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Hydromechanical behavior of unsaturated soils: Interpretation of compression curves in terms of effective stress


This state-of-the-art paper on the hydromechanical behavior of unsaturated soils focuses on the interpretation of the compression curves of unsaturated soils in terms of effective stress, with the goal of understanding the relative impacts of suction on the effective stress, net yield stress, effective yield stress and slope of the virgin compression line (VCL) during a monotonic increase in net stress. A database of compression curves was compiled for both high and low plasticity fine-grained soils under a wide range of suctions, isotropic or oedometric stress states, drainage conditions (constant suction or constant water content) and preparation techniques (impact compaction, static compaction, consolidation from slurry). Most of the compression curves plotted in terms of effective stress revealed a consistent hardening response with increasing suction and a slight suction dependency on the slope VCL. Interpretation of the compression curves in terms of effective stress led to load-collapse curves with a similar shape for a wide range of soils. Most soils evaluated had a greater rate of increase in effective yield stress with suction than the rate of increase in suction stress with suction, implying that these compacted soils may be susceptible to collapse upon wetting. Inconsistent trends were observed in some studies, which were attributed partially to natural variability but also experimental issues and limitations on the range of conditions investigated. Accordingly, recommendations are provided for future studies on the compression curves of unsaturated soils to ensure that results can be clearly interpreted in terms of effective stress.

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