was not much further in. 800 mm wide and 1200 mm height. (1998). The Kr of the geo. the layer was trimmed to a 600 mm ed on the soil by geocell walls. a ) d o  1 . However. Above the geocell layer.

(2000).226 51 perbolic model using the properties estimated from BX 183 842 0.226 42 the previously described model. Young’s modulus (E) value could only be back- tion. The geocell layer was represented using hy. All equal vertical displacement to all the nodes on the .symmetrical half of the embankment was construct. the toe of the embankment. The geocell layer was simulated using between the different materials. the ge. The heights of geocell layers (h) were experimental data. Coulomb flow rule. The incremental fi. sand in embankment was obtained as 15. The soft foundation soil and the embankment The shear strength properties of the interfaces were soil were modelled using elastic-perfectly plastic determined from large-scale direct shear box tests type models.226 24 matrix on the LHS to simulate the full non-linear NP-2 95 796 0. The vertical and bolic model as described earlier. The dilation angle was assumed ments under that load increment reached steady as zero.000 kPa The surcharge pressure on embankment crest was from the slopes of the unloading part of the triaxial applied through a pre-calibrated proving ring using a compression tests performed at different confining hydraulic jack supported against a reaction frame. The cohesion and friction angle of this The uniform distribution of the surcharge pressure soil were 12 kPa and 34 respectively.49 has given rise to excessive heave tests varied from 0. no tri- sheet were placed between the I-sections and the axial tests were possible on that soil. analysed from the results of tests on unreinforced The tests were performed with two different embankments. The predicted surface heave was varied from 100 mm to 250 mm in increments of 50 quite sensitive to the  value of the foundation soil. The number of simulated using 4-node joint elements.226 29 behavior of soil as closely as possible. The details of the embankment mated from the earlier equations and are reported in tests are reported by Krishnaswamy et al. Typically the steady state was obtained within The geocell layer was modeled using the hyper- 10 minutes after applying the load. the interfaces between different materials were ed using clayey sand in 50 mm lifts. elements at the interfaces. reasonable value for this type of soil. The side slope was 2H:1V. predictions and hence its value was reduced to 0. In all the tests. Table 1. layer of pocket (kPa) bankments were performed using plane-strain ideali.30 which is a sections running over the full width of the test tank.45 by matching the and 226 mm. Typical finite blows on each layer was adjusted to achieve a uni. The embankment was of height 400 mm with The average Young’s modulus (E) of the clayey crest width of 700 mm. its embankment crest to ensure uniform load distribu. The dilation angles for all the soils exceeds the shear strength of the interface. Table 1 Young’s modulus parameters for different 6 FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS OF MODEL geocell layers EMBANKMENT TESTS Type of M Kr equivalent Apparent geocell diameter cohesion The finite element analysis of the above test em. In the finite element pro. mm.45 ocell layer was formed over the full length of the test by trial and error. Because of the A thick steel plate and an expanded polystyrene soft consistency of the foundation soil layer.21. The cohesive strength of soft clay tank except in one test in which it was truncated at bed from vane shear tests was obtained as 10 kPa. the excess stresses beyond the yield surface so as to maintain the continuity at the interface. The aspect ratio (h/d) of geocell pockets in the A value of 0. element mesh consisted of about 1500 nodal points. state. The same for geocell encased soil were esti- tions of the test tank. The shear stiffness hyperbolic model with equivalent shear strength and was reduced to a small value after the shear stress stiffness values. Rajagopal and Bathurst (1995). normal stiffness was kept constant at 106 kN/m/m/m cedure. (m) sation. The Poisson’s was achieved by applying the loads through rigid I.44 to 2. Each were modeled as elastic-perfectly plastic with Mohr- load increment was kept constant until the displace. pressures.113 74 nite element equation was formed with out-of- balance forces on the RHS and the tangent stiffness NP-1 75 781 0. The were assumed to be zero. Both the embankment soil and the foundation soil The load was applied in small increments. 382. By trial and error the E and  values pocket sizes with equivalent diameters (d) of 113 were obtained as 200 kPa and 0. The modulus pa- lateral deformations in the model embankment were rameter of the unreinforced soil (Ku) was found to be measured using dial gauges placed at different loca. form average unit weight of 19 kN/m3 in all the 2900 3-node triangular elements and 50 4-node joint tests. Hence. BX 183 842 0. were corrected back along the flow direction and The uniform settlement at the crest of the em- hence it is possible to simulate the dilation behavior bankment was simulated in the analysis by applying of the soil also. UX 267 870 0. ratio () of this soil was assumed as 0.

. 171-184. ASCE. 2 9 REFERENCES lateral deformation (mm) 4 Duncan. ‘Model Studies on Geocell Supported 8 experimental Embankments Constructed Over a Soft Clay Foundation’. 5 pocket size surcharge pressure (kPa) 113 mm 0 20 40 60 80 0 10 pocket-size 226 mm 5 H1 lateral deformation (mm) 10 unreinforced 15 15 H2 Fig. R.. ASTM..crest of the embankment. G. The excellent finite element predictions for different pocket diameters for BX geocells are shown in Figure 4. lustrated in Table 2. Krishnaswamy. and Madhavi Latha. K.. 3. ‘Behaviour of sand confined in single The different thicknesses of the geocell layers was and multiple geocells’.. 12 17.J. K. Effect of pocket size on embankment behav- experimental ior 20 It is interesting to note from the above figure that the equivalent model developed is able to account for 25 finite element the effect of the diameter of the geocell pocket on predicted the overall response i. Testing J. Geotextiles and Geomem- modeled by assigning the relevant properties to ele. H2 and H3 are the measure- lateral deformation (mm) ments at three levels of the embankment. N. K. ‘Behaviour of geo- predicted synthetic reinforced soil retaining walls using the finite element method’. Rajagopal. 1999. and Madhavi Latha. 17. 1629-1653. J. Fig. No. 35 Fig.Y.R.. 6 and Foundns. Geotech. and Chang. G. The different as- corresponding to the applied displacement was de. Further verification with other test data is being performed. 2. J. ‘Non-linear analysis of stresses and strains in soils’. 279-299. The H1.2000. 1995. and Bathurst. of Soil Mech.. 4. 10 finite element Rajagopal.. Computers and Geotech. Div. 1970. The pressure developed ments within that region of mesh. N. 23. Krishnaswamy. Lateral deformations in reinforced slope Rajagopal. Lateral deformations in unreinforced slope 8 CONCLUSIONS surchargepressure surcharge pressure (kPa) (kPa) 0 20 40 60 80 100 The equivalent model developed here is able to rep- 0 licate the 3-dimensional behavior of geocells using 2-d FE models. 2.M. 7 RESULTS surcharge pressure surcharge (kPa) pressure (kPa) 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 The typical comparison between the measured and 0 predicted lateral deformations in unreinforced and reinforced embankment (height = 100 mm with BX geocells made of BX grid) slopes is shown in Fig- ures 2 and 3. pect ratios of geocell pockets were modeled by using termined as the ratio between the sum of the reaction different apparent cohesion values for the layer as il- forces and the embankment crest width. the effect of the aspect ratio 30 can also be accounted for using this equivalent mod- H3 el.e. . 45-54.R.. C. branes.