Formation of drying crack patterns in soils: a deterministic approach
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Soils, as well as most of deformable multiphase porous materials, are likely to suffer from desiccation cracking, leading to the formation of regular crack patterns affecting their permeability. The ensuing crack spacing has often been related to a concept sometimes called “sequential infilling”: it is assumed that desiccation cracks are formed by successive generations. However, such a concept does not consider the pattern of a simultaneous crack formation at a given moment. Using our desiccation cracking test results and their numerical simulation, we propose a consistent explanation for the formation of desiccation crack patterns in soils. We show that the “sequential infilling” concept is suitable only when the position of the crack(s) clearly stems from the stress field. To derive an estimate of the desiccation crack spacing, the overall energy of the system needs to be considered. Statistical variability should be superimposed on the mean deterministic conditions discussed here.