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Cyclic Triaxial Test (ASTM D5311/D5311 M-13)

The test is most commonly used for the determination of the liquefaction potential of saturated soil in
either intact or reconstituted states by the load-controlled cyclic triaxial technique. Cyclic triaxial strength
tests are conducted under undrained conditions to simulate essentially undrained eld conditions during
earthquake or other cyclic loading. Failure may be dened on the basis of the number of stress cycles
required to reach a limiting strain or 100 % pore pressure ratio (a condition in which change in pore
pressure equals effective confining pressure)

Apparatus: The apparatus consist of various parts which are:

1. Triaxial Compression Cell consisting of base plate, top plate, chamber, and lateral displacement
2. The load rod, the load rod seal and two linear ball bushings to guide the load rod.
3. Porous Discs with coefficient of permeability approximately equal to that of ne sand (1104 cm/s).
4. Dynamic loading equipment capable of applying a uniform sinusoidal load at a frequency range of 0.1
to 2.0 Hz and able to maintain uniform cyclic loadings to at least 20 % peak-to-peak strains.
5. Electronic load cell for axial load measurement, LVDT for Axial Deformation Measurement, Pore-
Water Pressure Transducer, Volume Change Measurement Device etc., with the characteristics as
mentioned in Table 1 of ASTM D5311.
6. Valves, weighing device, water de-aeration device and other miscellaneous apparatus like specimen
trimming and carving tools, steel straightedge, membrane and O-ring expander, water content cans

A schematic representation of a typical load-controlled cyclic triaxial strength test set-up is shown below:
Sample Preparation: Specimens shall be cylindrical and have a minimum diameter of 51 mm. The height-
to-diameter ratio shall be between 2.0 and 2.5. There are a number of methods for reconstituting
specimens and one of the methods as explained in the code shall be used. The method used shall be
specied in the test report.

Saturation: The prepared soil specimens shall be saturated with the de-aired water by the method of
backpressure saturation. To avoid undesirable prestressing of the specimen while applying back
pressure, the pressures shall be applied incrementally with adequate time between increments to permit
equalization of porewater pressure throughout the specimen. The difference between the chamber
pressure and the back pressure during back pressuring shall not exceed 35 kPa. The differences
between the chamber and back pressure shall also remain within 5% when the pressures are raised and
within 2 % when the pressures are constant.

To check for equalization after application of a back pressure increment or after the full value of back
pressure has been applied, the change in pore pressure over a 1 minute interval shall be measured. If the
change in pore pressure is less than 1 % of the difference between the chamber pressure and the back
pressure, another back pressure increment shall be added or the Pore Pressure Parameter B shall be
measured to determine if saturation is completed. Specimens shall be considered saturated if the value of
B is equal to or greater than 0.95, or if B remains unchanged with addition of back pressure increments.

The Pore-Pressure Parameter B is dened by the following equation: 3 where
u = the change in the specimen pore-water pressure that occurs as a result of a change in the chamber
pressure when the specimen drainage valves are closed, and
3 = the change in the chamber pressure

Consolidation: The samples shall be then consolidated isotropically, by maintaining the applied back
pressure constant and increasing the chamber pressure until the difference between the chamber
pressure and the back pressure equals the desired consolidation pressure. Following consolidation, the
drainage valves shall be closed and the pore-water pressure shall be observed for a period of time to
verify that no leaks in the membrane or pore-water pressure system have occurred. If the time for
consolidation exceeds 8 h, the B value shall be re-determined prior to cyclic loading.

Cyclic Loading: The magnitude of cyclic load to be applied for the desired stress ratio shall then be
estimated. The desired stress ratio, SR, is the ratio of the desired deviator stress to double the effective
consolidation pressure. Accordingly, the magnitude of cyclic load can be estimated, with the following

Pc = 2 x ' 3c x SRdesired x Ac

Pc = estimated cyclic load to be applied to the specimen,
'3c = consolidation pressure (chamber pressure minus back pressure)
SRdesired = desired stress ratio [a]/[2c'], and
Ac = area of specimen after consolidation.

The drainage valves to the specimen are closed and the specimen is cyclically loaded with the rst half
cycle in compression using a 0.1 to 2 Hz sinusoidal load form where the stress varies between peak
compression and peak extension values. During cyclic loading the cell pressure shall be kept constant
and the axial load, axial deformation, and change in pore-water pressure with time shall be recorded. This
failure is defined on the basis of number of stress cycles required to reach a limiting strain or 100% pore
water pressure. The cyclic stress, cyclic stress ratio, double amplitude axial strain, cyclic pore water
pressure ratio shall be calculated as per ASTM D5311/D5311 M-13.