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Torsion Design

of Structural Concrete
Based on ACI 318-05
By Mahmoud E. Kamara, Ph.D., and Basile G. Rabbat, Ph.D., S.E.


September 2007
Professional Development Series
Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
Based on ACI 318-05 By Mahmoud E. Kamara, Ph.D.,
and Basile G. Rabbat, Ph.D., S.E.

orsional moment develops in structural concrete sections. Thin, open C- and U-shaped sections subject to
members as a result of asymmetrical loading or torsion suffer distortions (referred to as Vlasov torsion), and
member geometry, or as a result of structural fram- are not covered in this article. The procedure presented herein
ing. For example, spandrel beams built integrally reflects the provisions of the American Concrete Institute’s
with the floor slab are subject to torsional moment resulting Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete (ACI
from the restraining negative bending moment at the exte- 318-05) (Reference 1) and those of the soon-to-be-published
rior end of the slab. The restraining moment is proportional ACI 318-08. All section numbers within this article refer to
to the torsional stiffness of the spandrel beam. In complex ACI 318-05. Note that the fourth edition of the American
structures such as helical stairways, curved beams, and eccen- Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’
trically loaded box beams, torsional effects dominate the Load and Resistance Factor Design (AASHTO LRFD) Bridge
structural behavior. Torsional moment tends to twist the Design Specifications prescribes torsion design approaches
structural member around its longitudinal axis, inducing shear for structural concrete members slightly different from those
stresses. However, structural members are rarely subjected to of ACI 318.
pure torsional moment. In most cases, torsional moments act
concurrently with bending moment and shear forces. Equilibrium versus compatibility torsion
During the first half of the twentieth century, structural It is important for designers to distinguish between
codes were silent regarding torsion design. Torsion was looked two types of torsions: equilibrium torsion and compatibil-
at as a secondary effect that was covered in the factor of safety ity torsion (References 2 and 3). Equilibrium torsion occurs
considered in the design. Demand for more complex struc- when the torsional resistance is required to maintain static
tures, improved methods of analysis, new design approaches, equilibrium. For this case, if sufficient torsional resistance
and the need for more economical design required a better is not provided, the structure will become unstable and
understanding of the behavior of reinforced concrete members collapse. External loads have no alternative load path and
subjected to torsion. In the second half of the twentieth must be resisted by torsion.
century, research activities helped engineers understand many Compatibility torsion develops where redistribution of
aspects of behavior of concrete members under torsion. torsional moments to adjacent members can occur. The term
This article focuses on torsion in solid and hollow closed compatibility refers to the compatibility of deformation between

Continuing Education answers to the Professional Development Learning Objectives

The Professional Development Series sponsor. Submittal instruc- This article discusses torsion in
Series is a unique opportunity to earn tions are provided on the Reporting concrete structures. Upon reading the
continuing education credit by reading Form, which follows the quiz and is article and completing the quiz, the
specially focused, sponsored articles in also available for download at www. reader should be able to understand
Structural Engineer. If you read the the behavior and design of struc-
following article, display your under- Your quiz answers will be graded by the tural concrete members subjected
standing of the stated learning objec- Professional Development Series spon- to torsion. The article presents the
tives, and follow the simple instructions, sor. If you answer at least 80 percent of American Concrete Institute’s Building
you can fulfill a portion of your continu- the questions correctly, you will receive Code (ACI 318-05) design provisions
ing education requirements at no cost a certificate of completion from the and detailing requirements for torsion
to you. This article also is available Professional Development Series spon- design. All referenced items are from
online at sor within 90 days and will be awarded ACI 318-05, unless noted otherwise.
pdh/index.asp. 1.0 professional development hour Also, all notations and definitions in
(equivalent to 0.1 continuing educa- the article are in accordance with
Instructions tion unit in most states). Note: It is the Chapter 2 of ACI 318-05.
First, review the learning objec- responsibility of the licensee to determine
tives below, then read the Professional if this method of continuing education Professional Development
Development Series article. Next, meets his or her governing board(s) of Series Sponsor
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2 PDH Special Advertising Section — Portland Cement Association

Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
adjacent parts of tudinal bar in each corner of those closed
a structure. As an stirrups. Comprehensive design provisions
example, consider for torsion were introduced in the 1971
a spandrel beam code. These design requirements remained
supporting an exte- essentially unchanged through the 1992 code.
Figure 1: Thin-wall tube analogy rior slab. As load on These first-generation provisions were semi-empirical
the slab increases, and applied only to reinforced, non-prestressed concrete
so does the nega- members. The design procedure for torsion was analogous to
tive slab end that for shear. Torsional strength consisted of a contribution
moment, which from concrete, Tc , and a contribution from stirrups and longi-
induces torsion in tudinal reinforcement, Ts, based on a skew bending model.
the spandrel beam. The design provisions for torsion were completely revised
The negative slab in the 1995 code and remain essentially unchanged since
end moment will then. The design procedure for solid and hollow members is
be proportional to based on a thin-walled tube, space truss analogy. This unified
Figure 2: Space truss analogy the torsional stiff- approach applies equally to non-prestressed and prestressed
ness of the span- concrete members.
drel beam. When
the magnitude of the torsional moment exceeds the cracking Background of torsion design
torque, torsional cracks spiral around the member, and the For design purposes, the center portion of a solid beam can
cracked torsional stiffness of the spandrel beam is significantly conservatively be neglected. This assumption is supported
reduced (Reference 4). As a result, some of the slab negative by test results reported in References 5 and 6. Therefore,
end moment is redistributed to the slab midspan. the beam is idealized as a tube. Torsion is resisted through
In cases where equilibrium torsion exists or torsional constant shear flow, q= 2Ao , acting around the centerline of
behavior dominates the structural actions, the designer must the tube as shown in Figure 1. By definition, shear flow is a
design for the maximum torsional moments. force per unit length of wall centerline, where Ao is the area
enclosed within the wall centerline.
Behavior of beams in torsion When a concrete beam is subjected to a torsional moment,
Prior to cracking, a torsional moment applied to a concrete shear stresses lead to diagonal tensile stresses. When the
member is resisted by internal shear stresses. The largest shear diagonal tension exceeds 4 fc′ , where f ′c = the specified
stresses occur in the middle of the outside faces or perimeter compressive strength of concrete in pounds per square inch
of the cross section. Shear stresses lead to diagonal principal (psi), diagonal cracks spiral around the beam. After crack-
tensile and compressive stresses. When the diagonal tension ing, the tube is idealized as a space truss as shown in Figure
exceeds the tensile strength of the concrete, diagonal crack- 2. In this truss, diagonal members are inclined at an angle
ing occurs. It has been observed in experiments on beams θ. For members with longitudinal and transverse reinforce-
subject to torsion that once the crack initiates, it spirals ment, inclination of the diagonals is assumed to be the
around the perimeter of the member. Simultaneously, the same in all tube walls. Note that this angle is not necessar-
beam torsional stiffness drops significantly. It takes significant ily 45 degrees. The resultant of the shear flow in each tube
twisting before recovering the cracking torque. Upon further wall induces forces in the truss members. A basic premise
torsional loading, excessive twisting deformations lead to for structural concrete design is that concrete is strong in
spalling of the concrete cover over the transverse reinforce- compression, while steel is strong in tension. Therefore, in
ment. Hence, transverse reinforcement must be properly the truss analogy, truss members that are in tension consist
anchored with 135-degree hooks. of steel reinforcement or “tension ties.” Truss diagonals and
It has further been observed experimentally that solid other members that are in compression consist of concrete
and hollow beams of similar external cross section and with “compression struts.” Forces in the truss members can be
similar longitudinal and transverse reinforcement achieve determined from equilibrium conditions. These forces are
comparable torsional strengths (References 5 and 6). Thus, used to proportion and detail the reinforcement.
in a solid beam, part of the concrete core separates from Figure 3 depicts a free body extracted from the front verti-
the outer shell (inside the transverse reinforcement) and cal wall of the truss of Figure 2. Shear force, V2, is equal to the
becomes inefficient. Therefore, when the torsional strength shear flow, q, times the height of the wall, yo. To achieve ductil-
of a beam is reached, a solid section can be represented by a ity in structural concrete members, reinforcement is designed
hollow section of the same external dimensions. to yield before the concrete crushes. Stirrups are designed to
yield when the maximum torque is reached. The number of
Evolution of torsion design provisions stirrups intersected is a function of the stirrup spacing, s, and
The first design provision for torsion appeared in ACI 318- the horizontal projection, yocotθ of the inclined surface.
63. It consisted of one sentence, which prescribed the use of A free body diagram for horizontal equilibrium is shown
closed stirrups in edge and spandrel beams and one longi- in Figure 4 (page PDH5). The vertical shear force, Vi , in wall

Special Advertising Section — Portland Cement Association PDH 3

Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
“i ” is equal to the product of the shear flow, Torsional moment strength
q, times the length of the wall, yi . Vector Vi The design torsional strength should be equal to or greater
can be replaced by two vectors: a diagonal than the required torsional strength: jTn ≥ Tu. The nominal
component, Di , with an inclination θ equal to torsional moment strength in terms of stirrup yield strength is:
the angle of the truss diagonals; and a horizontal
2Ao At fyt
component, Ni , centered at the mid height of the wall Tn = cot θ
as shown in the figure.
Torsion can be neglected if the factored torque, Tu , is less where Ao = 0.85Aoh and Aoh = area enclosed by centerline
than fTcr /4, where of the outermost closed transverse torsional reinforcement
Tcr = 4 fc ′ pcp )
Acp2 having a yield strength fyt , as illustrated in Figure 5; and θ
= angle of compression diagonal, ranges between 30 and
is the cracking torque (Section 11.6.1); f = strength reduc- 60 degrees. It is suggested in Section to use θ = 45
tion factor for torsion; Acp = area enclosed by outside perim- degrees for non-prestressed members and θ = 37.5 degrees
eter of concrete cross section, including the void of hollow for prestressed members with prestress force greater than 40
cross-sections; and pcp = outside perimeter of concrete percent of tensile strength of the longitudinal reinforcement.
cross-section. The cracking torque corresponds to a principal To resist torsion, transverse as well as longitudinal reinforce-
tensile stress of 4 fc′ . ment is required. The total area of longitudinal reinforcement
Whether a rein- Al distributed around the perimeter is computed from:
forced concrete
member is subject ( ) ( )
At fyt
Al = s ph f cot 2 θ
to torsion only,
or to flexure where At = area of transverse torsional reinforcement at spac-
combined with ing s; ph = perimeter of outermost transverse reinforcement;
shear, the stiffness and fy = yield strength of longitudinal reinforcement.
of that member
Figure 3: Free body diagram for vertical
will decrease Maximum torsional capacity
after cracking. To reduce unsightly cracking and prevent crushing of the
The reduction in concrete compression struts before yielding of the reinforce-
torsional stiffness ment, Section prescribes an upper limit for the
after cracking of a member subject to torsion only is much maximum nominal shear stress due to shear and torsion,
larger than the reduction in flexural stiffness after cracking of analogous to that due to shear only. In solid sections, stresses
a member subject to bending only. If the torsional moment, due to shear act over the full width of the section, while
Tu , in a member cannot be reduced by redistribution of stresses due to torsion are assumed resisted by a thin-walled
internal forces in the structure (equilibrium torsion), that tube. Thus, Section specifies an elliptical interaction
member must be designed for the full torsional moment, between stresses due to shear and those due to torsion for
Tu (Section If redistribution of internal forces can solid sections as follows:
occur, as in indeterminate structures (compatibility torsion),
the design torque can be reduced. Members subject to ( bV d )2+(1.7AT p )2≤φ( bV d +8
u u h
oh2 w
f c′ )
compatibility torsion need not be designed for a torque
larger than the product of the cracking torque times the For hollow sections, the interaction is linear and expressed as:
strength reduction factor f (which is 0.75 for torsion,). For
cases of compatibility torsion where Tu > fTcr , the member ( bV d )+(1.7A
u Tp
u h
)≤φ( bV d +8
oh2 w
f c′ )
can be designed for fTcr only, provided redistribution of
internal forces is accounted for in the design of the other where Vc is the contribution of concrete to shear strength of
members of the structure (Section non-prestressed and prestressed concrete members.

Critical section Details of torsional reinforcement

In non-prestressed members, the critical section for torsion Longitudinal and transverse reinforcement are required
design is at distance d (effective depth) from the face of to resist torsion. Longitudinal reinforcement may consist
support. Sections located at a distance less than d from the of non-prestressed or prestressed reinforcement. Transverse
face of support must be designed for the torque at distance d reinforcement may consist of stirrups, welded wire reinforce-
from the support. Where a cross beam frames into a girder at ment, or spiral reinforcement. To control widths of diagonal
a distance less than d from the support, a concentrated torque cracks, the design yield strength of longitudinal and trans-
occurs in the girder within distance d. In such cases, the verse torsional reinforcement must not exceed 60,000 psi
design torque must be taken at the face of support. The same (Section
rule applies to prestressed members, except that h/2 replaces In the truss analogy illustrated in Figure 2, the diagonal
d, where h is the overall height of composite section. compression strut forces bear against the longitudinal corner

4 PDH Special Advertising Section — Portland Cement Association

Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
r e i n f o rc e m e n t . Spacing of torsion
In each wall, the reinforcement
component of the Spacing of stirrups must not exceed the
diagonal struts, smaller of ph /8 and 12 inches. For a square
perpendicular to beam subject to torsion, this maximum spac-
Figure 4: Free body diagram for hori- the longitudinal ing is analogous to a spacing of about d/2 in a beam
zontal equilibrium reinforcement is subject to shear.
transferred from The longitudinal reinforcement required for torsion must
the longitudinal be distributed around the perimeter of the closed stirrups,
reinforcement to at a maximum spacing of 12 inches. In the truss anal-
the transverse rein- ogy, the compression struts push against the longitudinal
forcement. It has reinforcement, which transfers the transverse forces to the
been observed in stirrups. Thus, the longitudinal bars should be inside the
torsional tests of stirrups. There should be at least one longitudinal bar or
beams loaded to tendon in each corner of the stirrups to help transmit the
destruction that forces from the compression struts to the transverse rein-
as the maximum forcement. To avoid buckling of the longitudinal reinforce-
torque is reached, ment due to the transverse component of the compression
the concrete cover struts, the longitudinal reinforcement must have a diameter
spalls. The forces not less than 1/24 of the stirrup spacing, but not less than
in the compres- 3/8 of an inch.
sion struts outside
of the stirrups, for Summary of ACI 318-05 Code Design
example within Approach
Figure 5: Definition of Aoh
the concrete cover, The following steps summarize the design provisions
push out the outlined in Chapter 11 of ACI 318-05 for members subjected
concrete shell. Based on this observation, Section to the combined effects of flexure, shear, and torsion. The
specifies that the stirrups should be closed, with 135-degree same provisions appear in ACI 318-08 except that the
hooks or seismic hooks as defined in Section 21.1. Stirrups with sections have been renumbered.
90-degree hooks become ineffective when the concrete cover Step 1 — Determine the maximum factored torsional
spalls. Similarly, lapped U-shaped stirrups have been found to moment, Tu , at the critical section of the member from
be inadequate for resisting torsion due to lack of bond when structural analysis of the framing system, based on the appli-
the concrete cover spalls. Additionally, for hollow sections, the cable factored load combination(s).
distance from the centerline of the transverse torsional rein- Step 2 — Determine whether torsional effects need to
forcement to the inside face of the wall of the hollow section be considered by comparing the factored torsional moment
must not be less than 0.5Aoh /ph (Section Tu to fTcr /4, where Tcr is calculated as follows for non-
prestressed members:
Minimum torsion reinforcement
To ensure ductility of non-prestressed and prestressed (A )
Tcr = φ4 fc′ Pcp inch-pounds (in.-lb); and
concrete members, minimum reinforcement is specified
for flexure (Section 10.5) and for shear (Section 11.5.6). for prestressed members:
Similarly, minimum transverse and longitudinal reinforce-
(A )
cp2 fpc
ment is specified in Section 11.6.5 whenever Tu > fTcr /4. Tcr = φ4 fc′ Pcp 1+ 4 f ′ in.-lb.
Usually, a member subject to torsion will also be simultane-
ously subjected to shear. The minimum area of stirrups for If Tu < Tcr /4, then torsional effects need not be consid-
shear and torsion is computed from: ered, and the member must be designed for the effects of
bw s 50bw s flexure and shear only (Section 11.6.1). However, if Tu ≥
(Av + 2At) = 0.75 f c′ f ≥ f Tcr /4, the section must be designed for the effects of flexure,
yt yt
shear, and torsion. The following steps apply when torsional
The minimum area of longitudinal reinforcement is computed effects must be considered.
from: Step 3 — Ascertain whether the torsional moment Tu
determined in Step 1 can be reduced by redistribution of
Al,min =
5 f c′ Acp
fy ( )
At fyt
- s ph fy internal forces after torsional cracking. For members in a
statically indeterminate structure where redistribution of
forces can occur, the maximum factored torsional moment
where At /s (due to torsion only) must not be taken less at the critical section can be reduced to fTcr where Tcr is as
than 25bw /fyt. computed in Step 2.

Special Advertising Section — Portland Cement Association PDH 5

Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
It is important to note that the redistri- of ph /8; 12 inches; and d/2 for non-prestressed members, or
bution of internal forces must be consid- 3h /4 for prestressed members.
ered in the design of the adjoining members Step 8 — Determine longitudinal reinforcement required
(Section; the reactions from the for torsion (Sections,
adjoining members after redistribution must be
transferred to the member that is subjected to the ( ) ( )
At fyt
Al = s ph f cot 2 θ ≥ Al,min
torsional moments.
When fTcr /4 < Tu < fTcr , the section should be designed where
to resist Tu . For members in which redistribution of the forces
is not possible, the maximum factored torsional moment, Al,min =
5 f c′ Acp
fy ( )
At fyt
- s ph fy in.-lb.
Tu , at the critical section determined in Step 1 cannot be
reduced (Section Step 9 — Combine the longitudinal reinforcement
Step 4 — Check adequacy of cross-sectional dimensions required for torsion with that which is required for flex-
(Section 11.6.3) as follows for solid sections: ure (Section To achieve a uniform distribution of
reinforcement around the perimeter of the section, assign
( bV d )2+(1.7A
) ≤φ( bV d +8
T p 2
u h
oh2 w
f c′ ) in.-lb; and approximately one-quarter of Al to each face. For non-
prestressed members, provide an area of steel equal to at
for hollow sections: least Al /4 on each side face of the section, and add Al/4
to the negative and positive flexural reinforcement at the
( bV d )+(1.7A
u T p
)≤φ( bV d +8
u h
oh2 w
f c′ ) in.-lb. top and bottom of the section, respectively. For prestressed
members, provide additional reinforcing bars with a tensile
The nominal shear strength provided by the concrete, capacity of Alfy , or use any overcapacity of the tendons to
Vc , can be determined from ACI 318-05 Equation 11-3 for resist some of the axial force Alfy .
non-prestressed members and Equation 11-9 for prestressed
members with an effective prestress force not less than 40
percent of the tensile strength of the flexural reinforcement.
Selected References
The cross-sectional dimensions must be adjusted when the
above applicable equation is not satisfied. 1) ACI Committee 318, Building Code Requirements for
Step 5 — Determine transverse reinforcement required Structural Concrete (ACI 318-05) and Commentary (ACI
for torsion (Section 318R-05), American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills,
Mich., 2005.
At Tu
s = φ2Ao fyt cot θ 2) Fanella, D. A. and Rabbat, B.G., Design of Concrete Beams
for Torsion, Engineering Bulletin EB106.02D, Portland
where Ao = 0.85Aoh and θ = 45 degrees for non-prestressed Cement Association, Skokie, Ill., 1997.
members, 37.5 degrees for prestressed members with an
3) Kamara, M.E., and Rabbat, B.G., editors, Notes on ACI 318-
effective prestress force not less than 40 percent of the tensile 05 Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete with
strength of the longitudinal reinforcement. Note that fyt Design Applications, Portland Cement Association, Skokie,
must not exceed 60,000 psi (Section Values of Ill., EB705, 2005.
At /s can be determined at various locations along the span,
4) Lampert, Paul, Post-cracking Stiffness of Reinforced Concrete
depending on the variation of Tu .
Beams in Torsion and Bending, ACI Special Publication SP-
Step 6 — Determine transverse reinforcement required 35, pages 385-433, American Concrete Institute, Farmington
for shear (Section 11.5.6): Hills, Mich., 1973.
Av Vu - φVc
= 5) Lampert, P., and Thurlimann, B., Torsionsversuch an
2s 2φfyt d Stahlbetonbalken (Torsion Tests of Reinforced Concrete
Beams), Bericht Nr. 6506-2, 101 pages, Institute of Baustatik,
Values of Av /2s can be determined at various locations ETH, Zurich, Switzerland (in German), 1968.
along the span, depending on the variation of Vu , and, for
prestressed members, also depending on the variation of Vc 6) MacGregor, J. G., and Ghoneim, M. G., “Design for Torsion,”
(see Equation 11-9). ACI Structural Journal, V. 92, No. 2, pages 211-218, Mar.-
Apr. 1995.
Step 7 — Determine the total required transverse rein-
forcement per leg and the maximum allowable spacing,
considering the most restrictive requirements for shear and
torsion (Sections,, and Mahmoud E. Kamara, Ph.D., is a senior structural engineer at
At Av 25bw the Portland Cement Association in Skokie, Ill. He can be reached
+ ≥ f
s 2s
in.-lb; at Basile G. Rabbat, Ph.D., S.E., is the
manager of structural codes at the Portland Cement Association.
where the maximum closed stirrup spacing, s, is the smaller

6 PDH Special Advertising Section — Portland Cement Association

Torsion Design of Structural Concrete
Quiz Instructions 6. F
 or members in a statically indetermi-
nate structure where redistribution of
On the Professional Development Series Reporting Form below,
forces can occur, the maximum factored
circle the correct answer for each of the following questions.
torsional moment at the critical section can
be reduced to:
1. P
 rior to cracking, a torsional moment applied to a concrete
member is resisted by internal shear stresses. The largest a) φTcr b) Tcr c) Tcr /4 d) Tu /4
shear stresses occur at:
7. In non-prestressed members, the critical section for torsion
a) the middle of the outside faces of the section
design is at distance:
b) the corners of the section
c) the center of the section a) d/2 b) h/2 c) h d) d
d) none of the above
8. Spacing of stirrups required for torsion must not exceed:
2. Reinforcement required to resist torsion consists of: a) d/2
a) transverse reinforcement b) the smaller of ph /8 and 12 inches
b) longitudinal reinforcement c) the smaller of ph /8 and 8 inches
c) transverse reinforcement and longitudinal reinforcement d) 18 inches
d) none of the above
9. T
 he longitudinal reinforcement required for torsion must
3. The current ACI 318 design provisions for torsion are based on: be distributed around the perimeter of the closed stirrups,
at a maximum spacing not to exceed:
a) moment distribution
b) thin-walled tube, space truss analogy a) d b) 6 inches c) 12 inches d) 18 inches
c) finite element
d) virtual work 10. A
 rectangular cross section in a statically indeterminate
member, where redistribution of forces is possible, is
4. T
 ransverse reinforcement required for torsion must be subjected to a factored torsional moment Tu = 80 foot-
anchored: kips. Assuming that the section’s cracking moment multi-
plied by strength reduction factor φTcr = 100 foot-kips,
a) with 90-degree hook
which of the following statements is correct:
b) with 135-degree hook
c) to the longitudinal reinforcement a) torsional effects need not be considered
d) in the compression zone b) the section must be designed for torsional moment = 80
5. In beams subjected to torsional moment, diagonal cracks c) the section must be designed for torsional moment = 100
form when diagonal tension exceeds (in psi units): foot-kips
d) the section must be designed for torsional moment = 25
a) 7.5 f c′ b) 6.7 f c′ c) 4 f c′ d) 2 f c′ foot-kips

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Article Title: Torsion Design of Structural Concrete Based on ACI 318-05 Publication Date: September 2007
Sponsor: Portland Cement Association Valid for credit until: September 2009

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Fax this Reporting Form to 847-972-9059. (You do not need to send the Quiz; only this Reporting Form is necessary to be submitted.)
1. a b c d 5. a b c d 9. a b c d
2. a b c d 6. a b c d 10. a b c d
3. a b c d 7. a b c d
4. a b c d 8. a b c d

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