The shear and tensile strength of unsaturated soils by a grain-scale investigation

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Journal Article
Granular Matter, 2020, 22, (1)
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© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. This paper presents a study of the tensile strength of unsaturated soil by a DEM model in a novel uniaxial tensile test device. For validation and comparison, traditional triaxial shear test of unsaturated soil are also conducted. In the DEM model, the capillary effects and some other cementation effects are modelled by a bond, whose strength is a function of the moisture content and void ratio in uniaxial tensile tests and also the confining pressure in triaxial tests. To compare the DEM simulations with experiments, the bond strength function is calibrated through a quantity measurable in both laboratory and DEM simulations such as the shear strength in triaxial tests or the uniaxial tensile strength in uniaxial tensile tests. The comparison shows that the proposed model is able to capture the phenomena observed in experiments. Most importantly, through investigation of the grain-scale data such as the motion, force chains and development of fractures, it is possible to explain some macroscopic observations such as the form of shear bands in the sample, the influence of the moisture content on the shear and tensile strength, etc.
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