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Shear Strength Characteristics of Sand

Mixed with Eps Beads Using Large

Direct Shear Apparatus
Karimpour Fard1, M., Jamshidi Chenari1, R., Soheili2, F.
1: Assistant Professor, School of Civil Engineering, The University of Guilan
2: M.Sc Graduate in Geotechnics, The University of Guilan

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) composite soil is a new kind of lightweight geomaterial, which is made of
soil, binder, water, and EPS. Soils mixed with expanded polystyrene (EPS) particulates could be used
as lightweight fills in slopes for improved stability, embankments over highly compressible soils, and
for reducing earth pressures in soil retention structures. The addition of very low density EPS
particulates into soil has a large effect on the mass and volumetric properties of the resulting soil
mixtures and their influence on mechanical properties is scarce in the literature. Large direct shear tests
were conducted to evaluate the shear strength properties of the sand-EPS beads-mixture. Direct shear
tests were conducted under six different vertical stresses. The effect of EPS beads content on properties
of the sand-EPS beads-mixture were studied. The results showed that the inclusion of EPS bead in
sand will lead to a decreased shear strength parameters.

There has been growing interest in the use of non-conventional as lightweight geo-materials, and
their introduction has presented both opportunities and challenges to researchers and engineers
worldwide. Attention is specifically needed to be drawn to the consideration of both the cost and
environmental implications when any new material is introduced into construction. In recent decades,
a successful conversion from academic excellence to commercial viability has occurred.
Lightweight fill materials have a wide range of civil engineering applications around the world.
The aim of using lightweight soil is to reduce vertical earth pressure and lateral earth pressure. They
may be used as fill over soft clay sites to prevent excessive settlement; as backfill for retaining and
basement walls to reduce the horizontal driving forces; as fill material to increase factor of safety for
slopes by reducing driving forces; as seismic buffers to alleviate seismic forces, and so forth. Various
types of lightweight fills, such as expanded polyesterne (EPS)-block geofoam, EPS beads, tire waste
products like shredded tires, tire chips and tire crumbs (TC) have been reported. Using such materials
not only provides lightweight fill solution for civil engineering projects, but also helps to save the
environment by recycling these materials instead of stockpiling them (Edinliler and zer, 2014).
EPS is characterized by very low density (nearly 100 times lesser than soil) with potentially high
compressibility, good flexural strength and high rupture strength in shear. Typically, EPS is used in
two different ways: (1) EPS blocks (also called EPS geo-foam) and (2) EPS beads mixed with soil
and binder. EPS geo-foam is a lightweight plastic block that has been used around the world as a fill
for more than 35 years due to its favorable characteristics, such as light mass, high strength, good
chemical and water stability, reasonable mechanical properties and convenience in construction. A

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typical EPS geo-foam is approximately 1/100 the weight of most soils. The first successful project
using EPS geo-foam blocks was in Norway in 1965 and the first road embankment project using EPS
geo-foam blocks was completed in 1972 (Frydenlund 1991). In Japan, Tsuchida (1995) and Tsuchida
et al. (1996) discussed the use of dredged soil mixed with air-foam and stabilized by cement as a
lightweight fill on soft soil and concluded that the cost of the lightweight material was offset by the
reduced need for ground improvement and the benefit of utilizing waste material.
Recently, EPS-block geofoam gained popularity due to its wide application areas such as
compressible inclusions (Horvath, 1994, 1997 ; Murphy, 1997), reduction of swelling pressure caused
by expansive sub-soils (Aytekin, 1998; Ikizler et al., 2008), fill materials in highway embankments
(Stark et al., 2004) and remediation of sandy slopes (Akay et al., 2013; zer et al., 2014). There has
been considerable interest in the use of EPS geo-foam behind retaining walls to reduce lateral earth
pressure. Ikizler et al. (2008), for example, found that the swelling pressure caused by expansive soil
behind a retaining wall might be considerably reduced by the EPS geo-foam, which can accommodate
soil expansion and reduce swelling pressure. Furthermore, Hatami and Witthoeft (2007) found that
placement of geo-foam behind the reinforced zone of a reinforced soil retaining wall (RSRW) could
reduce the maximum lateral earth pressure behind this zone by 75% at most, and the reduction of
lateral earth pressure depended on the backfill type and the geo-foam thickness and stiffness. Stark et
al. (2004) discussed the use of EPS geo-foam blocks as fill material in highway embankments and
compared their costs with those constructed with typical soil fill. They concluded that EPS geo-foam
provided a safe and economical solution for embankments on soft soil. The insulation qualities of
EPS would also reduce frost penetration. Moreover, their high permeability would provide good
drainage (Najmaddin and Canakci, 2013).
Despite all the advantages of the EPS-block geofoam, Liu et al. (2006) listed the disadvantages of
EPS-block geofoam as: blocks are fabricated off-site so they required transportation to the project
site, blocks cannot readily fill the irregular volumes, and properties of the blocks cannot be changed
easily to suit the properties of on-site soil. In order to overcome shortcomings of EPS-block geofoam,
lightweight fill material composed of a mixture of EPS beads with soil and alternative additives is
recommended (Tsuchida, 1995; Tsuchida et al., 2001; Yoonz et al., 2004; Liu et al., 2006). EPS beads
are inexpensive compared with EPS blocks (geo-foam), not only because they can be mixed with soil
to save the volume of EPS to meet the same settlement requirement; but also because they can be
recycled from packaging materials, which are often treated as waste. Considering both the cost and
capacity of reducing fill material weight, the use of EPS beads with soil and binder can be an
attractive solution for the geotechnical problems.
To date there is little published information and data for soils mixed with EPS particulates.
Various researchers reported the experimental results of field and laboratory tests on mixtures of soil
and EPS particulates. Deng and Xiao (2009 & 2010) studied the stress-strain behavior of EPS-sand
for a single type of EPS beadsand mixture. They showed a systematic decrease in drained strength
with increasing EPS content and found that it is possible to prepare EPSsand mixtures when a huge
quantity of the material is to be prepared in the field without any additives. Liu et al. (2006) mixed
silty clay with EPS-beads and Portland cement. Miao et al. (2010) mixed dredged sand with EPS-
beads and Portland cement. They used standard Proctor tests, unconfined compression tests,
California Bearing Ratio (CBR) tests, unconsolidated-undrained tests, and consolidated-undrained
tests to mitigate settlement problems associated with bridge approach embankments over soft soil.
Padade and Mandal (2014), proposed a geomaterial by blending fly ash instead of soil with EPS-
beads and cement. Using compression tests they showed that the compressive strength of EPGM
(expanded polystyrene-bead geomaterial) increases considerably if cement-to-fly ash ratios of 10, 15
and 20% are used. Compared with EPS block geofoam, EPS beads mixed geomaterial has higher
Vol. 20 [2015], Bund. 8 2207

density but higher compressive strength and higher stiffness so it can be used as a strong fill material
with high strength. Some researchers mixed EPS particulates with sand to create a lightweight fill and
measured the stress-strain characteristics of the modified soils in the laboratory using direct shear and
triaxial compression tests (Liu et al., 2006; Zhu et al., 2008; Deng and Xiano, 2009 & 2010; Miao et
al., 2012; Edinliler et al., 2014). Rocco and Luna (2013) mixed EPS particulates into cohesive,
swelling soils to discuss the effect of EPS content on the unit weight and void ratio using Standard
Proctor and triaxial UU compression tests.
Nonetheless, the influence of EPS particulates on the strength of a composite soil is poorly
understood and warrants further investigation. This paper presents the material properties, specimen
preparation of mixtures, weight-volume relations, and shear strength of sand mixed with EPS beads
in low weight fractions. EPS beads and construction sands were blended homogeneously in
proportions to form nonstructural granular lightweight fills. The goal of this study is to measure the
stress-strain characteristics of EPS-sand mixtures, as well as to model the proportion dependent
stress-strain behavior of the mixtures. Laboratory large direct shear tests were conducted on EPS-sand
specimens prepared at designated EPS contents and subjected to varying vertical overburdens
pressures. The stress-strain responses of the mixtures were observed, collected, and analyzed.

The experiments are carried out on Chamkhaleh Sand, supplied from Chamkhaleh Beach
adjacent to Chamkhaleh River, located on SW of Caspian Sea. The particles are quartz-based with
gray color and uniform particle distribution as shown in Figure 1. The index properties of the sand are
given in Table 1. The specific gravity was determined according to ASTM D 854, and maximum and
minimum dry unit weights were determined based on ASTM D 4253 and ASTM D 854, respectively.
It had a specific gravity of 2.63, a maximum dry unit weight of 16.1 kN/m3 (i.e., minimum void ratio
of 0.63) and a minimum dry unit weight of 14.2 kN/m3 (i.e., maximum void ratio of 0.85). The
particle size distribution of the sand is given in Figure 2. The sand had a coefficient of uniformity of
1.54, a coefficient of curvature of 0.95, and was classified under the Unified Soil Classification
System as SP (poorly graded sand) and under the AASHTO Soil Classification System as A-3.
The EPS beads used in this study is super light polymer foam, prepuffed from polysryrene resin,
provided by a local EPS block moulding company which had been manufacturing EPS geofoam
blocks. The beads were white, even, and spherical, sizing between 2-7 mm (Figure 3). The relevant
index properties of EPS bead are presented in Table 1. EPS bead is a super light polymer foam,
prepuffed from polystyrene resin. Determination of the unit weight and specific gravity of the EPS
beads were conducted employing a procedure modified from comparable standard test method for
fine aggregates (i.e., ASTM C128). Beads were placed into a 1-L hydrometer until the volume of the
hydrometer was apparently occupied. Beads were placed into the hydrometer without noticeable
compaction effort so as to reach a moderate compaction state. Unit weight of the beads is then easily
calculated by scaling the net weight of beads, used to fill the bottle. The unit weight obtained for EPS
beads was 0.08 KN/m3. Specific gravity (Gs) of beads was also calculated by filling the voids between
EPS beads with distilled water and then to calculate the net volume of beads and determine the
specific gravity of beads, which was 0.013.
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Figure 1: Magnified photos of Chamkhaleh Sand (Fakharian and Shabani, 2011)

Table 1: Physical properties of tested materials

Dry unit Effective Uniformity Coefficient
Specific gravity Mean grain
Material weight size D10 coefficient of curvature
(Gs) size D50 (mm)
(kN/m3) (mm) Cu Cc
14.2 (min)
Sand 2.63 0.17 0.21 1.54 0.95
16.1 (max)
EPS bead 0.013 0.08 2.60 4.00 1.70 0.90

Figure 2: Grain size distribution curves of EPS bead and sand used for mixtures
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Figure 3: Optical microscope photos of EPS beads

Large Direct Shear Testing Setup

The size of the shearing device can influence the direct shear test results. Generally, the boundary
effect and device friction are more significant for a smaller shear box. Ingold (1982) concludes that
the friction angle obtained from a 60 mm60 mm shear area was 23(o) higher than that obtained
from a 300 mm300 mm shear area. This study uses a large scale direct shear device. The general test
arrangement of large-scale direct shear test is shown in Figure 4. The shear box consists of an upper
shear box and a lower shear box. The shear box has the capability of sustaining lateral shearing
force of up to 100 kN. Lower and upper shear boxes are made of 4 mm thick steel sheet welded to
rectangular pipe section. The outer length, width and height of the each shear box is 360 mm360
mm100 mm. The inner size of each part had dimensions of 300 mm300 mm100 mm. During the
directly shearing test, the upper box was fixed on the frame and was stationary and the lower half was
driven by a horizontal loading system. The movement of the lower shear box in the horizontal
direction is controlled by a horizontal servo motor that could slide smoothly in the horizontal
direction. The system is capable of applying a constant strain rate from 0.1 to 60 mm/min. A
detachable steel load bearing is provided with the upper shear box for uniform distribution of normal
stress. The vertical loading applied by a mechanical jack is transferred through the rigid reaction
frame and adds on a rigid load plate which is placed on top of the soils in the upper shear box. The
system is capable of applying a vertical stress of up to 200 kPa. The horizontal movement of the
lower shear box, vertical movement of rigid load plate and the shear force exerted during shearing
testing are also recorded. These data are collected by using a load cells and two linear variable
displacement transformers (LVDT). A load cell was connected between the servo piston and the steel
frame of the lower box. The capacity for the load cells is 50 kN and The capacities for vertical and
horizontal LVDT are 50 mm. Schematic of the complete setup depicting the major components is
shown in Figure 5.
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Figure 4: Large Direct Shear test apparatus

Figure 5: Details of the large Direct Shear Test Apparatus

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Specimen Preparation
EPS-sand specimens (Figure 6) were formed by mixing EPS beads with sands at a dry mass ratio
of EPS beads over sands, which was thought as the most significant factor controlling the unit
weight, strength and deformation characteristics of the mixtures. Investigated ratios were 0, 0.05,
0.075, 0.1, and 0.125% by weight. Sufficient water was added to the EPSsand samples. The added
water provided bonding between specifically the EPS beads and sand, which made it possible to mix
without segregation. For each designated mixing ratio, the mass-based proportions of sand and EPS
bead were determined beforehand. The proportioned materials were mixed thoroughly until the
mixtures were homogenous enough.

Figure 6: Sample preparation for EPS-sand mixture

Mixtures at a designated weight were placed in layers and compacted moderately by tamping
efforts until the desired dry density (d=15.1 kN/m3) was reached. It should be noted that the dry
density was defined based on total solid constituents, namely EPS beads inclusions and sand particles.
Some researchers try to maintain a constant skeletal or matrix dry density for sand portion (Amel
Sakhi, 2001), however authors believe that considering a constant skeletal relative density is tricky
situation which is strictly affected by compressibility of inclusions and needs precise estimation of the
sand portion volume. In real world applications, practitioners would rather to adopt a simple
procedure based on either maintaining a constant total dry sand portion weight assumption (Jamshidi,
2008) or adopting a constant overall bulk dry density which is the case in this study. Specifically, the
target dry density of EPS-sand mixtures was achieved by quantifying the weight of proportioned EPS
and sand mixtures to be placed within a volume. Consistent compaction was attained by controlling
the feed quantity of the portion to be placed in an increment. The specimen preparation procedure
used in this study was implemented to obtain a homogenous distribution, and no evidence of
segregation was observed for any EPS content. A list of specimens and corresponding weight and
volume ratios is provided in Table 2 for EPS beads mixed with sand. A total of 30 tests [i.e., EPS
content =0 (pure sand) and four different EPS contents respectively with 6 overburden] of large
direct shear tests were performed in this investigation. Series 1 was conducted using pure sand
specimens. The balance of experiments were conducted using EPS-sand specimens. Each series
included six specimens, which were subjected to six separate overburden pressures (i.e., 5, 10, 20, 40,
Vol. 20 [2015], Bund. 8 2212

80 and 160 kPa). The volumetric ratio of EPS over the combination of EPS and sand in the mixture,
, was calculated based on the mixing ratios and specific gravities of particles for each mixture, as
presented in Eq. (1).

= 100 (1)

Where denotes the EPS volumetric percentage in the mixture and GsEPS and Gss denote the specific gravities of
EPS bead and sand, respectively.

Table 2: Summary of direct shear testing program on EPS-sand mixtures

Content by Content by Dry density Overburden pressure
weight (%) volume (%) (kN/m3) (kPa)
Sand 0 0 14.8 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 , 160
EPS-Sand-1 0.05 0.09 14.8 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 , 160
EPS-Sand-2 0.075 0.13 14.8 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 , 160
EPS-Sand-3 0.1 0.16 14.8 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 , 160
EPS-Sand-4 0.125 0.2 14.8 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 , 160

Equipment Verification Using Sand

To verify that the large-scale direct shear device worked properly, control tests were first
conducted using sand. To prevent the sand from falling out of the upper box when the two boxes were
offset during shearing, a 3cm wide angle iron flange was bolted to the side of the lower box, as shown
in Figure 7. The shear strength of sand was also obtained using the standard direct shear test
according to ASTM D3080-04 (ASTM 2004), Standard Test Methods for Direct Shear Test of Soils
under Consolidated Drained Conditions, using the same condition. The specimen dimensions on the
standard direct shear device were 55 cm and 2.5 cm height.
The test procedure of large-scale shear testing of sand is as follows:
1. Align the lower and upper shear boxes, and lock the lower shear box.
2. Fill and compact sand in the lower box in three layers to reach a target dry density. When
compacting the material in layers, it was ensured that the shear plane defined by the shear boxes was
approximately in the middle of a compacted layer. If the shear plane coincided with an interface of
two compacted layers, the obtained shear resistance would be lower and not representative.
3. Fill and compact sand in the upper box the same way as in Step 2.
4. Load a steel plate on the sand in the upper box, and then the vertical piston on the steel plate.
The samples loaded with specific vertical overburden and record the vertical deformation. The
vertical pressure was maintained by the vertical mechanical jack during testing.
5. Zero the readings of the horizontal load cell and the LVDTs.
6. Unlock the lower shear box, and move the lower box at a constant displacement rate using the
horizontal servo motor. A constant horizontal displacement rate of 3 mm/min was used. This
displacement rate was equal with those used in other shear testing in the literature. The horizontal
resistance force, the horizontal displacement of the lower shear box, and the vertical displacement are
automatically recorded by the data acquisition system. The sampling frequency of the data acquisition
system was approximately 50 readings/s.
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7. Notice the peak value of the horizontal force, and continue the test until the leveling-off of the
shear resistance is observed or until the maximum shear displacement is reached.
8. After the test, lift the vertical piston and release the vertical pressure, return the lower box back
to its original position, and remove the material in the boxes.
9. For each new shear test, the material is removed and re-compacted.
For each normal load (5, 10, 20, 40, 80, 160 kPa), the shear resistance versus shear displacement
relationship was plotted; the maximum shear resistance for each normal load was derived from the
curve. Then the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope was obtained.

Figure 7: Shear box configurations


Pure Sand
Mohr-Coulomb failure envelopes of sand were derived from the large-scale shear test. Duplicate
tests were conducted. The results are shown in Figure 8 and proved to be qualitatively reproducible.
The shear stress versus shear displacement curves from one set of tests are shown in Figure 9. As
shown in Figure 9, the shear stress increases rapidly for all overburden pressures of the sand only
specimens, and then when the horizontal displacement is between 0.9 and 1.1cm, the stressstrain
curve decreases. The pure sand at relative density of Dr=50% behaves as medium to dense sand,
reasonably well-defined peak shear strengths are indicated. The stress-strain responses are dependent
on overburden pressures. As overburden pressures increase, the stress-strain curves indicate an
increase in the initial slope and an increase in the peak strength. The results from the large scale shear
tests and the standard direct shear tests are summarized in Table 3. As the results show, the cohesion
values are very small; therefore, the friction angle governs shear strength. Table 3 shows that the
large-scale shear tests provided comparable and slightly lower (conservative) values for internal
friction angle.
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Figure 8: Duplicated failure envelopes of sand from large-scale shear testing

Figure 9: Shear stress versus displacement relationships of sand

Table 3:.Shear strengths of sand obtained from Large-Scale and Standard Direct Shear Tests
Large-Scale Direct Standard Direct
Strength Shear Tests Shear Tests
Test 1 Test 2 Test 1 Test 2
c (kPa) 3.4 5 1.2 2.8
(deg.) 36.1 34.6 38.1 39
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EPS-Sand Mixtures
The shear stressstrain curves of EPSsand are presented in Figures 1013, respectively. The
graphs show that there is continuous increase in the value of shear stress with respect to increase in
the horizontal displacement for all the EPS contents and then when the horizontal displacement is
between 0.9 and 1.3cm, the stressstrain curve flattens or decreases. Failure during shear was defined
as the maximum shear stress obtained. Also, Figures indicate that the peak shear stresses obtained
from the EPSsand specimen were less than that of sand only tests under the same overburden
pressures. The stressstrain curves of EPSsand for lower EPS contents indicated that the stress
strain behavior of the mixture was mainly dominated by sand and curves show a clear peak. Figures
14-18 shows the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelopes using the maximum values of shear stress
representing the failure point for various EPS contents. The results show that for all the EPS contents,
the frictional behavior is dominant and the cohesion values are nontrivial.
The EPS content in comparison to the literature is small enough so that the peak shear stress
development as observed in Figure 9 for pure sand specimen is not vanished. However in some cases
one need to decide upon the deformation level considered as the failure point as there is no clear
level- off state. For this reason, four different deformation levels of 1, 2, 3 and 4 cm along with the
peak stress state are chosen to be considered as failure points. Obviously 4cm horizontal displacement
represents the ultimate state where tests are terminated at the allowed maximum shear displacement.

Figure 10: Shear stress versus displacement Figure 11: Shear stress versus displacement
relationships of EPS-sand at =0.05% relationships of EPS-sand at =0.075%

The shear strength parameters of EPS-sand mixture are summarized in Table 4. The cohesion or
adhesion values are all less than 5 kPa and are very small; thus, the shear strength of EPS in contact
with sand is primarily governed by friction.
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Figure 10: Shear stress versus displacement Figure 11: Shear stress versus displacement
relationships of EPS-sand at =0.1% relationships of EPS-sand at =0.125%

Figure 14: Failure envelopes of EPS-sand at =0% Figure 15: Failure envelopes of EPS-sand at =0.05%

Figure 16: Failure envelopes of EPS-sand at =0.075% Figure 17: Failure envelopes of EPS-sand at =0.1%
Vol. 20 [2015], Bund. 8 2217

Figure 18: Failure envelopes of EPS-sand at =0.125%

Table 4: Summary of shear strength parameters of EPS-Sand mixture

EPS content (%) 0 0.05 0.075 0.1 0.125
Cohesion/adhesion (kPa) 5.58 8.36 6.8 3.12 1.26
Friction angle () 34.3 29.7 29 28.8 26.5
Cohesion/adhesion (kPa) 2.47 6.14 3.64 3.5 3.5
Friction angle () 32.5 30.1 29.1 29.2 26.1
Cohesion/adhesion (kPa) 2.36 3.84 1.94 2.9 3.77
Friction angle () 31.7 29.7 29.1 28.8 25.1
Cohesion/adhesion (kPa) 1.43 2.17 1.83 2 3.9
Friction angle () 29.6 29.4 28.6 28.4 23.3
Cohesion/adhesion (kPa) 3.4 4.5 5.2 3.2 3.3
Peak stress
Friction angle () 36.1 33.1 30.1 29.2 27.4

An important observation from Table 4 is that the friction angle decreases with EPS content for
peak state and all displacement criteria. Figure 19 demonstrates variation of friction angle with EPS
content for different deformation levels and the peak state. It is evident that the friction angle
decreases with EPS content. The reason is that angular sand particles are replaced with smooth and
spherical EPS beads and this appears in form of internal friction angle reduction.
Vol. 20 [2015], Bund. 8 2218

Figure 19: Friction angle variation with EPS content

This paper presents a large-scale shear test of EPS-sand mixtures. The control tests using sand
proved that large-scale direct test equipment could obtain a comparable and slightly conservative
shear strength. The EPS content was low enough so that the peak shear strength resistance was
observed in most cases. However different deformation levels were selected for failure state
assumptions. The results revealed no noticeable difference for various deformation levels and there
exists no challenge in selecting the design parameters of EPS-Sand mixture. Analyses revealed that
the shear strength of EPS-sand mixture is mainly governed by frictional behavior and the intercept
cohesion values were considered very small. More importantly, it was observed that the internal
friction angle decreases with EPS contents due to the replacement of sand particles with EPS beads.

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