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Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer mortared

concrete masonry

Article · January 2016

DOI: 10.1504/IJMRI.2016.074727


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2 authors:

Julian Ajith Thamboo Manicka Dhanasekar

South Eastern University of Sri Lanka Queensland University of Technology


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Int. J. Masonry Research and Innovation, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2016 5

Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond

thin-layer mortared concrete masonry

J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar*

School of Civil Engineering,
Queensland University of Technology,
Gardens Point Campus,
2 George Street, Brisbane 4000,
QLD, Australia
*Corresponding author

Abstract: This paper presents a finite element technique for high bond
strength, thin-layer mortared-masonry through material and interface modelling
to simulate the behaviour of masonry. Constituent material blocks and mortar
and their interfaces, affect the behaviour of masonry significantly. A finite
element technique to represent these constituent materials and their interfaces is
presented in this paper, and is shown that the technique predicts the behaviour
of thin-layer mortared-concrete-masonry appropriately, and provides good
insight into the failure characteristics of masonry under different loading
conditions. The properties of the unit and the mortar are modelled using
the principles of concrete damage plasticity, and the characteristics of the
interfaces are modelled using the traction separation damage principles. The
finite element model is applied to masonry subject to shear, flexure,
compression and combined shear-compression. The numerical results are
validated with experimental test results; good agreement is found. The
predicted biaxial failure envelope of the high bond strength thin-layer
mortared-concrete-masonry is presented.

Keywords: finite element method; interface damage model; masonry; masonry

compression; material damage model.

Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Thamboo, J.A. and

Dhanasekar, M. (2016) ‘Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-
layer mortared concrete masonry’, Int. J. Masonry Research and Innovation,
Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.5–26.

Biographical notes: J.A. Thamboo is a Lecturer at South Eastern University of

Sri Lanka. He obtained his PhD from Queensland University of Technology
and Bachelor of the Science of Engineering from University of Peradeniya,
Sri Lanka with first class honours. His research interest includes structural
masonry, innovative construction materials and dynamic response of structures.

M. Dhanasekar has a long research track record since 1981; his research is
predominantly in innovative designs and modelling of concrete masonry. He
has secured A$3 million over the past 10 years towards research grants.

Copyright © 2016 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

6 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

1 Introduction

The recent developments in numerical methods and advent of computational power, have
paved the way to study masonry behaviour without expensive and time consuming series
of laboratory experiments. Masonry is modelled numerically either as a homogenised
macro material or as a composite of constituent materials interacting at their interfaces,
depending on the type the problem and the level of details desired in a detailed manner.
The macro material modelling approach, considers the effect of the presence of mortar
joints in the masonry failure envelope (Dhanasekar and Haider, 2008; Zhuge et al., 1998;
Da Porto et al., 2010; Orduna and Lourenco 2003; Berto et al., 2002); on the other hand,
the detailed model (Shieh-Beygi and Pietruszczak, 2008; Zucchini and Lourenco, 2007;
Brencich and Gambarotta, 2005; Adam et al., 2010; Uday Vyas and Venkatarama Reddy,
2010) represents the actual pattern of the unit and mortar layer layout, explicitly each
with distinct properties; the interfaces are modelled using the concept of either the
contact surfaces or smeared with the mortar layers. Either of the detailed modelling
techniques is suitable for investigation for uniaxial or biaxial behaviour characterisation
of masonry replicating small prisms/wallets laboratory experiments. This paper deals
with a detailed modelling approach. A brief review of such detailed modelling methods
reported in the literature is provided in this section.
The biaxial failure envelope of hollow concrete masonry was numerically evaluated,
using a double-scalar damage material - criterion for the homogenised interface and
mortar layer and the units by Wu and Hao (2008). Barbosa et al. (2010) proposed a
continuum damage model with plasticity and smeared cracking to reproduce the
experimental compressive behaviour of hollow concrete block masonry prisms. Nazir and
Dhanasekar (2013) used Mohr-Coulomb plasticity model for smeared interface - mortar
layers, and damage plasticity for units to simulate uniaxial and biaxial behaviour of thin-
layer, high bond strength concrete masonry. Koksal et al. (2005) considered an elasto-
plastic approach and an isotropic damage model to study the compression behaviour of
concrete masonry prisms. Massart et al. (2004) considered a scalar damage model to
evaluate the biaxial failure envelope of brick masonry; it was shown that the scalar
damage models obtain realistic in-plane damage patterns obtained in experiments.
The interface in masonry is commonly modelled using surface-to-surface contact
(Adem et al., 2010; Fouchal et al., 2009; Nazir and Dhanasekar, 2013) behaviour between
the unit and the mortar.
The primary aim of this study, is to examine the failure mechanism of high-bond,
thin-layer mortared concrete block masonry assembly under shear, flexure and
compression, using a detailed nonlinear finite element approach, where the blocks mortar
layer and the interfaces are modelled separately. Behaviour of both constituent materials
(block and mortar) are described using damage plasticity theory using ABAQUS 6.12.

2 Masonry failure modes and modelling approach

To appropriately model the masonry, the failure modes of the masonry under different
loading condition should be properly understood, and must be taken in to the modelling
consideration. Figure 1 shows the commonly observed basic masonry failure mechanisms
in various experiments.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 7

1 Interface tensile failure (Figure 1a): This failure occurs, when the masonry
interfaces are subjected to tensile stresses that exceed the tensile bond strength of the
2 Interface shear failure (Figure 1b): This failure happens, when the interface is
subjected to shear stresses that exceed the shear bond strength of the interfaces.
3 Unit tensile failure (Figure 1c): This failure takes place, when the state of stress in
the masonry unit exceeds its tensile capacity.
4 Unit failure with interface shear failure (Figure 1d): This failure occurs, when the
combination of compression and shear stresses exceed the unit or interface strength.
5 Unit compression failure (Figure 1e): This failure happens, when the state of stress
in the unit and mortar exceeds unit or mortar compression capacity.

Figure 1 Basic masonry failure modes

It can be seen that the failure modes of 1(a), 1(b) and 1(d) are dominated by the masonry
interface characteristics, and the failure modes of 1(c) and 1(e) are the result of the failure
of the constituent materials (unit or mortar). Therefore, the constituent materials and the
interfaces are modelled carefully to capture all these failure modes.

3 Material model

The Quasi-brittle materials, such as concrete blocks and mortar undergo several damage
states, such as tensile cracking, compressive crushing failure associated with stiffness
8 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

degradation and post-peak softening. To account for different damage characteristics in

tension and compression, the degradation of the elastic stiffness is characterised by two
damage variables, dt and dc, which are assumed as functions of the inelastic strains in this
numerical model as defined in Equations (1) and (2) respectively.

dt = dt (ε tpl ); 0 ≤ dt ≤ 1 (1)

d c = d c (ε cpl ); 0 ≤ d c ≤ 1 (2)

In which, ε t pl and ε c pl , refer to as tensile and compressive equivalent inelastic strains,

respectively; dt and dc are assigned values from 0 (no damage) to 1 (full damage). This is
the concrete damage plasticity model incorporated in ABAQUS, and has been used to
simulate the damage in constitutive materials in masonry (i.e. unit and mortar) in this
If E0 is the initial (undamaged) elastic stiffness of the material, the stress-strain
relations under uniaxial tension and compression loading can be defined as in Equations
(3) and (4) respectively:

σ t = (1 − dt ) E0 (ε t − ε tpl ) (3)

σ c = (1 − d c ) E0 (ε c − ε cpl ) (4)

In which εt and εc are (total) tensile and compressive strains in material. Main two failure
mechanisms (tensile cracking and compressive crushing) are accounted for in the damage
The compressive inelastic strain is defined as the total strain minus the elastic strain
σ c0
corresponding to the undamaged material, ε cpl = ε c − ε 0el where ε 0 =
as illustrated in
Figure 2(a). A similar concept was also followed in tension damage as illustrated in
Figure 2(b).

Figure 2 Response of concrete to uniaxial loading in (a) compression and (b) tension
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 9

Under uniaxial tension/compression, the stress-strain response follows a linear elastic

relationship, until the failure stress (σt0, σc0) is reached, where onset of micro-cracking
occurs. Beyond the failure stress, the formation of micro-cracks is represented
macroscopically with a softening stress-strain response.
The evolution of the failure surface is controlled by the hardening variables, ε t pl and
ε c pl . In terms of effective stresses, the yield function (F) takes the form of Equation (5).
1 pl
F= (q − 3α ρ + β (ε ) σ max − γ −σ max − σ c (ε cpl ) = 0 (5)
In which,
⎛ σ b0 ⎞

⎝ σ c 0 ⎟⎠ − 1
α= ; 0 ≤ α ≤ 0.5 (6)
⎛ σ ⎞
σ c 0 ⎟⎠ − 1
b 0

σ c (ε cpl )
β= (1 − α ) − (1 + α ) (7)
σ (ε tpl )
3(1 − K c )
γ= (8)
2Kc − 1
where σ max is the maximum principal effective stress, σ b 0 / σ c 0 is the ratio of initial
biaxial compressive failure stress to initial uniaxial compressive failure stress, K c the
ratio of the second stress invariant on the tensile meridian q(TM) to that on the
compressive meridian q(CM), at initial failure for any given value of the pressure
pl pl
invariant. σ t (ε t ) is the effective tensile cohesion stress and σ c (ε c ) is the effective
compressive cohesion stress. The failure surface in plane stress state is illustrated in
Figure 3. The damaged model assumes non-associated potential plastic flow, details are
in ABAQUS theory manual (2012).

Figure 3 The failure surface of concrete and mortar in plane stress state
10 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

4 Modelling of masonry interface

A constitutive law that accounts for the traction-separation of the interfaces is considered.
This model assumes the interfaces to behave initially in linear elastic manner until the
onset of damage (due to tension/compression or shear), and subsequently follow an
interface damage evolution law depending on the cause of damage. The elastic behaviour
is written in terms of the constitutive matrix, shown in Equation (9), that relates the
normal and shear stresses to the normal and shear separations (displacements) across the
r r
r ⎧⎪tn ⎫⎪ ⎡ K nn 0 ⎤ ⎪⎧δ n ⎪⎫ r
t = ⎨r ⎬ = ⎢ ⎥ ⎨ r ⎬ = Kδ (9)
⎩⎪ts ⎭⎪ ⎣ 0 K ss ⎦ ⎪δ s ⎪
⎩ ⎭
The interface traction stress vector t consists of two components (since it is a two-
r r
dimensional problem) - namely tn and ts ; the corresponding separations (displacements)
r r
are denoted by δ s and δ n respectively. The corresponding stiffness coefficients are Knn
and Kss.
Damage is assumed to initiate, when the squares of maximum interface stress ratios
reach the value of unity as shown in Equation (10).
2 2
⎛t ⎞ ⎛t ⎞
f1 = ⎜ n ⎟ + ⎜ s ⎟ − 1 (10)
⎝ tn 0 ⎠ ⎝ ts 0 ⎠
In which, tn0 and ts0 are the limiting tensile bond and shear bond strength of thin-layer
mortared concrete masonry. With the combined shear-compression stresses, the masonry
exhibit Mohr Coulomb failure behaviour as shown in Equation (11):
f 2 = ts − [ts 0 + tn tan φ ] (11)

Until the onset of the interface damage, any normal/tangential slip is assumed to be
purely elastic in nature, and is resisted by the interface bond strength that resulting in
normal and tangential stresses. Once the interface stiffness commence degrading, the
friction model activates and begins contributing to the shear stresses. The failure domain
of the complete interface model is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4 Interface damage activation domains

A scalar damage variable (D) is used to define the interface stress components that are
affected by the damage according to Equations (12) and (13):
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 11

⎧⎪(1 − D)t ' n ; tn ≥ 0

tn = ⎨ ' (12)
⎪⎩t n ;
ts = (1 − D)t ' s (13)

In which, t ' n and t ' s are the interface stress components predicted by the elastic traction-
separation behaviour after the interface failure criterion is researched.

5 Modelling procedure

The modelling procedure is illustrated through a masonry couplet assembly under

uniform uniaxial compression pressure shown in Figure 5. The units and mortar layers
were created as separate parts, and the part instances were assembled to create the
masonry couplet. The interaction between the contacting surfaces of the units and mortar
layers were assigned with the properties defined in Section 4. Due to symmetry, only one
quarter section of couplet is modelled in this particular example.

Figure 5 Masonry couplet assembly under compression

The couplet with discretisation is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Created couplet assembly in ABAQUS (see online version for colours)
12 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

The vertical stress distribution at the interface was obtained from the results file and
plotted in Figure 7. ‘Section A-A’ refers to mid height of the top unit, and ‘Section B-B’
refers to the interface between the top unit and top surface of mortar layer as shown in
Figure 6(b). The edge stress raiser in the mortar layer exhibits the appropriateness of the
determined stress distribution at contacting interfaces.

Figure 7 Vertical stress variation at unit mid height and mortar-unit interface (see online
version for colours)

6 Validation of the numerical model

The validation process involves the comparison of the results of the finite element
modelling with those determined experimentally. Four examples were selected, one of
each representing the failure of masonry due to joint shear, flexure, compression and
combined shear-compression loading cases.

6.1 Selection of material properties for FE validation

The details of material properties used in the FE modelling are given in Table 1. The
compressive strength of block and mortar (high adhesive, polymer cement mortar (PCM))
are obtained from experimental test carried out in Thamboo et al. (2013b). The Poisson’s
ratio of concrete unit and mortar were taken from literature Barbosa et al. (2010).
The biaxial stress ratio in Table 1 is the ratio of biaxial compressive (compression-
compression principal stress) failure stress to the uniaxial compressive failure stress of
concrete and mortar. The flow potential eccentricity (ε) is the parameter that characterise
the rate, in which the hyperbolic flow potential approaches its asymptote. Viscosity
parameter (μ) was given to visco-plastic regularisation of concrete damage plasticity
constitutive equations in ABAQUS.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 13

Table 1 Details of concrete and mortar material properties used in the analysis

Material properties Concrete unit Mortar

Elastic modulus, (MPa) 9000 5000
Poisson’s ratio, υ 0.2 0.25
Uniaxial compressive 12.66 5.26
Uniaxial tensile strength, (MPa) 1.25 0.52
Biaxial stress ratio 1.16 1.16
Dilation angle (°) 15 10
Flow potential eccentricity (ε) 0.1 0.1
Viscosity parameter 0.01 0.01

The approximate compressive failure stress-inelastic stain relations of concrete and

mortar under compression were given according to Sfar et al. (2002) and ABAQUS
theory manual (2012). The approximate stress-strain relations of concrete and mortar
under uniaxial tension were given according to Evans and Marathe (1968) and ABAQUS
theory manual (2012) findings, where the stress-strain curves for different grades of
concrete were given for uniaxial tension.
The interface properties used in the FE analysis are given in Table 2. Three sets of
interface properties were selected to validate the shear interface behaviour of thin-layer
mortared concrete masonry.

Table 2 Interface properties used for calibration

Interface properties Cut unit interface

Tensile stiffness, knn (N/mm ) 32
Shear stiffness, kss (N/mm3) 35
Maximum tensile stress, tn0 (MPa) 0.8
Maximum shear stress, ts0 (MPa) 1.0
Friction coefficient (μ) 0.75

6.2 Compressive behaviour of masonry

A 90mm thick masonry prism under uniaxial compression was taken into consideration.
The prism was made from hollow concrete blocks of 390 mm long × 90 mm high ×
90 mm width. Taking advantage of symmetry (Figure 8(a)), only one-quarter of the prism
was modelled. One-quarter of four courses high stack bonded masonry prism considered
for modelling is shown in Figure 8(b).
14 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

Figure 8 Stack bonded masonry prisms (see online version for colours)

The block and the mortar of the prism assembly were modelled with 4-node bilinear
plane stress quadrilateral element (CPS4R) in ABAQUS. A typical meshed geometry of
modelled prism is shown in Figure 8(b). The vertical movement of bottom surface of the
prism and the lateral movement of symmetric edge of the prism were restrained to
maintain symmetry of deformation under compression. The load was applied as
uniformly distributed incremental displacements at the top quarter of prism section (only
to the face-shell of the hollow prism). Figure 9 shows the FE and experimental axial
stress-strain responses of prism analysis; the comparison is quite good.

Figure 9 Axial stress-axial strain diagram of experimental and FE prism analysis (see online
version for colours)

From the FE stress-strain graphs, the ultimate failure capacity and elastic modulus were
calculated and presented in Table 3 for comparison.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 15

Table 3 FE and experimental results

Elastic modulus, E
Compression capacity (MPa) (MPa)
Experimental FE f m− Exp f m − FE Experimental FE EExp EFE
10.1 9.3 1.07 8217 9352 0.88

The elastic modulus was calculated as the slope of stress-strain curve by limiting the
stress to 40% of the ultimate strength. The experimental ultimate strength and elastic
modulus are reported in Thamboo et al. (2013a).
Ratios between the experimental and the FE compression strength (fm) and the elastic
modulus (E) are presented in Table 3. It is good to note that FE prediction of compressive
strength is 7% lower (conservative) than the experiment; however, the initial elastic
modulus was predicted 12% stiffer in the FE. The expectation of E = (700 – 1000) × fm is
satisfied, as can be seen in the experimental Young Modulus E ≈ 810 fm and the FE
Young Modulus E ≈ 1000 fm. Therefore, it can be concluded that the proposed numerical
technique predicts the compression behaviour of thin-layer mortared concrete masonry to
an acceptable level of accuracy.

6.3 Shear behaviour of masonry

A three block stack bonded triplet of size 574 mm (Long) × 390 mm (high) × 90 mm
(Thick) was considered with 2 mm thick polymer cement mortar (PCM) joint as shown in
Figure 10. The triplet was constructed using the same hollow block that was used for
compressive strength (referred to Section 6.2). Only one half of the triplet was considered
in FE model with appropriate boundary conditions due to symmetric arrangement of
specimen geometry and loading. The bottom block movement was restrained vertically,
and the lateral movement of symmetric edge was restrained in the triplet model to
maintain the equilibrium during the FE analysis. Monotonic displacement control (δ) was
applied at the top of the middle block as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10 Triplet and the FE mesh (see online version for colours)
16 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

The shear load was determined through the sum of the nodal reactions and the shear
stress was obtained by dividing the shearing area of triplet. Particular interest was given
to validate the shear bond stress vs. shear strain response of the experimental results with
the FE model output. Figure 11 shows the results.

Figure 11 FE and experimental shear response at unit-mortar interface (see online version
for colours)

The shear interface responses of the FE models reasonably follow the average (of three
specimens) experimental shear bond stress vs. shear strain response. FE shear interface
behaviour of thin-layer mortared concrete masonry has initially remained linearly elastic,
and showed slight nonlinearity towards the defined maximum shear stress. Figure 12
shows the shear sliding failure mode of triplet in the FE simulation (including close-up

Figure 12 FE predicted failure modes of triplets (see online version for colours)
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 17

6.4 Flexural behaviour of masonry

Seven block stack bonded beams of size 1342 mm (Long) × 390 mm (deep) × 90 mm
(Thick) was considered with 2 mm thick mortar joint. The beams were constructed using
the hollow blocks of same dimension described in Section 6.2. Due to symmetry, one half
of the beam was modelled. The bottom support movement was restrained vertically and
the lateral movement of symmetric edge was restrained in the half beam model to
maintain the equilibrium during the FE analysis as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13 FE and experimental set-up of beam (see online version for colours)

Monotonic displacement control load was applied at one third distance of the beam. The
corresponding flexural load was determined, through the sum of the nodal reaction and
the flexural stress was calculated. The flexural stress-strain response of the high bond
thin-layer mortared masonry beam is shown in Figure 14.
It can be seen from the Figure 14, the FE model reasonably follows the experimental
flexural stress vs. flexural tensile strain response. Interface separation failure mode was
observed in the FE model consistent with the experimental failure mode. The FE beam
model reasonably demonstrates the flexural behaviour of thin-layer mortared masonry
stack bonded beam.
18 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

Figure 14 FE and experimental flexural stress vs. strain (see online version for colours)

6.5 Combined shear-compression behaviour of masonry

With the increase in compressive stress, shear strength of concrete masonry increases in
conventional masonry (Kornbak, 2000). This section can be considered as an extension of
analysis from previous sections as a complex biaxial state of stress in a masonry panel for
this purpose is shown in Figure 15(a). Analysis was carried out using superposition of
symmetric (Figures 15(b)) and anti-symmetric (Figure 15(c)) cases.

Figure 15 Typical masonry panel under combined shear and compression pressures

Figure 15(b) shows biaxial compression pressures (σn and σp) acting on the panel; due
to symmetry, the model can be restricted to quarter of the panel. Figure 15(c) shows the
shear traction (τnp) acting on the panel; due to anti-symmetry of the traction, modelling
of quarter of the panel can be considered. Therefore, only quarter of the masonry panel is
considered in the modelling for combined shear-compression behaviour of masonry.
The cases considered for combined shear-compression FE modelling are (also see
Figure 16):
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 19

Figure 16 FE models considered for combined shear-compression analysis (see online

version for colours)

1 Case A: No shear traction.

• Case A1: Compressive stress perpendicular to bed joint, (σn/σp = ∞).
• Case A2: Compressive stress parallel to bed joint, (σn/σp = 0).
2 Case B: Combined shear-compression on masonry panel as given in Table 4.

Table 4 Stress ratios considered in combined shear-compression analysis

Case Case Case Case Case Case Case Case

Ratio B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8
σn/σp 6.6 4.5 3.0 1.66 1.0 0.66 0.5 0.2
τnp/σn 0.33 0.39 0.44 0.8 1.0 1.33 1.33 2
τnp/σp 2 1.75 1.33 1.33 1.0 0.8 0.66 0.4

As shown in Figure 16 two blocks high and one block wide symmetric section of the
masonry panel was considered. The modelled block size was 185 mm (long) × 90 mm
(wide), which is a half scale block. 1 mm thick mortar was modelled to create the
symmetric panel assembly. The perpend joint was also filled with the same thickness of
the mortar. The FE models considered for cases A and B are shown in Figure 16(a) and
(b) respectively. For case A analysis, symmetric boundary conditions were given to the
vertical and horizontal symmetric edges as shown in Figure 16(a) to apply normal (σn) or
parallel (σp) pressures to the bed joints. For case B analyses, bottom and vertical left
edges of the FE model were restrained with antisymmetric boundary condition as
displayed in Figure 16(b) and combined shear (τnp) - compression pressures (σn and σp)
20 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

were applied. Incremental pressure rate (i.e. keeping the same normal to parallel to
pressure ratio) was given to maintain uniform stress state during the FE analysis.
Figure 17 shows the failure mode with vertical and lateral stress distribution of FE model
for compression normal to bed joint.

Figure 17 Failure stress distribution of applied compressive stress normal to bed joint (see online
version for colours)

The FE model clearly shows the lateral tensile stresses development in the unit and
perpend joint separation under applied stress normal to bed joint. This phenomenon is
due to the differential expansion of unit and mortar under compression normal to bed
joint in masonry.
Figure 18 shows the failure mode with vertical and lateral stress distribution of FE
model for compression perpendicular to bed joint. The FE model clearly shows tensile
stresses in the bed joints under the applied stress parallel to bed joint, which ultimately
causes the tensile splitting of bed joint interface. The combined shear-compression
strengths obtained from experimental panel tests are shown in Figure 19.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 21

Figure 18 Stress distribution of applied compressive stress parallel to bed joint (see online
version for colours)

Figure 19 Shear stress variation with (a) normal and (b) parallel compressive stresses
(see online version for colours)
22 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

The compressive strength normal to the bed joint of 10.35 MPa and 10.45 MPa
(a difference of 1%) were obtained in the FE model and the experimental tests
respectively. In addition, the compressive strength parallel to the bed joint of 9.36 MPa
and 8.28 MPa were obtained in FE model and experimental tests respectively. The
variation is nearly 13%, as the tensile split is highly variable. It can be said that, FE
model predicted the compressive strength normal and parallel to the bed joints with
acceptable accuracy. The normal, parallel and shear stresses obtained from experimental
tests are plotted in Figure 19(a) and (b) to compare the shear stress prediction of FE
The predicted FE and experimental shear stresses are given in Table 5.

Table 5 FE and experimental shear stress predictions

FE Shear
FE Shear stress stress from Experimental
from Figure Figure 16(b) shear stress
Experimental 16(a) (MPa) (MPa) (MPa) τ Exp τ FE
Normal (22.5º) 8.00 2.26 – 3.32 1.47
stress (45º) 3.84 3.88 – 3.84 0.99
(67.5º) 1.10 2.37 – 2.65 1.12
Parallel (22.5º) 1.37 – 2.61 3.32 1.27
stress (45º) 3.84 – 3.88 3.84 0.99
(67.5º) 6.41 – 2.47 2.65 1.07

The ratios (τExp/τFE) between experimental and FE prediction shear strengths are
calculated to check the accuracy of FE prediction. Only the FE prediction from 22.5°
panel tests had larger scatter (47% and 27% respectively for perpendicular and parallel to
bed joints). Otherwise, reasonability good agreements between FE and experimental
shear strengths are found.

7 Development of biaxial failure envelope for high bond, thin-layer

mortared masonry

Masonry structural elements such as shear walls, walls supported on beams, confined
masonry wall panels and infilled walls subjected to in-plane loads are in a state of biaxial
stresses. Whilst failure biaxial envelopes are available in the literature for traditional
unreinforced masonry (both solid clay bricks and hollow concrete blocks) and grouted
hollow block masonry, a failure surface for high bond strength, thin-layer mortared
masonry is not yet found in the literature. Biaxial tests are expensive, and hence, the FE
model developed in this paper was used to simulate high bond thin-layer mortared
masonry panels subject to biaxial states of stress to determine the biaxial failure surface.
Totally 13 combinations of stress states were simulated in FE modelling for bed joint
angles of 0° and 90° to principle stresses with different stress ratios as given in Table 6.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 23

Table 6 Biaxial loading cases considered with different stress ratios

Stress state Stress ratio (σn/σp)

Uniaxial compression (UC) 0, ∞
Biaxial compression (CC) 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5
Biaxial tension-compression (TC) –0.1, –0.2, –5, –10
Uniaxial tension (UT) 0, ∞

The FE masonry panel was kept same as part-1 to analyse the biaxial behaviour of thin-
layer mortared concrete masonry. Also the same material and interface properties were
used as described in Section 5.5 of this paper. In order to maintain the uniform stress state
in the masonry panel, biaxial loads were applied as increasing pressure rate (i.e. keeping
the pressure ratio same at a given time) during the analysis.
The failure strengths for each stress states were taken from FE output and presented
in Figure 20(a) in terms of normal (σn) and parallel stresses (σp) of bed joints.

Figure 20 Biaxial strength envelop of bed joint angles 0° and 90° for thin-layer mortared concrete
masonry (see online version for colours)

For the biaxial compression-compression region, with the dominant compressive stresses
on one direction tend to increase the compressive capacity of thin-layer mortared
concrete masonry. The biaxial compression capacity tends to increase up to 20% over the
uniaxial compression capacity, normal to the bed joint. For the biaxial tension-
compression stress state, with the applied compressive stress (either parallel or normal to
bed joint), the tensile capacity of thin-layer mortared masonry tends to reduce almost to
zero when the compressive stresses reaches the highest value.
Biaxial strength envelops proposed by Dhanasekar (1985) and Kattab (1993) are
compared with thin-layer mortared concrete masonry strength envelop in Figure 20(b).
Since different material strengths were used in each tests, comparison is shown in non-
dimensional form in Figure 20(b). In order to get the non-dimensional strength, the
biaxial strengths were divided by the compression strength normal to bed joint (fm) of the
corresponding envelope. It can be seen from Figure 20(b), that the biaxial failure envelop
24 J.A. Thamboo and M. Dhanasekar

of thin-layer mortared concrete masonry is consistent with conventional clay and grouted
concrete masonry. Also failure modes obtained from FE analysis also indicate similar to
conventional masonry failures under biaxial loading cases. Therefore the in-plane biaxial
behaviour of thin-layer mortared concrete masonry can reasonably assumed similar to
that of the conventional masonry.

8 Summary

The recent developments in numerical methods to formulate the masonry strength and
response, paved the way to study masonry behaviour without expensive and time
consuming series of experimental studies. In this paper, a detailed finite element
modelling technique is presented. Nonlinear two dimensional finite element analyses
based on concrete damage plasticity for masonry materials (block and mortar) and the
traction separation interface damage model for masonry bond behaviour have been
applied. The developed numerical technique was validated with the previous
experimental works. Good agreements were found between proposed numerical model
and experimental results. Based on this investigation, following conclusions have been
• The proposed model can reproduce the masonry material behaviour, which are
essential for design.
• The interface model can be used to simulate the behaviours for masonry joint, which
dominates many modes of failure of masonry. In this study, the joint failures of shear
and flexural were implemented and found good agreement with experimental results.
• The model can be used to analysis the compression behaviour of masonry prisms,
which is sole representative of masonry behaviour.
• The FE element modelling technique was further validated with the thin-layer
mortared concrete masonry behaviour under combined shear-compression stress
state experimental studies. Relatively good agreement between and experimental and
numerical results in terms of axial stress-stain relationship were found in all the cases
• The biaxial strength envelop developed for thin-layer mortared concrete masonry for
bed joint angles of 0° and 90°, shows similar pattern of conventional clay masonry
and full grouted concrete masonry.


Authors thank the Australian Research Council for the financial support to this project
(LP0990514) and Queensland University of technology provided technical support.
The assistance from the industry partners Adbri masonry and Rockcote for providing the
required concrete blocks and the cement mortar are gratefully acknowledged. Also the
support of Concrete masonry association of Australia (CMAA) is thanked by authors.
Nonlinear finite element modelling of high bond thin-layer 25

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