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Soil Stiffness Constitutive Model Parameters for Geotechnical

Problems: A dilatometer Testing Approach

Crystal Cox
GeoEnvironmental Resources, Inc., Virginia Beach, USA. E-mail:
Paul Mayne
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA.

Keywords: dilatometer, dilatometer testing, DMT, constitutive model, modeling, numerical analysis, shear
modulus, stiffness, stiffness reduction

ABSTRACT: Soil stiffness constitutive model parameters are required when investigating and/or modeling
stress-related deformations in geotechnical problems. The seismic dilatometer test (SDMT) can be used to
determine various stiffness related parameters. This paper discusses utilizing SDMT to determine the
hardening plasticity parameters for the tangent modulus from primary oedometer loading (Eoed), secant
modulus in drained triaxial test (E50) , and unloading/reloading modulus (Eur), along with the nonlinear small
strain stiffness input parameters for the initial reference shear modulus (G0) at very small strains and shear
strain (0.7) at which Gs=0.722G0. The SDMT also provides evaluations of the soil strength and stress history
for input into numerical simulations.

1 INTRODUCTION shear wave velocity testing. Dilatometer testing of

the subsurface then provides the basis to produce a
Constitutive soil models consist of fundamental G- modulus reduction curve for each representative
relations or mathematical definitions of a materials soil type. Next, the G- modulus reduction curve is
physical properties that describe how that translated to an E- modulus reduction curve using
geomaterial responds to external loading. An elastic theory. The site specific E- modulus
example of a commonly-used constitutive relation is
reduction curve along with data obtained from
Hookes law relating stress and strain. Constitutive
models form the basis of computational models SDMT testing can then be used to determine
analyzing stress and deformation. Numerical-method modulus inputs for use in numerical simulations.
based analyses encountered in common geotechnical
software utilize various constitutive soil models to 2 ELASTIC MODULI OF GEOMATERIALS
characterize site conditions and predict soil
response. Typical inputs to these models include Soil stiffness is a complicated phenomenon. In the
stiffness parameters of subsurface soils that are interest of simplicity, equivalent elastic soil stiffness
defined using variants of Youngs (elastic) modulus, parameters (elastic soil moduli) are defined as the
E. Elastic modulus variants such as secant modulus ratio of stress along an axis to strain along an axis
in drained triaxial test (E50), tangent modulus for and often employed in soil characterization and
primary oedometer loading (Eoed), as well as analyses. Eq. 1 states the linear relationship between
unloading/reloading modulus (Eur), are often stress and strain using the proportionality factor of
requested inputs in numerical analyses. Youngs (elastic) modulus, E:
The purpose of this paper is to address the E 1
determination of site-specific soil stiffness
However, equivalent elastic modulus values that
parameters for finite element analyses utilizing in- represent a simplification of true nonlinear soil
situ testing methods, as opposed to performing behavior are complex. Elastic soil moduli values are
rigorous laboratory testing. Small strain stiffness dependent on internal and external factors that
and nonlinear soil behavior can be determined include soil state factors of particle organization
utilizing SDMT. The fundamental shear modulus, (compaction), structural fabric, water content, stress
G0, is first determined for a soil profile using seismic history and cementation, along with loading factors
that include the mean stress level in the soil, mean seismic piezocone penetration tests (SCPTu), and
strain level in the ground, loading rate, loading spectral analysis of surface waves (SASW/MASW)
cycles and drainage characteristics (Briaud 2001). are common in-situ tests that measure the profile of
Providing a singular modulus value for a given soil shear wave velocity (Vs) with depth.
layer must include numerous considerations and Laboratory tests to determine Go for soils are also
adjustment factors and will also be a stress available (e.g., bender elements, resonant column),
dependent value. Given the complexity of modulus yet direct measurement by field tests such as the
definition, there are many available empirical SDMT are preferable to reliably determine Vs since
modulus relationships. However, these relations do lab results can be significantly affected by sample
not adequately describe the in-situ soil state or disturbance and stress relaxation issues, as well as
address stress dependency. Site specific laboratory greater expense in money and time.
testing is required to fully consider in-situ soil state
dependencies. Required triaxial and oedometer tests 4 NONLINEAR SOIL STIFFNESS AND
can be performed to more accurately determine STIFFNESS REDUCTION
stiffness values, but are most often time constrained
and cost prohibitive. When applied stresses produce strain levels, , that
Also of note is that many constitutive models use exceed the small strain limit of s < 10-6, the
a reference stress at an effective confining stress of 1 corresponding values of shear modulus G must
atmosphere (100 kPa) when defining a modulus utilize shear modulus reduction curves to obtain the
value and thus use the ref superscript. appropriate value of G since the modulus softens
Under applied shear stress, a given material will with increased loading. The resulting hyperbolic
exhibit deformation and distortion. Shear modulus behavior demonstrates the nonlinear behavior of
(or modulus of rigidity), G, is a measure relating soils subject to increased stress.
shear stress to shear strain. For small strains, the Hyperbolic G- modulus reduction curves follow
shear modulus G is related to Youngs Modulus, E, the typical behavior indicated by Fig. 1 (Hardin &
as follows through elasticity theory as applies to Drnevich, 1972). The representative Hardin-
material properties: Drnevich curve is defined as:
2 1 2 1
where = Poissons ratio, represents the elastic 1
character of a material:
where ref = reference strain as detailed later.
where lat = strain in the lateral direction and long = 1.2
strain in the longitudinal direction. The value of Go,
the fundamental small strain soil stiffness at initial
loading is: 0.8
4 0.6

where T = total soil mass density and Vs = shear

wave velocity. 0.4

From Eq. 2 it can also be said for small strains, 0.2

the fundamental elastic Young's modulus Eo can be
represented as:
0.01 0.1 1 10 100
2 1 5 /ref

3 IN-SITU DETERMINATION OF SHEAR Fig. 1. Shear modulus reduction curve

MODULUS (after Hardin and Drnevich 1972)

In-situ seismic testing methods can be used to The general Hardin-Drnevich relation has been
discern Go for various geomaterials. Geophysical further modified to include scaling factors in order
crosshole seismic surveys, downhole surveys, to achieve a best fit hyperbolic model of modulus
suspension logging, seismic dilatometer (SDMT), reduction for various soil types based on laboratory
testing. The scaling factors are seen in the inclusion
of a power exponent () as shown in Eq. 7 terms of a normalized reference shear strain. The
(Vardenega & Bolton 2011), or alternatively, a reference shear strain in the Hardin-Drnevich
multiplicative factor (a) as shown in Eq. 8 (Santos & equation is equal to the maximum shear stress or
Correia, 2003). failure stress max divided by the fundamental shear
1 modulus G0, thus:
1 9
1 The Vardenega and Bolton relation given in Eq. 7
8 is formulated after Dardeneli (2001) and Zhang et.
1 al. (2005) with the power exponent based on the
definition that the secant shear stiffness reduces to
The modified Hardin-Drnevich G- expression half its initial maximum value (G/G0 = 0.5) when =
curves are the basis for modulus reduction curves
ref. The determination of ref is provided by
used in several numerical modeling suites. The value
Vardenega and Bolton (2011) as a function of
of a = 0.385 in Eq. 8 after Santos and Correia (2003)
is common to many hardening soil models (Benz, plasticity index, liquid limit, plastic limit or void
2007). ratio, with reasonable agreement for the silts and
The validation of the G- degradation curves clays studied.
from Santos & Correia (2003) utilized both sand and The Santos and Correia (2003) relation given in
clay sites where a = 0.385 was found to be a best fit. Eq. 8 uses the volumetric threshold shear strain tv=
The G- reduction curves from Vardenega & Bolton ref = 0.7 as a reference strain. The volumetric
(2011) are based on a database of 20 silty and clayey threshold shear strain indicates the strain limit at
soils sites where =0.74 was found to be a best fit. which irreversible change occurs in the soil structure
Fig. 2 shows the best fit reduction curves from the (Vucetic & Dobry, 1991). This strain limit has been
two approaches. As shown in Fig. 2, the use of the given as the strain level at which the ratio of G/G0 is
power model of Eq. 7 gives a more rapid reduction equal to 0.722 corresponding to a 27.8% reduction
in modulus (Vucetic, 1994). For this reason, the
of stiffness than does the multiplicative factor a
reference value for volumetric shear strain is
model of Eq. 8.
abbreviated as 0.7. Most numerical modeling
software include the values of G0 and 0.7 as inputs to
define the stiffness reduction relationship for various
geomaterials. The reason given for normalization
using the volumetric threshold shear strain 0.7 is that
the stiffness reduction becomes less prone to errors.
(Benz, 2007).
The normalization of shear strain given in Eq. 9
has been shown to remove some limitations in
characterizing behavior using different test modes,
such as triaxial and direct shear testing (Drnevich,
1981). It has been shown when using a normalized
reference shear strain as a function of max as shown
in Eq. 9, stress-strain curves for undrained and
drained tests on like samples are approximately the
Fig. 2. Reduction curves from fitted experimental data same.
studies Studies of the deformation parameters of Sydney
kaolin using stress history and normalized soil
5 REFERENCE STRAIN engineering properties (SHANSEP) methods
(Poulos, 1974 & 1978) address the determination of
A commonality to both of the aforementioned G- drained and undrained deformation parameters from
modulus reduction relations is the normalization of triaxial testing. Drained secant elastic moduli (E),
shear strain. The original Hardin-Drnevich formula- undrained secant elastic moduli (Eu), drained
tion for hyperbolic stiffness reduction is given in Poissons ratio () values and undrained Poissons
ratio (u) values were examined when utilizing
various modes of triaxial testing at varying
mobilized strengths. Testing modes included
constant rate drained loading, constant rate
undrained loading, one-stage dead loading under
anisotropic initial stress conditions with drained
conditions and two-stage dead loading under
anisotropic initials stress conditions with undrained
conditions followed by drained conditions.
Specimens were studied with respect to
normalization by the initial effective vertical strain
and overconsolidation ratio (OCR).
Findings of the study indicated that undrained
and drained deformation parameters showed good Fig. 4. Normalized drained and undrained secant
agreement when normalized using SHANSEP and modulus value with regression (Poulos, 1978)
are shown in Figs. 3 and 4. The study also showed
that triaxial testing using isotropic initial state be determined using SDMT testing via GDMT, the
stresses yielded significantly larger values of Eu and shear modulus at working strains. The working
strain GDMT can be determined from SDMT testing
E than did anisotropic initial state tests and that
using elastic theory as follows:
accurately determining a value of Eu from triaxial
testing was difficult. 10
2 1 / 1 2
where MDMT is the constrained modulus from SDMT
testing corresponding to a working strain. The
assumption that MDMT represents a working strain
value of the constrained modulus is based on
previous studies and predictions including those by
Monaco et. al. (2006) and Marchetti et. al. (2008).
It should be noted, however, that when using Eq.
(10), the value of Poissons ratio, , cannot be equal
to 0.5, else the value of GDMT is undefined.
Once the value of working strain shear modulus
GDMT is determined, the working shear strain DMT
corresponding with GDMT must be determined in
order to construct the G- modulus degradation
Fig. 3. Normalized drained and undrained secant
modulus value with respect to OCR (Poulos, 1978) curve. Previous studies as detailed by Amoroso et
al. (2012) have estimated typical ranges of DMT in
6 DMT-BASED MODULUS REDUCTION different soil types using stiffness decay curves that
CURVES are backfigured from the observed field behavior
under full-scale loading, obtained by cyclic and
The seismic flat plate dilatometer can be used to dynamic laboratory tests or reconstructed by the
generate a complete G- modulus reduction curve combined use of different in situ and laboratory
for a representative soil type. Hybrid geotechnical- techniques. Typical ranges of DMT are approximated
geophysical tests such as the SDMT provide a as DMT 0.010.45 % in sand, DMT 0.11.9 % in
means to economically and expediently evaluate G0 silt and clay, DMT > 2 % in soft clay (Amoroso et.
profiles in various geomaterials. As shown by al., 2012).
Amoroso (2012), after determining G0 at small A G- modulus degradation curve determined
strains, an additional point should be determined on using in-situ SDMT testing is shown in Fig. 5 for a
the stress-strain curve in order to develop the G- stiff clay soil at a research site in Perth, Australia
response via the modified hyperbolic equations. The (Fahey et. al., 2003). The fundamental small strain
additional point on the modulus reduction curve can soil stiffness, Go, was determined from seismic shear
wave velocity measurements. The working strain
shear modulus, GDMT, was then determined and the 1
G- modulus degradation curve was constructed 11
using Eqs. 6, 7 and 8 along with the soil parameters
from SMDT testing found in Table 1 (Amoroso et. where EDDMT is defined as the modulus obtained
al., 2012). from DMT testing used to define the E-
degradation curve.
Table 1. Modulus Parameters Perth, Australia The secant modulus in drained triaxial testing at
Shear wave velocity, Vs 334 m/s
50 percent strength E50 can also be determined using
Fundamental shear wave modulus, Go 212 MPa values obtained from SDMT testing. Where
Constrained modulus from DMT, MDMT 52 MPa according to Vermeer (2001),
Poissons ratio, 0.30 12
Working strain shear modulus, GDMT 15 MPa From the stiffness degradation curve and using
Normalized Working strain shear 0.07 Eq. 5, 10 and 11, the constrained tangent modulus
modulus, GDMT/Go Eoed (EDDMT), can be plotted on the curve as shown
Working shear strain, DMT 1.5 % in Fig. 7. The working shear strain DMT must also
Maximum shear stress, max 225 kPa be determined as the abscissa to the value of EDDMT
(or GDMT) as previously discussed.
The unloading/reloading modulus in the
drained/undrained triaxial test, Eur, cannot readily be
determined using data obtained from DMT testing
and must be calculated using accepted relationships
if not using laboratory testing such as that given by
Vermeer (2001),
4 13
One will note that when viewing the stiffness
degradation curve, E50 is the smallest of the modulus
values discussed. Most numerical programs maintain
an elastic stiffness cutoff at Eur (corresponding to
Gur), where hardening plasticity accounts for further
stiffness reductions.
Advanced hardening models include the values of
Fig. 5. G- modulus degradation curves utilizing Go and 0.7 as inputs to define the nonlinearity and
in-situ testing small strain stiffness relationships for various
geomaterials. Once Go is determined from seismic
7 CONSTITUTIVE MODEL APPLICATIONS: shear wave velocity testing, the stiffness degradation
ELASTIC MODULUS VALUES curve can be used to define 0.7 or various
correlations have been developed to define the
Constitutive models that analyze stress and value. This strain limit has been given as the strain
deformation in geotechnical analyses require level at which the ratio of G/Go is equal to 0.722,
stiffness parameters of geomaterials as inputs. thus using the degradation curve and the ordinate of
Typical inputs to these models include stiffness 0.722, the corresponding abscissa will yield 0.7.
parameters of subsurface soils that are defined using
variants of Youngs (elastic) modulus, E. Once the
G- modulus degradation curve is determined using
in-situ testing, a corresponding E- modulus
degradation curve can be constructed using Hookes Although the focus of this paper was on required
law and Eq. 2. The associated E- modulus stiffness parameter inputs for constitutive models,
degradation curve corresponding to the G- modulus strength and stress history input values for
degradation curve produced in Fig. 5 is shown in geomaterials are also needed in a numerical model.
Fig. 6. DMT testing also provides strength evaluations of
The constrained (tangent) modulus is determined friction angle (') and undrained shear strength (cu)
through SDMT testing and is referred to in this and the stress history parameters concerning lateral
paper as MDMT. For normally consolidated soils, stresses (Ko), overconsolidation ratio (OCR), and
soil unit weight (). Additional strength definitions
such as dilatancy angle () can be determined 19
indirectly, using existing correlations.
Total unit weight can be estimated from soil type
and relative density or from SDMT as follows
(Mayne et al., 2002) where w is unit weight of
water, ED is dilatometer modulus, pa is atmospheric
pressure and ID is material index.
1.12 20

Values for dilatancy angle () cannot be directly

determined from SDMT testing. A correlation
between in-situ state parameter (0) based on DMT
testing is provided where a negative value indicates
soils denser than critical state and a positive value
indicates soils looser than the critical state (Yu,
Fig. 6. E- modulus degradation curve constructed 2004):
using G- modulus degradation curve
0.002 0.015 0.0026 21

Granular soils have dilatancy angles that relate

the volume change of void ratio as follows based on
relative density, index, Dr and relative dilatancy
index, Ir (Bolton, 1986):
5 1 0 4 22
Plane strain conditions: =6.25
Triaxial conditions: =3.75
Cohesive soils may exhibit no dilatancy at all and
can be generally classified as given in Table 2
(Obrzud & Truty, 2010):
Fig. 7. E- modulus degradation curve
Table 2. Dilatancy of Cohesive Soils
Marchettis relationships for friction angle (') Normally consolidated or lightly
for sands, undrained shear strength of clays (cu) = 0
consolidated Soil
lateral at rest pressure (Ko), and OCR are typically Overconsolidated soil = /3
used values as defined as functions of horizontal Heavily overconsolidated soil = /6
stress index (KD) as follows (Marchetti 1997):
28 14.61 2.1 14 9 CONCLUSIONS
0.22 0.5 15
. Site-specific soil stiffness parameters were examined
0.6 16 for use in soil modeling applications, particularly
finite element simulations. Seismic shear wave
OCR 0.5 . 17 velocity testing provides the fundamental small-
An alternative relationship for friction angle () strain shear modulus, G0, for a soil profile.
is as follows (Campanella & Robertson, 1991): Dilatometer testing of the soils was used to produce
. a G- decay curve of a representative geomaterial by
0.8 establishing the working strain shear modulus GDMT
37.3 18
0.8 corresponding to a working shear strain DMT. The
An alternative relationship for undrained shear G- reduction curve was then translated into a E-
strength (cu) based on the corrected first pressure decay curve using the theory of elasticity.
reading (po) and hydrostatic porewater pressure (uo) The use of a reference strain or threshold strain
is as follows (Schmertmann, 1981): according to Hardin-Drnevich (1972) may prove
useful if the reduction relationship can be easily Soil, ASTM STP 740, R.N. Yong and F.C. Townsend,
implemented in numerical models. Utilizing a Eds., American Society for Testing and Materials,
West Conshohocken, PA: pp.387-409.
reference shear strain according to work by Fahey, M. Lehane, B.M. and Stewart, D. (2003) Soil
Drnevich (1979, 1981) is well suited to in-situ stiffness for shallow foundation design in the Perth
geomaterial characterization as drainage conditions CBD, Australian Geomechanics Journal, 38(2): 61-
are accounted for. Response of undrained and 89.
drained kaolin soils under triaxial testing as Hardin, B.O. & Drnevich, V.P. (1972) Shear modulus
performed by Poulos provide additional and damping in soils: design equations and curves,
Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations
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