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Journal of the

SOIL MECHANICS AND FOUNDATIONS DIVISION


Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers

UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS OF COHESIONLESS SOILS

By H. Bolton Seed,1 M. ASCE, and Kenneth L. Lee,2 A. M. ASCE

INTRODUCTION

In most practical cases where saturated cohesionless soils are involved


in stability problems, the rate of application of disturbing forces is so slow
that any changes in pore water pressure induced by the loads are dissipated as
the loading progresses. Thus the strength characteristics of interest are
those developed under drained conditions in the laboratory.
In cases where rapid loading occurs, however~ even cohesionless soils
may not have time to drain during the loading process and the undrained
strength must be determined. Such cases involving one-direction loading might
include (1) the effects of blast loading on soil deposits, (2) the effects in the
• immediate epicentral region of a small local earthquake, for which ground
accelerations may be very high but of very short duration, and (3) the effects
in very close proximity to the causative fault of a strong earthquake,although
this may depend on the relative position of the earth structure involved and
the zone of fault displacement. Under more general earthquake conditions,
cohesionless soils may be undrained during loading but the stress or strain
applications will be cyclic in natu~e. Cyclic loading effects are quite different
from those in which the stress or strain is increased progressively until fail-
ure occurs. Conventional strength determinations are only made for this latter
Note.-Discussion open until April 1, 1968. To extend the closing date one month, a
written request must be filed with the Executive Secretary, ASCE. This paper is part
of the copyrighted Journal of the Soil :Mechanics and Foundations Division, Proceedings
of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 93, No. Si\16, November, 1967. MD.l'lu-
script was submitted for review for possible publication on May 26 1 1967.
1 Prof. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of California, Berkeley, Calif.
2 Asst. Prof. of E1igrg., Univ. of California, Los Angeles, Calif.

333
334 November, 1967

condition, and one-directional load applications of this type are the C ...
• \ ..,
condition considered herein.

PREVIOUS INVESTIGATIONS

Since the early classicai experiments of Reynolds/ engineers have r1:cog-


nized that dense sands tend to dilate when sheared. By filling a rubber bag
with saturated sand and then deforming it, Reynolds demonstrated qualitatively
that under undrained conditions, the tendency for dilation will lead to the
development of negative pore water pressures in the sand and a resulting in-
crease in strength.
It was not until the detailed studies by Casagrande,11 however, that the nature
of the volume changes in sands during shearing, and their relationship to the
density of the sand and the confining pressure were placed on a quantitative
basis. Casagrande demonstrated that under conditions where voiume changes
can occur and for any given confining pressure, loose sands compress during
shear and dense sands dilate, leading to the postulation of a critical void ratio,
ecrit, for which no volume change would occur during loading. It was also
shown that the critical void ratio is not a constant for any given soil but de-
creases as the confining pressure increases,5
In keeping with this concept it was recognized that under undrained loading
conditions, loose sands would tend to compress leading to the development of
positive pore water pressures and dense sands would tend to expand with a
:-~sulting decrease in pore water pressures. The tendency for pore pressures
to increase during undrained loading of loose sands and the resulting decrease
in strength has often been cited as the cause of flow slide development in the
materials.
Following the establishment of the critical void ratio concept, a number of
methods were suggested,:;•· •8 •9 for determining this soil characteristic. How-
ever., the concept has since been used only for qualitative evaluations of the
adequacy of the state of density of cohesionless soils in the field and does not
appear to have been used for quantitative evaluations of undrained strengths.
The principles controlling the undrained strength of cohesionless material~
3 Reynolds, O., "On the Dilatancy of Media Composed of Rigid Particles in Contact,"
Philosophical l\Iagazine, Series 5, Vol. 20, 1885, pp. 469-481.
4 Casagrande, A., "Characteristics of Cohesionless Soils Affecting the Stability of
Slopes and Earth Fills," Contributions to Soil Mechanics, 1925-1940, Boston Society of
Civil Engineers, 1936.
s Casagrande, A., "The Shearing Resistance of Soils and its Relation to the Stability
of Earth Dams," Proceedings, Soils and Foundation Conference of the U.S. Engineer
Department, June, 1938.
a Rutledge, P. C., "Cooperative l;'riaxial Shear Research Program, Progress Report
on Soil :rvlechanics Fact Finding Survey, Corps of Engineers," U.S. Army Engineer
Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Miss., 1947.
7Terzaghi, K., "Shear Characteristics of QuicksandandSoftClay," Proceedings, 7th
Texas Conference on Soil l\·1echanics, 1947.
BTaylor, D. W., Fundamentals ofSoilMechanics,JohnWiley & Sons, Inc., New York,
1948.
9 Geuze, E. C. W. A., "Critical Density of Some Dutch Sands," Proceedings, 2nd

International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Rotterdam,


Netherlands, 1948, Vol. 3, pp. 125-130.
UNDRAINED STR:t;NGTH CHARACTERISTICS 335

were clarified by Bishop and Eldin to who showed that:

1. !n an undrained test on a saturated sand, the pore water pressure may


decrease but it wili not drop below a value of about -1 atm; on reaching this
pressure the pore water will cavitate and small bulJbles of water vapour and
air will form in thP. soil voids.
2. In u:idrained tests in which cavitation occurs in the pore water, the
envelope of failure in terms of total stresses will have a slope equal to the
angle of friction of the sa.ncl.
3. tn undrained tests in which cavitation does not occur, the envelope of
failure in terms o! total stresses will be horizontal, corresponding to <Il u "' 0.

In a subsequent study 11 the same investigators demonstrated that the maxi-


mum effective principal stress ratio and the maximum deviator stress occur
at different stages of an undrained test and thus the angle. of friction in terms
of effective stresses, determined from such tests, will vary with the criterion
of failure adopted. If the maxim1rn1 effective principal stress ratio is used as
a failure criterion, theresultingangleoffrictionin terms of effective stresses
is somewhat lower tha.n that measured in drained tests on the same soil but it
is in good agreement with that determined from drained test data after the
external work done due to dilatancy has been deducted.
Further evidence demonstrating the independence of the undrained strength
of noncavitating samples of saturated sand and siltfrom the confining pressure
used in the test was presented by Nash·1:: and Penman.13 In a subsequent study
Newland and Allely 1·1 • 15 presented further undrained test data for lead shot
and developed a method of analysis to relate the results to those obtained in
drained tests on the same material.
With the exception of this latter study, however, few attempts have been
made to relate drained and undrained strength characteristics and, further-
more, very limited data have been obtained for noncavitating tests on dense
sands. The present study was conducted with the dual objective of providing
data to help remedy this latter deficiency and also of investigating the appli-
10 Bishop, A. W., and Eldin, A. K. G., "The Effect of Stress History on the Relation
Between <I> and Porosity of Sand," Proceedings, 3rd International Conference on Soil
Mechanies and Foundation Engineering, Zurich, Switzerland, 1953, Vol. I, pp. 100-105.
11 Bishop, A. W., and Eldin, A. K. G., "Undrained Triaxinl Tests on Saturated Sands
and their Significance in the General Theory of Shear Strength," Geotechnique, Vol. 2,
1950, pp. 13-32.
12 Nash, K. L., "The Shearing Resistance of a Fine Closely Graded Sand," Proceedings,
3rd International Conference on Soil !\lechanics and Foundation Engineering, Zurich,
Switzerland, 1953, Vol. I, pp. 160-164.
13 Penman, A. D. Z..I., "Shear Characteristics of a Saturated Silt, Measured in Triaxial
Compression," Geotechnique, Vol. III, No. 8, 1953, pp. 312-328.
14 Newland, P. L., and Allely, B. H., "Volume Changes During Drained Triaxial Tests
on Granular Materials, Geotechnique, Vol. VII, 1957, pp. 17-34.
15 Newland, P. L., and Allely, B. H., "Volume Changes During Undrained Triaxial
Tests on Saturated Dilatent Granual Materials," Geotechnique, Vol. IX, No. 4, 1959, pp.
174-182.
336 November, 1967 ~· ~.t
cability of a simplified procedure for predicting, from drained test data, tht
undrained strength of saturated cohesionless materials.

CRITICAL VOID RATIO Ai~D CRITICAL CONFINL'l\lG PRESSURE

The relationship between volume changes, void ratio and confining pressure
in drained tests on a cohesionless material is illustrated in Fig. 1. If a series
of drained tests is conducted, using a constant confining pressure, on samples

Tuts Conducted
on Somplu wit~
Sam, Vaid Rotio, e0

(o) (dl

Inc 0"11 Inc

Volume
Change
f
-J t----....,..,,--41c,_~-Ra1io,
Void Volume f
Cha119e! t - - - - ~ - - " " " - ~ -
m e ~
Failure D•c • Failure
Dec

(bl (el

Critical
Void Void
Ratio, Ratio
ec,il •c

Confining Pressure, CT3 Critical Confining Pressure,o-3c,it

(cl (f)

FIG. 1.-RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN VOLUME CHANGE:" AT FAILURE,


VOID RA TIO, AND CONFINING PRESSURE IN DRAINED TESTS

having different void ratios, ec, after consolidation under the confining pres-
sure, the relationship between volume change at failure and void ratio after
consolidation will have the form shown in Fig. l(a ). From a plot of this type,
the critical void ratio, ecrit, that is, the void ratio ec of a sample for which
there is no volume change at failure under the confining pressure used in the
test series can readily be determined. If similar series of tests are conducted
using other confining pressures, a series of such relationships can be deter-
mined, as shown in Fig. l(b ), leading to a series of values for the critical
void ratio corresponding to different values of the confining pressure. From
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 337

:hese results, a plot can be made to show the variation of the critical void
:-1tio, ecrit, with the magnitude of the confining pressure, as shown in Fig.
1(r). As the confining pressure increases, the value of the critical void ratio
decreases.
Similarly, a series of drained tests could be conducted on samples initially
consolidated under different confining pressures but having the same void
ratio after consolidation, ec, under these pressures. In this case it would be
found that the volume change at failure would vary with the confining pressure
as shown in Fig. 1 ( d) and it would be possible to establish, for the particular
value of ec used in the test series, the value of a confining pressure for which
there would be no volume change at failure. By analogy with the definition of
the term critical void ratio, the confining pressure for which there would be
no volume change at failure might be termed the critical confining pressure,
a 3 crit, corresponding to a particular value of the void ratio after consolidation,

Critical
Vaid Ratio,
ecril
or
Void Ratio
ofter
Consolidotion
•c

Confining Pressure o-5c or Critical Confinino Pressure u:,crit

FIG. 2.-RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CRITICAL VOID RATIO


AND CRITICAL CONFINING PRESSURE

ec. By conducting similar series of tests at different values of ec, a series


of corresponding values of critical confining pressure and void ratio, ec, could
be determined, Fig. l(e), from which the relationship between a 3 crit and ec
could be established as shown in Fig. l(j).
It follows from the definitions of critical void ratio and critical confining
pressure that the relationships shown in Figs. 1 ( c) and 1 (/) are identical in
form. For example, if, for tests conducted at a confining pressure of 2 kg per
sq cm, the critical void ratio were found to be 0. 7 then it would necessarily
follow that for tests conducted using a void ratio after consolidation ec = 0.7,
there would be no volume change at failure only if the confining pressure were
-2 kg per sq cm; that is, the critical confining pressure would be 2 kg per sq
cm. Thus, for samples prepared in the same manner, the relationship between
the critical void ratio ecrit and the confining pressure under which samples
are initially consolidated a 3 c is also the relationship between the critical con-
338 November, 1967

fining pressure 0-3 crit and the void ratio after consolidation under the con.fini?!g
pressure, ec, as shown in Fig. 2.

CONDITIONS AT FAILURE IN UNDRAINED TESTS

If it is assumed that the relationship between critical confining pressure


and void ratio is not significantly affected by stress history, then the results
of undrained tests can readily be determined in terms of the critical confining
pressures. Suppose, for example, an undrained test is conducted on a sample
having a critical confining pressure corresponding to the void ratio after
consolidation, of 8 kg per sq cm. If the initial confining pressure in the test
were less than the critical confining pressure, say 6 kg per sq cm, the sample
would tend to dilate during loading and this tendency would lead to a decrease
in pore water pressure and a corresponding increase in the effective confining

Stress or Foilure

Volume
Chonge
Inc
i
-!-f ~;::---_"""_--':_:::•_:_~_-=:_·=-:::::::;.=:====-----~====--'-- _Slroin

Dec

FIG. 3.-VOI.UME CHANGES IN DRAINED TEST


SHOWING NO VOLliME CHANGE AT FAILURE

pressure. The pore water pressure would continue to change in this way until
one of two limiting conditions were reached:

1. the effective confining pressure built up to a value equal to the c:::-itical


confining pressure, at which stage there would be no further tendency for vol-
ume change; thus the pore water pressure would have no tendency to change
further and the sample would ultimately fail with the effective confining pres-
sure equal to the critical confining pressure; or
2. the pore water pressure dropped to a value of about -1 atmosphere, at
which stage cavitation would occur, before the effective confining prEissure
had built up to the critical confining pressure; once cavitation occurred there
could be no further change in pore water pressure and the sample would be
brought to failure with a known pore water pressure of -1 kg per sq cm.

The strength of the sample would be determined by whichever of the conditions


(1 or 2) was reached first.
If the initial effective confining pressure in the test were greater than the
critical confining pressure, say 12 kg per sq cm, the sample would tend to
compress during loading with a resulting increase in pore water pressure and
a corresponding decrease in effective confining pressure. The effective con-
fining pressure would continue to decrease until it reached a value equal to
the critical confining pressure at which stage there would be no longer any
tendency for volume change and correspondingly no further tendency for
changes in pore water pressure and effective confining pressure. Thus, again,
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 339

the sample would ultimately fail with the effective confining pressure equal to
the critical 'Confining pressure.
Based on this approach the strengths of samples of cohesionless materials
in unconsolidated-undrained tests and consolidated-undrained tests can readily
be determined. Hew ever, it should be noted that in addition to the assumption
that the critical confining pressure vs void ratio relationship is essentially
unaffected by stress history~ the above reasoning also ignores the fact that vol-
ume changes inevitably occur even in samples which show no volume change at,
failure. All samples of sand tend to compress to some extent before they
dilate and the volume changes in a sample exhibiting no volume change at
failure in a drained test have the form shown in Fig. 3. The foregoing reason-
ing assumes that there would be no volume changes at all in a sample eY.hib-
iting no v.olume change at failure.
In view of these assumpti.ons it is apparent that the use of values of critical
confining pressure determined from drained tests to compute values of soil
strength under undrained conditions involves ~ome degree of approximation.
However, since stress history effects and volume changes under the critical
confining pressures are likely to be small, the strengths computed on this
basis are likely to be sufficiently accurate for most practical purposes. Fur-
thermore, a simplified and reasonably accurate procedure may often have
advantages for preliminary computations over more elaborate though slightly
more accurate procedures.

UNCONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS ON SATURATED SAND

To determine the results of a series of unconsolidated-undrained tests on


samples of saturated sand at the same void ratio it would first be necessary
to establish the initial condition of the samples. Suppose all samples were
prepared to an initial void ratio e i and then consolidated under the same con-
fining pressure a3 c to a slightly smaller void ratio ec. At this stage the total
stresses, pore water pressures, and effective stresses in any sample would
be as shown in Fig. 4(a ). Corresponding to the void ratio ec, there would be
some particular value of the critical confining pressure O:,crit It will be as-
sumed, as is normally the case, that the consolidation pressure a 3 c is ap-
preciably less than the critical confining pressure, a3crit •
In a series of unconsolidated-undrained tests it would now be necessary to
increase the confining pressure, without allowing any drainage, to induce an
initially "unconsolidated" conditions in the samples. Suppose, therefore, that
the confining pressure on the samples is increased to a value a3 cell• The re-
sulting strength of any sample will depend on the relative magnitude of the
confining pressure a3 cell and the critical confining pressure a3 crlt as may be
seen from the following: ·

Condition 1: Confining Pressure a 3cell Increased Above a3 c but Remains


Less Than a 3 crit -1.-After the confining pressure is increased to a 3001 i, the
stress conditions in a sample will be those illustrated in Fig. 4 (b ), with all the
increased pressure, a3 ce 11 - a 3c, being carried by the pore water, and the
effective confining P1:essure being unchanged. At this stage, without any drain-
age, the axial stress would be gradually increased. Since the effective con-
fining pressure a3 c is less than a 3 crit, the sample would tend to dilate and the
340 November, 1967

pore water pressu:::-e would drop, eventually reaching c:. value of a'r.>0i.:t -1 ;:t~:,
At this stage the stress conditions woudl be those shown in Fig. 4(c). Furtb.·r
deviator stress apJ.?lication beyond this stage would cause cavitation of the por<•
water and failure would be approached with the effective confining pressurt'
remaining constant at the value a 3 cell + 1. Thus, at failure the effective major
principal stress would be

Cl1/' = (a3cell + 1) tan2 ( 45 + ~') • • • (1)

Since the sample would in fact dilate when the pore water pressure cavitated,
the appropriate value of (/)' in this expression would be similar to that deter-

Total Stresses Pore Woter Pressure Effective Slresses

(al -¢-a,.-
(bl

~ 0"3cell

(cl
-o=a, a-3cell
E]
l"

.•
•• ..::_".Envelope of Failure
(dl ..,&;.-.-.•-•""'•..:.,••••••••••..,_!~~.w:~~~VSe
__ .;,. ..................
............·::,,""
....-· .,'' '

.! \.
_ _...:::.:.__J.:!:Li---.L-__;:....__ _ _ _ _ _ __i1...-_ __._•-a-
-I
a-le o;cell o;cell + 1

FIG. 4.-UNCONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TEST WITH


0"3cell< CT3 crit - 1

mined by drained tests on samples having an initial void ratio ec. However as
the cell pressure increases the amount of dilation wiU decrease and at a cell
pressure of a3 crit -1 foe appropriate value of if>' would be that corresponding
to constant volume conditions.
The above conditions would only develop provided the pore water pressure
reached a value of -1 kg per sq cm before the effective confiningpressura had
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 341

bc:ilt up to a value of a 3 crit; that is, provided the effective confining pressure
lt failure were less than a 3 crit or

(2)

giving 1 (3)

This is the condition presumed at the outset.


When failure occurs under these conditions, the effective major and minor
principal stresses are 1 kg per sq cm higher than the corresponding total
stresses, so that the relative positions of the Mohr circles for total and ef-
fective stresses at failure are as shown in Fig. 4(d). Thus the envelope of

Total S1rnset Port Wa11, Pressure [fftchn StrHHI

(0)

-¢-··
(bl A
vv,. ,
,.. n
cr,c,1- O'scrit
L...J

\" Et1ve'ctpra ro, •


Effechve S1,... 11-..,•••

(di ..-·······
.....•·
..:""~·-··-.:-"7"-~---:::--.:.---~~
....- !
,• .
-~--..,_._ ___..__..L-___.,.__ _..1,_.v
cr,C,11 171ct11,

FIG. 5.-UNCONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TEST WITH


CT3 cell> CT:i crit - 1

failure for total stress in undrained tests will be parallel to, but somewhat
higher than, the corresponding envelope for effective stresses.

Condition 2: Confining Pressure a30011 Iucreased to Value Greate1' Than


0'3 crit -1.-If the confining pressure is increased to a 3 cell ~ a 3 crit -1, the
stress conditions in a sample will be those illustrated in Fig. 5(b),againwith
all the increased confining pressure, a 3 cell - C1 3 c, being carried by the pore
water and the effective confining pressure remaining at the value a3 c. If now
the deviator stress is increased the sam.ple will again tend to dilate (o 3 c <
a 3 crit ), the pore water pressure will drop and the effective confining pressure
will increase. However, before the pore water pressure can drop to -1 atm,
the effective confining pressure will increase to the value a 3 crit as shown in
342 November, 1967

Fir;. 5(c). It may be noted in this figure that at this stage the pore water jm.-.~-
sure is still greater than -1 atm (a3 cell - a 3 crit ). Since there will oe nr;
further tend,~ncy for volume change, further increases in deviator stress will
cause no ·changes in pore water pressure and thus the sample will eventually
fail with the effective confining pressure equal to a 3 crit. The corresponding
value of the effective major principal stress at failure will be

(4)

In this case the appropriate value of 91 in this expression would be that cor-
responcting- to constant vo1ume conditions.
It may be seen that under these test conditions (a3 cell = a 3 crit -1) the ef-
fective stresses at failure are independent of the cell pressure used in the test
and that the deviator stress causing failure will be the same regardless of the
value of the cell pressure. Accordingly the relative positions of the Mohr cir-
cles and envelopes of failure will be as shown in Fig. 5(d), the envelope for total

,,- Envelope for


,,,' Effective
, ., _,,, Stresses

__ ,,,,,-- --
--
- - ~ - . . . , . : - : _ - - - - - - Envelope for
~, Total Stresses
'\
\

''I
(7"3Cril - I 0"5cril

FIG. 6.-ENVELOPES OF FAILURE IN UNCONSOLIDATED-


UNDRAINED TESTS

stresses being parallel to the normal stress axis and displaced from it by an
amount

'max= aa~rit [tan2 (45 + ~')- 1] (5)

A composite plot of the envelopes of failure in terms of total and effective


stresses obtained from unconsolidated-undrained tests conducted over a full
range of confining pressures is shown in Fig. 6.

CONSOLIDATED- UNDRAINED TESTS ON SAT URA TED SAND

The conditions at failure in consolidated-undrained tests can be determined


in a similar manner to that used for unconsolidated-undrained tests but taking
into account two significant factors:

1. Because samples are consolidated initially under different confining


pressures, the samples in any test series will have different void ratios after
consolidation.
2. Consolidated-undrained tests may be conducted with a back pressure
UNDRAINED STREm}TH CHARACTERISTICS 343

:.;n the pore water during the consolidation stage of the test and the value of the
back pressure will influence the test results.

A series of samples of saturated sand might be compacted initially to a void


ratio e i and then consolidated under different confining pressures. For a
sample subjected to a total confining pressure a:ice 11 and brought to equilibrium
with a back pressure u b, the effective consolidation pressure will be

(6)

Under this confining pressure the sample will attain an equilibrium void ratio
ec where ec is a function of the initial void ratio, ei, and the effective con-
solidation pressure, a 3 c; that is,
(7)
Corresponding to this void ratio after consolidation, there will be a particular
value of the critical confining pressure, a 3 crit; that is,

(8)

After consolidation, the sample will be loaded to failure under undrained con-
ditions. Duringthis stage of the test one of two conditions· will develop; either

1. The pore water pressure in the sample will decrease until it reaches
a value of -1 atm and cavitation occurs. This will occur provided a 3 cell + 1
< a 3 crit and at failure the effective confining pressure on tile sample will be

(9)

Thus, if 0 3c + ub + 1 < 0 3crit < f [ei, (a3cell - ub)] • • • · • • • • • • • .(lO)

the strength of the sample will be controlled by the cell pressure, a 3 cell, and
the effective major principal stress at failure will be

aIJ = (CJ 3 cell + 1) tan 2 ( 45 + t' ) \ ••• (11)


= (a3 c + ub + 1) tan 2 ( 4 5 + ~' ) , or

2. the pore water pressure in the sample will change until the effective
confining pressure becomes equal to a 3 crit . This will occur provided

••• (12)

and under these conditions the strength will be controlled by the critical con-
fining pressure; that is,
a;f = <13crit = f [ei, (<13cell - ub)] • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •, ,(13)
The corresponding value of the effective major principal stress at failure will
be

aIJ = a 3 crit tan 2 ( 45 + ~') ••••••••••••••••...••••••. (14)


344 November, 1967
The steps involved in utilizing this approach are as follows:

1. Establish the relationship between the effective consolidation pressure


a 3 c and th~ void ratio after consolidation ec as shown in Fig. 7(a). This r~la-
tionship will depend on the initial void ratio of the samples, e i .
2. Establish, from drained tests, the relationship between void ratio after
consolidation and critical confining pressure as shown in Fig. 7(b) •

------------~c ..___ _ _1.,__ _ _ _ _ cr3crit

(a) (b)

11,+1

l .___. . .__________ ~c

I I I
Samples ca•itate 1 No ca•itation 1 str•nqth
,1ren9th determin•d determined by critical
by cell pressura. confinin9 pressur•.

(cl

FIG. 7.-DETERMINATION OF FAILURE CONDITIONS


IN CONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS

3. For any value of the effective consolidation pressure a3 c, determine the


corresponding value of the critical confini.ng pressure as shown in Figs. 7( a)
and 7(b). Hence establish a relationship between the critical confining pressure
a 3 crit and the effective consolidation pressure a 3 c, as shown by the line AB in
Fig. 7( c).
4. Superimpose on the plot in Fig. 7( c), a line CD expressing the relation-
ship
• . • . • . . • . • . • . • . • . . . . . • . • • • • . (15)
~ '.I 6 UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 345

5. Determine the point of intersection X of the two relationships shown in


fig. 7( c). For consolidation pressures less than that corresponding to point
x, the effective confining pressures at failure will be those determined by the
line CX. For consolidation pressures greater than that corresponding to point
X, the effective confining pressures at failure will be those determined by the
line XB.
6. From a knowledge of the effective confining pressures at failure, a; 1 ,
determine the effective major principal stresses at failure from the relation-
ship

••.••• (16)

using an appropriate value of ~•. For samples which cavitate the angle of fric-
tion should be one including some effects of dilation but for non-cavitating
samples, an angle of friction corresponding to constant volume conditions
should be used.

COMPARISON OF PREDICTED AND OBSERVED RESULTS


OF UNCONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS
ON SATURATED SANDS

Test data confirming the general form of the results indicated in Fig. 6 has
been presented by Bishop and Eldin, 1c.,, 11 Penman, 13 and Newland and Allely . 14 , 15
However, no attempt has been made in previous studies to check the quantita-
tive relationship between test data from unconsc1lidated-undrained tests and
results predicted from values of the critical confining pressure determined
by drained tests. Accordingly, series of drained and undrained tests were con-
ducted to provide data to check this relationship.
The sand used for these studies was a fine to medium, uniform sand from
the Sacramento River having void ratios at minimum and maximum densities
of 1.03 and 0.61, respectively. the results of several series of drained tests
performed on this sand have been reported by Lee and Seed. 16 This report
also contained a full description of the sand characteristics and the testing
techniques. The undrained test samples were formed and tested following the
same procedures.
The drained test data which are pertinent to the present study are presented
in Figs. 8 to 10. The relationship between the void ratio after consolidation
and the confining pressure for samples compacted initially to four different
void ratio conditions is shown in Fig. 8; the relationship between the critical
void ratio and the critical confining pressure determined by drained tests is
shown in Fig. 9; and the envelopes of failure determined by tests showing no
volume change at failure and by test data for drained tests after dilatancy
effects are deducted as proposed by Bishop 17 and Rowe 18 are shown in Fig.
10. At confining pressures between 5 and 30 kg per sq cm, which covers the
16 Lee, K. L., and Seed, H. B., "Drained Strength Characteristics of Cohesionless
Soils," Soil Mechanics and Bituminous Materials Research Laboratory, University of
California, Berkeley, Calif., June, 1966.
17 Bishop, A. W., "Correspondence on Shear Strength of a Saturated Silt in Triaxial
Compression," Geotechnique, Vol. 4, 1954, pp. 43-45.
18 Rowe, P. W., "The Stress Dilatancy RelationforStatic Equilibrium of an Assembly
of Particles in Contact," Proceedings, RoyalSociety,SerlesA, Vol. 269, Oct., 1962, pp.
500-527.
346 November, 1967 s~.t r.

0.90

•,•o a1
0.85

0.80
•,•0.7'9

0.75

a •,•0.71
..,er: 070

J
0.65

·,•0.61
060
Sacramento River Sand

0-55
T"''' cllmen11ono1 compre•li• llftcllr
\lflilo,M COllfifllllt prH1we. --1-------~,.____ ____j

E11,otdw1u1t1 ConclihOftl . . ,.,llli.-ed


•fl,, 2 tlow,,.
0.50 L - - - - - - . I . - - - - - - . I . - - - - - - . L . . . . . I L - - - - _ _ _ J
0.1 10 100 1000
Confining Prenur1, •,c- 11.Q per sq cm

FIG. 8.-RELA rIONSHIPS BETWEEN CONFINING PRES-


SURE AND VOID RATIO AFTER CONSOLIDATION FOR
SAND AT FOUR INITIAL DENSITIES

1.0 - - - - - - - - . . - - - - - . - - - - . . - - - - - . . . - - - - - - ,

0- 4 OL..---5L..---1.l-O----l.1..5_ _ _ _2J..0_ _ _ _2_..5_ _ _-:'30

a-,. OI 0-.crff

FIG. 8.-RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CRITICAL VOID


RATIO AND CRITICAL CONFINING PRESSURE DETER-
MINED FROM DRAINED TESTS
::i.\I 6 UNDRAINED SlRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 347

range of values of critical confining pressure for this sand for samples varying
from loose to dense, the various envelopes shown in Fig. 10 are in reasonably
close agreement. The test data for samples showing no volume change at fail-
ure is somewhat intermediate between the other two curves and might there-
fore be considered to provide a reasonable value of the angle of friction under
constant volume conditions. From this envelope, the angle of friction under
constant volume conditions is found to be close to 37°.
From these data, values of the undrained strength of the sand may readily
be predicted. For example, the predicted envelope of failure for total stresses
for a series of unconsolidated-undrained tests on samples of medium dense
sand initially consolidated under a confining pressure of 3 kg per sq cm is
shown in Fig. 11. The position of this envelope was determined as follows.
The initial void ratio of the medium dense sand was ei = 0.71. From Fig. 8,
the void ratio after consolidation under a confining pressure of 3 kg per sq

25.-----.------,..----,-----r----~---"T-"---.----,
,, .,
,,
,.
.·(
20 Envelope for constonl volume conditions ---1---~-T,._"-'3;;...7-t- - - - l - - - - - ~
delermintd by opplyinc;i Bishop dilatoncy
expression to lesl Goto for dense sand

15 1 - - - ~ - - - - - + - - - - t - ___ L_ ----- -----+---------I


I I
Experimental envelope for teals
1howinc;i no volume chonc;ie at failure

10 -----·--i---
I
--·- ·- 1----- -7---
I ..
1
.I I .
I
Envelopr for conslant volume conditions
delerminrd by applying Rowe dilotancy
- - - - ~ - - - - - upruaian lo lest data for denH sand

I
I
5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

FIG. 10.-ENVELOPES OF FAILURE DETERMINED BY DRAINED TESTS FOR


CONSTANT VOLUME CONDITIONS

cm may be seen to be ec = 0. 70 and from Fig. 9, the critical confining pres-


sure corresponding to this void ratio is 0'3 crit = 9.3 kg per sq cm. Thus for
the constant volume angle of friction, q,' == 37°, the effective major principal
stress at failure in any noncavitating test, for which the effective minor prin-
cipal stress at failure will be equal to Oiicrit, may be determined from Eq. 4
to be: a1 1 = 9.3 tan2 [45 + (37)/2] = 37 .2 kg per sq cm. The corresponding
value of the deviator stress at failure in noncavitating tests will be ai 1 - a;1
= 37 .2 - 9 .3 = 27 .9 kg per sq cm and this condition will occur in all
unconsolidated-undrained tests conducted with an applied confining pressure
greater than a3Crit - 1 = 8.3 kg per sq cm. For tests conducted at confining
pressures less . than this value, cavitation will occur before failure and the
envelope of failure for total stresses will therefore be parallel to the drained
strength envelope but displaced about 1 kg per sq cm to the left. Thus the
348 November, 1967

complete envelope of failure in terms of total stresses, will be that shown


Fig. 11.
Mohr circles for total stresses at failure for a number of unconsolidated-
undrained tests conducted on samples prepared and consolidated as outii.ied
above are shown in Fig. 12. For comparison the predicted envelope, show;.1 in
Fig. 11, is also plotted with the test data. The agreement between predicted
and experimental results is excellent. Similar agreement was obtained in

••r---,-----r---,r---r----.----,-----,----,,----,--~---,..---·--.
I
$oCUftlMt• Rhier SN
&..,.,.
---I,'----.;_'-----1---r----:----'----+----'--~
e.•0.711 0,-11,.,c-1 I
20 - la1lwal 11iKII ,,.H11t• •O
g ~itfal C.IIIIMIMl!llkm .... ..,,. •1.011:,,,.,-. ca
ll I
-
8_ 1•1---------··f
i
I
. i
I

-- •
i,
..
i ; I I
'------ -l----t -,---~------_,__-
J:
' I
=
~ 10 • • • ,••--•••
i
I - - - - -·--·'---t--+---+---+---4-

-- ·-i-----·..____._ _ 1 r___ l __ ,___________


1 I ~

,. i I
10
•• )0 40
•• 00
•• 10
" 70

Natmal SlrtSl-kQ por liq an

FIG. 11.-ENVELOPE OF FAILURE FOR TOTAL STRESSES IN UNCONSOLIDATED-


UNDRAINED TESTS PREDICTED FROM DRAINED TEST DATA

ur----------------,--------.-------.----~
Soc,..,... ...... s....
,_.,... e,•0711 0,•71..,ceet.
20 • IA&...I l90 ltNNWII • 0
.,..._......._,,....... ,.o~,., ..... -----·-------

,o
Normal Strou-k; per aq cm

FIG. 12.-COl\IPARISON OF OBSERVED AND PREDICTED FAILURE CONDITIONS


IN UNCONSOLIDATED-HNDRAINED TESTS
several other series of tests conducted on samples compacted initially to other
void ratios.
COMPARISON OF PREDICTED AND OBSERVED RESULTS OF
CONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS ON SATURATED SAND

Investigations similar to that described above were conducted to compare


the strengths of saturated samples of sand in consolidated-undrained tests
with those predicted from a knowledge of the critical confining pressures.
The predicted and measurad positions of the total stress failure envelopes for
a series of C-U tests performed on initially loose sand are shown in Fig. 13.
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 349
The measured strengths are slightly higher than the predicted strengths in
this case.
Similar data for series of C-U tests on initially dense samples of sand are
shown in Fig. 14. For these samples the predicted and measured strengths
are in excellent agr!:?ement.
Two other series of C-U tests were performed on samples of the same

12•,----,----.---r-----.----r----.--"""T""--....--+.----,---,----,
S.CrwMnti I ! I I
_ __
j Rln, s...}
I
; Awe,, .. t 1 •0.71;, D,•!I ptrc~ I
--·1--
E 100 - - - + · I llal •ac• P'••--•0 ·
1
--~

1
i• ---
a,

-
McfW dtclel e11d .,....1opr1 :

•_-_L•--;:;•-~I~~:;::~;? I
I

ao
11.0
"' lU 10.0

Normal Streu - kQ per sq cm

FIG. 13.-COMPARISON OF OBSERVED AND PREDICTED FAILURE ENVELOPES


IN CONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS

IO

s.:,o.._.,o Iii,.., Soltd


so t - - - t - - ~ • e, •o.s.1 \ o.. -•oo "'"""'1-~---lf---+--...____....__...J......_ _,__ __.__-+--l
,,.MUre •0
....
INtt.l bock
g
.,.
l
...
~

= 10
~
u;
~ zo

&
10

0
0 zo 10 •• 70

Normal Siress- kQ per sq cm


,o . 110 IIO I ,0 140 IIO

FIG. 14.-COMPARISON OF OBSERVED AND PREDICTED FAILURE ENVELOPES


IN CONSOLIDATED- UNDRAINED TESTS

saturated sand at intermediate densities. In each of these cases the measured


and predicted positions of the strength envelope were in close agreement.
Furthermore, tests were performed in each of the four series of C- U tests
at confining press~res to 140 kg per sq cm. In all cases the measured and
predicted strength envelopes continued as essentially straight line extensions
of the envelopes shown in Figs. 13 and 14 and with good agreement between
-··----------
350 November, 1967 .,.,'II,
"::•' i ;

predicted and observed strengths throughout the full range of confini:-.g


pressures.

CRITICAL CONFINING PRESSURE FROM UNDRAINED TESTS

Fig. 1 shows how the critical confining pressures for a sand may be deter-
mined from observations of volume changes in a series of drained tests. In
an analogous fashion, values may also be obtained from observations of the
pore-water pressure changes in a series of undrained tests. The changes in
pore-water pressure at failure observed in the undrained tests conducted on
samples having different densities and subjected to different confining pres-
sures are shown in Fig. 15(a). For tests at any one confining pressure, the
void ratio for which there is no change in pore water pressure at failure may
be interpreted as the critical void ratio. Alternatively, for tests at any one
void ratio after consolidation, the confining pressure for which there is no
pore water pressure change at failure may be considered to be the critical
confining pressure. Values of the critical confining pressure are more easily
determined if the datainFig.15(a)arereplotted as shown in Fig. 15(b). Using
either Fig. 15(a) or Fig. 15(b ), it is possible to determine corp.binations of
critical confining pressure and critical void ratio for the whole range of pos-
sible density conditions for this sand; these results are shown in Fig. 16.
An alternative method of determining values of the critical confining pres-
sure from undrained tests is simply to note the effective minor principal stress
at failure in noncavitating tests. From the concepts presented earlier in the
paper, this stress should be equal to the critical confining pressure for the
particular density condition of the sample. Values of the critical confining
pressure determined in this way for all noncavitating tests performed on the
Sacramento River sand are shown in Fig. 17. There is only a little scatter in
the data which defines a curve similar to that shown in Fig. 16.
A comparison of the relationships between the void ratio and the critical
confining pressure determined by observations of (1) volume changes in drained
tests; (2) of pore water pressure changes in undrained tests; and (3) the ef-
fective minor principal stress at failure in uoncavitating undrained tests is
shown in Fig. 18. The relationships are in close agreement over the entire
range of void ratios. The greatest discrepancy occurs in the loose sand range
where .values of the critical confining pressure determined from drained tests
are somewhat smaller th~n those determined from the undrained tests. This
discrepancy is in accord with the difference between the observed and predicted
value of the undrained strengths of loose sand samples shown in Fig. 13.

VALUES OF CRITICAL CONFINING PRESSURE FOR VARIOUS SOILS

It may be seen from the preceding results that the critical confining pres-
sure is a significant characteristic determining the undrained strength of a
cohesionless soil at any given state of density. For Sacramento River sand
.-=~I 6 UNDRAINED STR~NGTH CHARACTERISTICS 351
the critical confining pressure ranges from almost zero for samples in the
loosest state to over 15 kg per sq cm for samples with a relative density of
100%. For initially very dense samples consolidated under very high confining
pressures, the dens~ty at the end of consolidation is considerably higher than
40r-------r---ir--....---,---~---r---,
Fig 15 ( a ) Sacramento Rim Sand
§ '
f 40...--....--~ _____
t
f_

I
...I----· -
a.
:1
I
Ii
.
;- 30

f ,o .....

i
-•oo!-::.,--:!-o•.,...---::o;-,.•---=-o'::-,_ _.,,.,a,=----::a~.,---=o'=",- - : - ,a=----',.,
VOid Ra110 After Con10lidot1:,n, e,

Fig.15( bl

251----
I
.,~ II .,
- zo ~· ·-•·· - --- I.i
i

!?
~

~ 10
;;
.
"'
C
a
6 •

!
£a~~~--~~~~~-~--~-~-~

-•
-10 L----'----'---------'----'---.___ _.__~
O $ 10, · IS 20 ZS SO • SS 40
Consolidation ond Conl1n1n9 Prnsure, ,3e-k9 per sq cm

FIG. 15.-RELATIONSffiPS BETWEEN CONSOLIDATION


PRE S SURE, VOID RATIO A FT E R CONSOLIDATION,
AND PORE PRESSURE CHANGE AT FAILURE IN
CONSOLIDATED-UNDRAINED TESTS

the 100% relative density condition at low confining pressures and under these
conditions the critical confining pressure may be as high as 30 kg per sq cm.
To throw some light on the range of values of the critical confining pres-
sure to be expected for various types of granular soils, values of this soil
characteristic have been extracted from data presented in previous studies
352 November, 1967

10,-----------------~
Sacr-to Ri- Sanct
Data lrGffl Flq.11; •",•0

-~ 0 1 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ' - - - - - 1

j~
O 71-----+----'..,..__ _.__ _ _ _ _ _ __,___ _..._~

~
.2
~ 061-----
:s!
~
05r--......------+----+-

a• o~---,,;-.----1'-0_ ___,os':----,-L20--2--Ls--3..Lo-~
Ctit,cal Confir,ing Pressure, ..._.,.-kc;i per sq cm

FIG. 16.-RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN VOID


RATIO AFTER CONSOLIDATION AND CRIT-
ICAL CONFINING PRESSURE DETERMINED
BY UNDRAINED TESTS SHOWING NO PORE
PRESSURE CHANGE AT FAIL URE

1.0-------~---------
Sacramento RiYer Saftd
Data lr0ffl -Dined 11111
0.9 _,___ _,__ _ _ _......._ tracn,••i ot tolU•

I
.§ o . • 1 - - - - - - - - - l ' - - - - - ~ - - - + - - - - I
~
1
~ 0.11---,---
~
4
.si
J!.., O&l----.---•---.-':-...------1---i---~----<

J
0.5~---+----t---

04 0L.--,;----,',-0----,1=--s---±20=----:!-:2s=---:!-:30=-~31
Effective Minor Principal Sir- at Faik.r•, ,;, • ,..,~-kQ per sq cm

FIG. 17.-RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VOID


RA TIO AFTER CONSOLIDATION AND CRIT-
ICAL CONFINING PRESSURE DETERMINED
BY EFFECTIVE MINOR PRINCIPAL STRESS
AT FAILURE IN NONCAVITATING
UNDRAINED TESTS
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 353
-
other investigators. 8 , 13 - 24 In addition, some further tests were performed
~,n a limited number of other materials. The results of these investigations
;;.re summarized in Table 1. Most of the values obtained from previous studies
1"ere determined by drained tests. However values were obtained from a few
undrained tests for loose soils.

•O~-~----~----~------.
, Socro'"""lo Ri'fer Sand

•.. 1
I
L--· 1-----1

~ PrtdM:tld from 1111:tral'led t11t1. &11f •O CFl9 16 J.
.t 0.11-----'---- ··t ] ·-·· J._._] ____ -1

j 1'~. M1asure~ u,
1
W\dra1 n1d t11t1,~_..r11 (;it.IT).

~ ., g,~.·I ', I I _____ _


.2 ....
& QI
,, P1dcdft0ffl i -. : .
~ 01
t
· - · · ...• • • ~ t"•,<-t;-;r•O(Fit-_9}··

" 4
I i
oL..----,'----,',a:----,IS~-~2a=---~21=---~1a::----!H'

Critical Confinin9 Pres.,,•, .,x,1·kQ Pl' tq cm

FIG. 18.-COMPARISON OF RELATIONSHIPS


BETWEEN VOlD RATIO AFTER
CONSOLIDATION AND CRITICAL
CONFINING PRESSURE

By far the highest value of the critical confining pressure determined was
the value of 110 kg per sq cm for dense samples of Ottawa sand. ·The next
highest value was 58 kg per sq cm for dense samples of glass beads. Both of
these materials have well-rounded and very sound particles.
As might be expected in view of the greater ease of crushing, values of the
critical confining pressure for dense sands composed of subangular or an-
gular particles are substantially lower than those for sound, rounded particles.
19 Bishop, A. W., "A Large Shear Box for Testing Sands and Gravels," Proceedings,
2nd International Conference on Soil I\Iechanics and Foundation Engineering, Rotterdam,
Netherlands, 1948, Vol. I, pp. 207-211.
°
2 Krazynski, L. M., "An Investigation of the Dilatency Effects in Saturated Sands,"
Graduate Student Report, Department of Civil Engineering, University of California,
Berkeley, 1960.
21 Bjerrum. L., Kringstad, S., and Kummeneje, 0., "The Shear Strength of a Fine
Sand," Proceedings, 5th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation
Engineering, Paris, 1961, Vol. I, pp. 29-37.
22 Wade, N. H., "Plane Strain Failure Characteristics of a Saturated Clay," thesis
presented to the University of London, at London, England, in 1963, in fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
23 Hall, E. B., and Gordon, B. B., "Triaxial Testing Using Large Scale High Pressure
Equipment," Proceedings of the Symposium on Laboratory Shear Testing of Soils,
Special Technical Publication No. 361, American Society for Testing and Materials,
Philadelphia, Pa., 1963.
24 Insley, A. E., and Hillis, S. F., "Triaxlal Shear Characteristics of a Compacted
Glacial Till Under Unusually High Confining Pressures," Proceedings, 6th International
Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Montreal, 1965, Vol. I, pp.
244-248.
354 November, 1967

TABLE 1.-V.ALUES OF CRITICAL CONFINING PRESSURE FOR VARIOCS


GRANULAR :VIA TERIALS
-------
I II
Initial Relative · ,crit, in
17
Type
I
Name of :'llaterial; Description I Void Density, in I Density ! Kilograms of lteferencu
nati() percentage I !
Description P<•r square Test
! centimeter

F1·m1:-lin Falls 'fine &!mi 0.77 Loose 1.0 Drained Taylor•


Sand O.G9 Trtaidal
0.65
0.59 Dense
Keystone S:ir.d Fine Sand 0.59 Loose
'
I i 0.56 ! Loose I 1.0
4.2
I
Drained
I Trl:ucinl
Taylor•

Washed Fort Fine Sand 0.85 ! Loose 1.0 Dr:lined Taylor•


Peck &ind 0.81 2.1 Triaxial
0,78 Medium 4.2
i Dense
Chesil Bank Ur.iform 0,75 Loose 0.5 o.s. Bishop'"
Gravel 1-1/2 In
I Gravel
Brcsted Sand I :lledium 0,56 Medium 2.0 D.S. Dishop 19
'' I Loose
Heathrow Gravel i \\'ell grad- . 0.43 Medium 3.0 D.S. Bishop 19
I eel minus Dense
I l in.
Fine Sand No. 20 to 0.77 23 Loose 4.2 c.u. Bishop and
No. 200 Eldin 11
Silt Rcmolded O.G4 Medium 4.6 c.u. Penman"
and Sedi- Dense
mcnt.ed
Lead Shot 0.7 to 1.7 0.76 Loose 6.6 Drained Newland and
mm diam c.u. Allely,.
Monterey Sand No. 20 to 0.79 14 Loose 9 Drained Krazynskizn
::-o. 30 0.64 65 Medium 15 Triaxial University of
0.53 100 Dense 29 c.u. California
Valgrinda Sand Fine- 0.79 32 Loose 1.0 c.u. Bjerrum
Uniform et al. 21
:'ltol Sand Fine- 0.71 54 :llcdium 2.8 Plane W11.de 22
t:niform Loose strain
0.77 36 Loose 2.8 Drained
trl:ixial
Dredger :llinus 3 In. 0.23 to 100 Den!'e 6 to Drained Hall and
Tailings Gra.,.cl 0.17 8 Trioxial Gordon?. 3
Ottaw:i. Standard :'llcclium, O.G9 9 Loose 3 D.S. Taylor•
Sllnd trniforni 0.49 100 Dense 75 to c.u. University of
:-.o. 20 to 100a Clllifornia
~o. 30
Sacramento River Fine- 0.87 38 Loose 3 c.u. University of
Sand Unlform 0.78 60 Medium 6 California
Loose
0.71 78 Medium 10
Dense
0.61 100 Dense 17
Eliot Sand Well o.s1• 100 Dense 15 c.u. University of
graded- Cllllfornia
Coarse
Glass beads Uniform 0.626 100 Dense 58 c.u. Universl ty of
4mtn California
diam.
Mien Creek 1-1/2 tn. 0.25 Dense 1.7 Drained Insley and
Glacial Till Grnvdl and Hillis ..
optimum c.u.
11/c to
slightly
plastic
fines
Tarbela Dam Medium 0.83 Loose 2 c.u. University of
Sand Sand 0.64 55 Medium 10 California
Dense
0.53 85 Dense 18
D.S. = direct shear test
c.u. = consolidated-undrained triaxial compression test
aHigh values obtained for dense samples consolidated to confining pressure highe1· than acrit before
testing.
::i~I 6 UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 355

Thus the maximum values of the critical confining pressure for other dense
sands studied to date appear to be on the order of 15 to 30 kg per sq cm.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INITIAL PORE WATER PRESSURE


ON THE UNDRAINED STRENGTH OF SAND

The strength envelopes for consolidated-undrained tests presented in Figs.


13 and 14 were determined for samples in which the pore water pressure was
zero at the end of consolidation; that is, no back pressure was used in the test-
ing programs. However, the analysis of consolidated-undrained strengths
previously presented shows that in cases where cavitation occurs, the
consolidated-undrained strength of saturated cohesionless materials may be
significantly affected by the presence of a back-pressure in the pore water at
the end of the consolidation stage of a test. This result may be illustrated by
considering the results of undrained tests on two samples, A and B, ,prepared
initially to· the same void ratio and the consolidated under the same effective
confining pressure of, say, 3 kg per sq cm. However for Sample A, the effec-
tive confining pressure is developed by applying an external pressure of 3 kg
TABLE 2.-UNDRAINED STRENGTHS

Test Conditions, values in kilograms Sample


per square centimeter A B

Effective consolidation stress 3 3


Critical confining pressure 15 15
E>..1:ernal confining pressure 3 7
Initial pore water pressure 0 4
Pore water pressure at failure -'1 -1
Effective confining pressure at failure 4 8
Undrained strength (Eq. 16) 12 24

per sq cm with no internal pressure in the pore water; for Sample B, the same
effective confining pressure is developed by applying an external pressure
of 7 kg per sq cm, together with an internal pore water pressure (back-
pressure) of 4 kg per sq cm. Suppose that the critical confining pressure
corresponding to the void ratio after consolidation is 15 kg per sq cm and the
angle of friction in terms of effective stresses is (/)' = 37°.
If the samples were loaded to failure under undrained conditions, because
the total confining pressures are considerably less than the critical confining
pressures, the pore water pressures in both samples with drop to -1 atm,
cavitation will occur, and the pore water pressure at failure will remain at
this value. Thus, the undrained strengths of the two samples will be determined
by the conditions shown in Table 2. Thus the undrained strength of Sample B
would be twice as great as that of Sample A, even though both samples had the
same density and were consolidated under the same effective confining
pressure.
The effect of the initial pore water pressure on the undrained strength may
also be illustrated by the data obtained for Sacramento River sa."ld. The test
data for consolidated-undrained tests with nobackpressure, shown in Fig. 14,
may be replotted as illustrated in Fig. 19 to show the relationship between the
356 November, 1967

effective confining pressure on any sample and the deviator stress at fa ibre
for that sample. On the same figure are shown the values of the cteviator
stresses at failure for tests conducted with the same effective confining pres-
sures during consolidation, but with different values of the initial pore water
pressure in the samples during the consolidation stage. The large influence
of the initial pore water pressure on the undrained strength of samples in
which cavitation occurs is readily apparent.
These results emphasize the importance, in testing saturated sands, of
correct laboratory representation, not only of the initial effective stress

70 ,---------,----------r-------,--------,
60 l---------+-----------1-------+-------~

...
Cl
.:!
·s
u.
0 30
~" 5 kg per sq cm
"'"'
~ ub =10kg per sq cm
in 20 ·
...
0
0
">Cl
0 10

00 10 20 30 40
Initial Consolidation Pressure, a-3 c- kg per sq cm

FIG. 19.-INFLUENCE OF INITIAL PORE-WATER PRESSURE ON STRENGTH OF


SAND IN CONSOLIDATED UNDRAINED TESTS

condition on a soil element, but also of the initial pore water pressure in soil
elements which may be subjected to undrained loading conditions.

EFFECT OF OVERCONSOLIDATION ON CRITICAL


CONFINING PRESSURES

Due to fluctuations in ground water level a granular soil may be overcon-


solidated at the time it is subjected to undrained loading, with a resulting ef-
fect on the values of the critical confining pressures determining the undrained
strength. To investigate this possibility, a number of dense samples of sand
were prepared and tested in normally consolidated-undrained tests. Each of
these samples had the same initial void ratio, ei = 0.61, but because of the
densification which occurred during consolidation, the void ratios, ec, at the
start of the undrained tests were less than the initial value. In addition, other
UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 357

dense samples were prepared to the same initial void ratio, ei = 0.61 and
each of these was consolidated under a confining pi essure of 40 kg per sq cm.
At this stage the confining pressures on the samples were reduced, each to a
different value, and t~e samples were allowed to rebound to an equilibrium
condition. The over-consolidated samples were then loaded to failure under
undrained conditions.
The strengths of both normally and over-consolidated samples are plotted
as a function of the void ratio at the end of consolidation in Fig. 20. It may
be seen that the data define a unique relationship and for this soil, the un-

10

E
.
u
er
70

go " '~0~

'
I
_;
& 40 ~
;; '
.
Soc:ranw1to Ri,,er Sand
_ e; •0.61; o,•100 percent
0 Normally COIIIOlidated
• Over-camalidoted

10

0
0.50 0.50
Void Ratio ot Starl of Undrained Tes ls, ec

FIG. 20.-E FF EC T OF OVERCONSOLIDA-


TION ON RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COM-
P RE SSIVE STRENGTH AND VOID
RATIO AT FAILURE IN NONCAVITATING
CONSOLIDATED- UN DRAINED TESTS

drained strength at any void ratio is apparently independent of whether the


sample is normally or over-consolidated.

ENVELOPE OF FAILURE IN TERMS OF EFFECTIVE STRESSES


FOR UNDRAINED TESTS AT CONSTANT VOLUME

To determine the undrained strength of a saturated sand in a noncavitating


test it is necessary to know the angle of friction or envelope of failure under
constant volume conditions. Several ways of determining this from drained
test data have already been described.
The test data for noncavitating undrained tests provides means for deter-
358 November, 1967 .:,:,
._,>,
.
mmmg the envelope of failure, in terms of effective stresses, for con~:~~::t
volume conditions.
Test data for the effective stress conditions at failure (defined as th(:
development of the maximum eif ective principal stress ratio) in all of the
noncavitating undrained tests performed on the Sacramento River sand are
plotted in Fig. 21. The data, includ~ng results for normally and over-

oc,-----,----.....-----,---,-----,--....----,.-.....------~
II
SoctOl'NfltO Ri._., .$4nd

•G)0.•017
Ii •O 71 ; __
j
I
; I·
!
_..._~_.._---J-_~__,___,
Ol.•071CNlboct"'9•M•I
•e.•0711..tl'lloel,,....,,I:
;
,
I

i
I

: I 1
,
i l j
U - - · · ,.0,1
•e.-0,,1....,.......,, I l
-+-_j__---~-,-.&·-----'
I l · ! -1----+---✓-------1
.. ___...,..... ..,_ r-·- --1------l-
1 ~- --.l.... - -1
•••o•• i I
S
:r .... g• '
I
'
I ' ,

i l4-•--:-··-·-r---r (···-··'1··-···
I : L
1··-··
I
!
= ao
• · 1' ·-----1-····
: r . I
I
,..
- -I-· •
••••· ··-·
•.. ~ : I -
tr •• l ....:.. j_ __ .
; o ·· - - ·-
rl---1-------1----+--
IZ -• ----· ! .
1___ L_____ (_
iI I !
- -- . ---- ,.__ __..__._____,
I .

0
. ,, . .
I
I
14HH

Clli;•• -lltpwacacm
5140 4• .. IIHeCI

FIG. 21.-EFFECTIVE STRESS CONDITIONS AT FAILURE


IN' NONCA VITATING UNDRAINED TESTS

2•,---~--.....---~----~------,---,

E
u
20
i 1-·-
5r
~
0.
~
1• -- -!------~-- --
Effectr-,e enelopt olt..-wd

..
1trH1

j frffl Nft•Ca'lltatitlt wtdrtift-4


' 11111 CFif.21)
~ 10

-----1
I
Soeramenlo Ri .. r Sand

10 1• 20 25 30 40

Normal Stress - kQ per sq cm

FIG. 22.-COMPARISON OF ENVELOPES OF FAILURE


IN TERMS OF EFFECTIVE STRESSES FOR CON-
STANT VOLUME CONDITIONS IN DRAINED
AND UNDRAINED TESTS

consolidated samples, loose and dense sand, and high and low confining pres-
sures, define an essentially linear relationship corresponding to an angle of
friction of 36°. This result is compared with the range of values determined
from drained tests (see Fig. 10) in Fig. 22. It is in good general agreement
:~.! UNDRAINED STRENGTH CHARACTERISTICS 359
6
-
;:;ith the envelopes of failure determined by deducting dilatancy effects from
tte results of drained tests on dense sand and in excellent agreement with the
envelope of failure determined by drained tests showing no volume change at
failure.

CONCLUSIONS

A method has been described for determining the undrained strength of


saturated sands from data obtained from drained tests. For this purpose the
undrained strength of samples in which cavitation occurs has been expressed
in terms of the applied stresses and an angle of friction including some dila-
tancy effects. However, the undrained strengtl"! of noncavitating samples has
been shown to be determined with a satisfactory degree of <l.Ccuracy by the
critical confining pressure of the soil and the angle of friction corresponding
to constant volume conditions, regardless of the magnitude of the confining
pressure to which the sample is subjected.
Thus, the critical confining pressure is a significant characteristic of a
soil and for the sand investigated it was found to depend only on the void
ratio. However, for other cohesionless materials it might well be influenced
to some extent by the method by y;hich a sample is brought to any void ratio
condition.
The critical confining pressure has the physical meaning that it is the
confining pressure for which a sample of granular soil will exhibit no volume
change at failure during shear. Thus it tends to be higher for soils which are
strongly dilatant then for soils which are not. Strongly dilatant soils include
dense cohesionless materials and soils with very sound, rounded grains. For
such materials, the critical confining pressure may be as high as 100 kg per
sq cm. However, for many dense sands and gravels the critical confining
pressure will be in the range of 10 to 30 kg per sq cm.
Because of the variation of volume change with axial strain, even for
samples showing no volume change at failure, analyses of undrained strengths
in terms of the critical confining pressures determined by drained tests are
not rigorously correct but they are apparently sufficiently accurate for prac-
tical purposes. However, in analyses of practical problems, such as the
stability of the upstream slope of a dam under undrained loading conditions,
it may be more expedient to use a critical confining pressure determined under
simple shear and plane strain conditons. Such a value might be determined
experimentally by finding the normal pressure, ancrit, for which failure
would occur in a simple shear or direct shear test with no volume change at
failure. It could then be used to determine the undrained strength of a sat-
urated cohesionless soil in shear in an analogous fashion to the use of the
critical confining pressure, 0'3 crlt, in determining the strength of samples
under triaxial compression test conditions. Test data indicate that ancrit
may be from 5% and 30% greater than values of ~crit for a cohesionless
material at any given. void ratio.
Utilized in the manner outlined above, values of critical confining pres-
sures, determined under appropriate deformation conditions, would seem to
November, 1967
-
provide a useful basis for the evaluation of undrained strengths of satur:..t..:-:!
cohesionless materials.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

'
The investigations described herein were supported by a research grant
from the National Science Foundation for studies of Soil Behavior During
Earthquakes. The support of the National Science Foundation is gratefully
acknowledged.