Geotechnical and Geological Engineering

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 1217–1229 | Cite as

Active Earth Pressure with Linear and Nonlinear Failure Criteria

Original paper


Most conventional calculation methods of active earth pressure behind a retaining wall are mainly based on the linear Mohr–Coulomb failure criterion. However, numerous experimental data indicate that various kinds of soils obey the nonlinear failure criterion. Assuming a Coulomb failure plane, an analytical expression following linear and nonlinear failure criteria using the limit equilibrium method is presented in this paper for estimating active earth pressure with a translating retaining wall. Meanwhile, both the adhesion and friction angle of the wall as well as cohesion and internal friction angle of the soil backfill are considered. Special cases show that the derived formula for the linear failure criterion can be reduced to expressions proposed by previous literature under different field conditions of soil backfill. Numerical studies show that the results of the presented method are consistent with previous solutions, which indicates that the method of this paper is feasible for evaluating active earth pressures. At last, the effects of the the nonlinear failure criterion on active earth pressure are further examined.


Linear and nonlinear failure criteria Retaining wall Active earth pressure Limit equilibrium method 



The authors acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41172282). The supports are greatly appreciated.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of civil engineering, Faculty of EngineeringChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

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