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3rd International Symposium on Cone Penetration Testing, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - 2014

Failure mechanism and interpretation of CPTU in silty soils


P. Paniagua, A. Emdal & S. Nordal
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

ABSTRACT: The application of the NTH interpretation model for cone penetration data in silts is evalu-
ated in view of experimental results regarding the study of the cone penetration test with x-ray micro to-
mography and 3D Digital Image Correlation. Both failure patterns, theoretical and experimental, are
compared and analyzed by Finite Element simulations to study the mechanism controlling the drainage
during penetration and its influence on the interpretation of results.

1 INTRODUCTION

Intermediate soils such as silts are believed to behave partially drained during cone penetration test
(CPT/CPTU) at the standard rate of 2.0 cm/sec (Lunne et al. 1997). Conventional interpretation methods
commonly based on fully drained or undrained conditions can be difficult to apply. Change in the penetra-
tion rate is suggested to modify drainage conditions around the advancing cone. By increasing the penetra-
tion rate fully undrained conditions will be approached, while decreasing the penetration rate sufficiently a
drained behavior may be expected. The application of this approach in silts is discussed by DeJong et al.
(2013). However, the challenge is to make a reliable interpretation of effective stress parameters (friction
angle and cohesion) from the partially drained CPTU.
Senneset et al. (1988) suggested the application of the NTH (Norwegian University of Science and
Technology, formerly Norwegian Institute of Technology) interpretation model (NTH-model) as interpre-
tation guideline for CPTU in silts. Mayne (2012) recommended the application of the NTH-model for
evaluation of effective stress friction angle.
The NTH-model is evaluated by Sandven (1990) and recently Bradshaw et al. (2012). Bradshaw et al.
(2012) state that the NTH-model makes use of the excess pore pressure during cone penetration in inter-
preting a friction angle; however, Sandven (1990) comments on the challenge related to what reference
pore pressure should be used in the model.
Paniagua et al. (2013) present an experimental campaign where x-ray micro tomography (x-ray micro
CT) and 3D Digital Image Correlation (3D-DIC) were combined for studying CPT in silt. A non-plastic
uniform dilative silt (Vassfjellet silt) with 94% of its grains smaller than 74 m smaller and a clay content
of 2.5% was used in the experiments. The samples were stepwise penetrated in 5 mm and 1 mm at a rate
of 6 mm/s. Penetration was stopped at defined intervals for x-ray micro CT scanning. The spatial defor-
mation was mapped and analyzed by applying 3D-DIC. The observation of the failure pattern during cone
penetration by x-ray micro CT and posterior analysis with 3D-DIC allowed the identification of a compac-
tion zone under the tip and a dilating zone below. Distinct zones of shear along the shaft, partly develop-
ing into tension cracks could be seen. These observations shed light on improving the understanding of the
drainage condition during penetration in silts.
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In this paper, the NTH-model is reviewed and evaluated based on the information from Paniagua et al.
(2013a, b), taking into consideration pore pressure generation and drainage around the cone.

2 THEORETICAL MECHANICS OF CPTU IN SILTS

Lunne et al. (2007) state that for CPT interpretation in silty soils, the drainage conditions expected in the
design problem must be identified. If the design problem faces undrained conditions and the CPT data is
undrained, clay relationships can be used. On the other hand, if the design problem is drained and the re-
sults from CPT are drained then an interpretation method similar to sand can be applied. However, when
drained conditions dominate the design problem and the CPT is undrained or partially drained, effective
stress strength parameters are needed for design.

2.1 The application of NTH-model in silts

2.1.1 The NTH-model


Senneset et al. (1988) recommended the application of the NTH-model (Senneset et al., 1982) for CPTU
data interpretation in silts. The method is based on limit plasticity theory for an effective stress analysis of
the bearing capacity of a cone (Equation 1); including the effects of excess pore pressures generated dur-
ing undrained or partially drained conditions. A plastification angle is proposed to account for the extent
of the plastified zone (Fig. 1).

qn = (Nq 1)(vo + a) Nu u (1)

where qn = Nm (vo + a) = net cone resistance with Nm = (Nq - 1) / (1 + Nu Bq) = cone resistance number;
vo is the effective overburden pressure; a = c / tan ' = the attraction term and c the cohesion; Nq = tan
(45 + /2) exp [(-2) tan] = bearing capacity factor depending on friction angle and plastification
angle ; and Bq = u/qn is a pore pressure ratio relating u = excess pore pressure around the cone to the
total stress increase in tip resistance.
Senneset et al. (1982) proposed the expression Nu 6 tan (1 + tan) to represent the effect of the ex-
cess pore pressures along the shear surface of the bearing capacity of the cone. Kirkeb (1986) presents a
more comprehensive solution (Appendix A) as a function of the friction angle and Janbus dilatancy
parameter D (Janbu 1985). D is defined under undrained triaxial shearing to be D = p/q where p is
the change in effective mean stresses and q is the change in deviatoric stresses, for the different zones 1
and 3 (Fig. 1). The main assumption for the pore pressures variation along the failure surface is uzone3 <
uzone1, where uzone3 is average excess pore pressure in zone 3 and uzone1 is average excess pore pressure
in zone 1. Sandven (1990) and Senneset et al. (1989) point out that the approximation for Nu gives
satisfactory values for = 17-35, which is a typical range of friction values for clays and silts, when the
parameters D1 = D3 = 0 are used in the Kirkeb (1986) solution.

2.1.2 Interpretation procedure


Figure 2 shows diagrams of the variation of Nm depending on tan and Bq. They are derived following
the theoretical approach discussed in the previous section. Hence, the calculations of Nm (Equation 2) and
Bq (Equation 3) are used to find .

Nm = qn / (vo+a) = (qT vo)/(vo+a) (2)

Bq = u / qn = (u2-uo)/ (qT vo) (3)

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where qT is the corrected cone resistance, u2 is the pore pressure measured behind the cone shoulder (u2
position) and uo is the hydrostatic pore pressure. Senneset et al. (1988) propose -values for Norwegian
silts varying between -20 to -10 for overconsolidated silts silty sands, -5 to +5 for medium silts
(lightly overconsolidated), +10 to +20 for loose (normally overconsolidated) silts.
The attraction value, a, applied in Equation 2 can be obtained by theoretical interpretation methods
(Senneset & Janbu 1985) or by results from triaxial tests (Senneset et al. 1988). In the same reference, typ-
ical values of attraction varying from 0-30 kPa and friction angles from 27-35 are suggested for Norwe-
gian silts.

2.1.3 Application of NTH-model for silty soils


Examples of interpretation of effective shear strength parameters from CPTU using the NTH-model have
been published by Senneset et al. (1988) and Sandven (2003) for Stjrdal silt and Halsen silt, respectively
(both Norwegian silts). Good agreement between interpreted values from CPTU and triaxial tests are
found. Sandven (2003) points out that the NTH-model is based on homogeneous soil and ideal undrained
response during penetration; however, in most cases silty soils are inhomogeneous and they are expected
to behave in a partially drained manner.

Figure 1. Failure surface for the NTH-model (Senneset et al., 1982)

Figure 2. Interpretation diagrams for (a) = 0; (b) = -15 and (c) = +15 (Senneset et al., 1989)

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Long (2007) applied the NTH-model for interpretation of CPTU in estuarine Irish silts finding values
normally expected for loose silty material. Long et al. (2010) found consistent values with triaxial test re-
sults for friction angles in Os silt (Norwegian silt). Recently Bradshaw et al. (2012) applied the NTH-
model to Rhode Island silt and found good agreement with the laboratory data, especially in zones where
high positive excess pore pressures were generated, suggesting that the NTH-model accurately accounts
for the effects of pore pressure generation during penetration leading to more accurate estimates of . It
must be noted that in all these cases, the silty soil gave triaxial test results with a consistent dilative re-
sponse.

3 EXPERIMENTAL MECHANICS OF CPTU IN SILTS


3.1 Background of experimental mechanics for penetration of objects in soil materials
Previous works have been published regarding the penetration of objects in sand (Robinsky & Morrison
1964, Muromachi 1974, Yasafuku & Hyde 1995, Broere 2001, White et al. 2002, Liu 2010) and clay (Roy
et al. 1974). Alternative materials like crushed glass (Allersma 1987) or transparent "clay" illuminated by
laser light (Gill & Lehane 2001, Ni et al. 2010, Liu & Iskander 2010) have also been used for this purpose.
Influence areas around the penetrating object have been identified in these works which have mainly been
in plane strain conditions. 3D penetration of objects in sand has been studied by x-ray tomography (Koba-
yashi & Fukagawa 2003, van Nes 2004, Ngan-Tillard et al. 2005, Morita et al. 2007, Kikuchi et al. 2010,
Paniagua et al. 2012) where changes in density around the penetrating object have been derived. Planar
Digital Image Correlation (2D-DIC) has been used in a test on a "half-model" built against a glass plate to
trace movements along a plane surface (Salgado 2013).

Figure 3. Failure pattern during CPT in terms of incremental volumetric strains (v) and incremental shear strains
(s) studied by x-ray micro CT and 3D-DIC, shown as a cut through the middle of the volume. (Paniagua et al.
2013b). (C = Compaction and D = Dilation)

Figure 4. Comparison between failure surface for the NTH interpretation model (Senneset et al., 1982) and the fail-
ure surface from 3D-DIC (Paniagua et al. 2013a, b)

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3.2 Failure mechanism observed by Paniagua et al. (2013a, b)
Paniagua et al. (2013a, b) present laboratory scale cone penetration test with x-ray micro CT further ana-
lyzed with 3D-DIC. The Vassfjellet silt tested is a non-plastic uniform silt with highly dilatant behavior in
undrained conditions. Shear structures along the shaft were identified as well as two main bulb shaped
zones of incremental compaction and incremental dilation under and around the tip (Fig. 3).
Paniagua et al. (2013b) concluded that the laboratory observations from x-ray micro CT and 3D-DIC
shed light on observed field conditions for CPTU in silts. Taking the case of a saturated soil, water may
simply move locally from a compressive to a neighboring dilative zone creating a short drainage path.
This suggests that due to the closeness between compressive and a dilative zones, it might be necessary to
penetrate with an extremely high rate to obtain a purely undrained condition for CPTU in silts.

4 STUDY OF THE NTH-MODEL FOLLOWING EXPERIMENTAL MECHANICS


4.1 Relation between NTH-model and x-ray micro CT + 3D-DIC experimental results
This section looks closer into the NTH-model from the experimental mechanics point of view. The pur-
pose is to clarify the apparent successful application of the NTH-model for CPTU data in silts, even
though the dilative behavior of silts has not been taken into account in the model (it has been derived for
D = 0). Therefore, it is of interest to study the NTH-model when a more realistic approach which include
dilative behavior, observed by Paniagua et al. (2013a, b) and triaxial tests, is included.
Trying to fit both failure surfaces, as shown in Figure 4, one can roughly see that zone 1 falls in the
compaction zone (zoneC, in red), that zone 3 is in the dilation zone (zoneD, in blue) and that the failure
mechanism is limited by the shear strain zone. Taking this as a stationary condition where the coordinate
system is set at the tip and advances with the cone movement, the cone will advance continuously in a soil
volume at failure and continuously generate contractive and dilative zones. The main consequence of the
close distance between the contractive and the dilative zone is that a local internal drainage will occur.
The generation of excess of pore pressures when the cone advances (uzone3 < uzone1) (Senneset et al.
1982) and the conclusions from Paniagua et al. (2013b) regarding the drainage paths (uzoneD < uzoneC)
during CPTU in silty soils, might suggest that the amount of pore pressures recorded by the CPTU will
depend on the change of stress stages in the soil around the tip. The definition of Janbu (1985) for excess
of pore pressures u = p - Dq implies D = p'/q. If D > 0 the soil will behave dilatant and if D < 0 it
will behave contractive). p is the change in the total mean stress and q is the change in the deviatoric
stress; then the amount of pore pressures generated will be affected by the relation between p and q.
For the dilative silts in this study D > 0, causing this partial drainage.
In an infinitesimal increment and with partial drainage, a point in the failure zone 1 will experience
more p due to the push of the cone, while p will be lower in a point further away from the tip (zone 3),
in both cases compared to the q that it will experience. This is further discussed in Section 4.2, after pre-
senting numerical simulations for fully drained and undrained conditions.
Even though the solution from Senneset et al. (1982) is given for a D = 0 in both zones, the stationary
pore pressure generation at each penetration increment agrees with the experiments and conclusions from
Paniagua et al. (2013a, b) for silty soils.
To study the effect of including the D parameter in the NTH-model following the Kirkeb (1986) solu-
tion, new diagrams (Fig. 5) of Nm as function of tan and Bq are derived for a vertical loading case and
using D1 = D3 = 0.6 to account for a dilatant material. The new curves do not change dramatically com-
pared to the old ones. However, they are more conservative for tan values lower than 0.63-0.70 depend-
ing on the -angle. For the range of silt values variation of tan between 0.5-0.7, Nm between 5-30 and
Bq between 0-0.4 (Senneset et al. 1988); there is not much change from the previous condition without
dilatancy considerations (see the marked red area in Fig. 5). If the pore pressure ratio Bq increases, there is
more deviation from the previous derived curves. Ideally one may like that an interpretation model CPTU
data would fit the full range of soil materials, but this seems not to be possible due to particularities in
each soil.

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Figure 5. New NTH interpretation diagrams for (a) = 0; (b) = -15 and (c) = +15, accounting for dilative soil
materials. Most silty soils fit into the area marked in red

Long et al. (2010) applied the NTH-model for Os silt. For = 0, Nm = 7.5 and Bq = 0.2, they found a tan
= 0.62 ( = 32). Introducing the same values in the new derived curves from Figure 5, tan = 0.65
( = 33); which does not show strong variations from the original result.

4.2 Stress state around the CPTU in a dilating silt: numerical approach
Numerical simulations of the cone penetration laboratory test from Paniagua et al. (2013a, b) were per-
formed with the Finite Element (FE) Method software Plaxis 2011.02 following the Press-Replace tech-
nique (Engin 2013). The axisymmetric model is shown in Figure 6 where 7076 15-noded elements are
used. The effective stress based Hardening Soil model (Schanz et al. 1999) is applied with material pa-
rameters calibrated to soil data of Vassfjellet silt (Appendix B) and to curves for penetration resistance
measured during the experiments (Fig. 6). The simulations were performed in drained and undrained con-
ditions.
Figure 7a shows the magnitude of incremental displacements (in a penetration increment of 0.5 cm) for
the penetration phase at a tip depth in the sample of 6 cm, for the cases of drained and undrained penetra-
tion. The failure surface proposed by Senneset et al. (1982) and the one observed by Paniagua et al.
(2013a, b) are superposed. Points in the failure surfaces were selected to study the relation between p
and q at the final increment (Fig. 7b).
Silva & Bolton (2005) state that soil failure during CPTU combines large physical displacement of soil
and fluid as well as shearing of soil along the piezocone shaft. In Figure 7a it is possible to observe that in
the undrained FE calculation, the soil displacements caused by the penetration influence a larger area than
the area influenced in the drained FE calculation. This coincides with the reasoning that due to less time
(or no time) for drainage during undrained penetration, the disturbed surrounding soil is greater and there-
fore, the induced excess pore pressures will be greater (Silva & Bolton 2005). Figure 7b agrees with this
since in undrained penetration the change in total mean stress (p) is higher than the change in deviatoric
stress (q ) which will give u > 0 (following Janbus definition). On the other hand, in a drained case (u
= 0) the disturbed zone around the cone is smaller.

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In a partially drained condition we should expect a condition between these two extremes. If in addition
the soil is dilative (like the silt studied), the large strains from CPTU mobilize the dilatant tendency of the
silt and cause negative pore pressures as observed by Silva & Bolton (2005). The effect will depend on the
penetration rate that could define which mechanism dominates the pore pressure: the generation due to
penetration and compaction or the dissipation due to shear driven dilation. In this direction, additional
numerical simulations that include partial drainage behavior are currently underway by the authors and
further discussion will be published in the future.

4.3 Ongoing work


Further, comparisons with other failure surfaces around the CPTU (like the one proposed by Salgado &
Prezzi 2007) are being done and analyzed with respect to its use for interpretation of CPTU data from
silts. Regarding the local drainage between the contractive and dilative zones, it has been experimentally
studied in saturated samples and the effect of penetration rate is under consideration for this effect.
Numerically, the local drainage is currently being studied by using coupled consolidation analysis in FEM
modeling.

Figure 6. Calibration and mesh of FEM simulations

Figure 7. (a)
Magnitude of displacements |u| in a 0.5 cm penetration increment for drained and undrained penetration and (b)
p/q ratio for the points located in the failure zone at the same penetration stage

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5 CONCLUSIONS

The application of the NTH-model for CPTU in dilative silts has been studied based on the laboratory re-
sults from x-ray micro CT and 3D-DIC analysis of the cone penetration test. By fitting the assumed theo-
retical and the observed experimental failure surfaces, it was found that both coincide in the assumption
regarding pore pressure generation and drainage around the cone during penetration.
In spite of the NTH-model assumes no dilatancy (D = 0), the inclusion of the dilatancy parameter in the
solution surprisingly does not affect the interpretation of effective stress friction angle for the silty soil
range. Numerical results are presented to confirm that the generation of pore pressures is more affected by
the relative amount of increments in the mean total stresses and the deviatoric stresses inside the failure
zone depending in which sub-zone the soil is. The results indicate that somehow the u2 pore pressure can
be used in the NTH-model. The pore pressure along the failure surface may not always be the same as u2;
however it is the measurement we get from standard CPTU. The NTH-model accounts for the excess of
pore pressure around the cone (u = u2 uo) which involves the zone below the cone and the zone along
the shaft. Burns & Mayne (1998) defined that in an undrained case the pore pressure generated in the zone
below the cone (uoct) is due to changes in the octahedral normal stress and the pore pressure generated in
the zone along the shaft (ushear) is caused by the octahedral shear stress change. Both uoct and ushear are
included (in addition to uo) in the measured pore pressure during CPTU. The NTH-model then takes that
uoct comes from the combination of uzone1 and uzone3, or according to Paniagua et al. (2013) the combi-
nation between uzoneC and uzoneD.
Further analysis have been performed (and are under analysis) in saturated samples following the same
set-up from x-ray micro CT tests (see Paniagua et al., 2013b for set-up details) in order to complete the
findings with real measurements of pore pressures.

6 REFERENCES

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7 APPENDIX A

Nu solution from Kirkeb (1986) for vertical load (r = 0) which applies for the case of cone penetration test

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1 2
3

2 2
3
1 2

1 2
1
1

1 2

45
2

0.67
90
90

tan 45
2

tan 45

1 for 0

8 APPENDIX B

Table 1. Material parameters for the FEM model


Parameter Value
Unit weight of the soil () 12 kN/m
Friction angle () 32
Dilatancy angle () 2
Cohesion (cref) 5 kPa
Drained triaxial secant stiffness (E50ref) 3000 kPa
Primary oedometer tangent stiffness (Eoedref) 3000 kPa
Unloading/reloading stiffness (Eurref) 15000 kPa
Power for stress-level dependency (m) 0.5
Reference stress (pref) 100 kPa
Poissons ratio (ur) 0.2

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