Laboratory study on subgrade fluidization under undrained cyclic triaxial loading

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Journal Article
CANADIAN GEOTECHNICAL JOURNAL, 2020, 57, (11), pp. 1767-1779
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A long-term issue that has hampered the efficient operation of heavy-haul tracks is the migration of fluidized fines from the shallow soft subgrade to the overlying ballast, i.e., mud pumping. This paper presents a series of undrained cyclic triaxial tests where realistic cyclic loading conditions were simulated at low confining pressure that is typical of shallow subgrade beneath a ballast track. Subgrade soil specimens with a low-plasticity index collected from a field site with recent history of mud pumping were tested at frequencies from 1.0 to 5.0 Hz and a cyclic stress ratio (CSR) from 0.1 to 1.0. The experimental results indicate that under adverse loading conditions of critical cyclic stress ratio (CSRc) and frequency, there is upward migration of moisture and the finest particles towards the specimen top and this causes the uppermost part of the soil specimen to soften and fluidize. Conversely, a smaller value of CSR tends to maintain stability of the specimen despite the increasing number of loading cycles. It is noteworthy that for any given combination of CSR and frequency, the relative compaction has a significant influence on the cyclic behaviour of the soil and its potential for fluidization.
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