Testing sensitive clays through time and length scales
Paper in proceeding, 2021
In the Nordics, engineering of sensitive soils is of vital importance for realising the urban environment and the infrastructure connecting and underpinning it. The hydro-mechanical behaviour of sensitive clays is strongly affected by the geological deposition history in the area and subsequent human activities resulting in changes in stress and environmental loading. Finally, the characteristic physico-chemical identity of the clay-water system is expressed by the sensitivity of the material. A combination of classic geotechnical tests in the laboratory needs to be complemented with state-of-the-art technologies for material analyses, in order to deepen our understanding of the interaction between the colloidal nature of the clay and the observed response at the engineering scale. Until now these activities have been performed separately. The microstructural observations using various microscopy techniques were not directly combined with classic geotechnical tests. In contrast, the work presented herein showcases methodologies for simultaneous monitoring of fabric and mechanical probing under controlled conditions on samples of sensitive clay. In order to enable real-time fabric measurements of samples of sensitive clay two non-invasive techniques are utilised: X-ray Scattering (XS) and X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT). Furthermore, a bespoke apparatus for sample probing is designed and built at Chalmers University of Technology. The design of the apparatus is adapted to the special challenges of very soft samples and addresses issues of sample quality in soft soil testing (i.e., sample mounting, membraneless configuration). The intention of this work is to demonstrate the feasibility of expanding geotechnical testing outside the limits of the traditional geotechnical laboratory, combining geotechnics with state-of-the-art technologies for material analysis. This, in the end, provides a critical view on the perception of the material and its constituents that aims to contribute in improvement in geotechnical laboratory testing and the development of advanced constitutive models for sensitive clays.