Modelling virgin compression line of compacted unsaturated soils


In this paper, the volumetric collapse of an unsaturated soil, upon soaking to saturation under a certain stress level, is referred to as soaking collapse. The soaking collapse for a soil under virgin condition is assumed equal to the difference between the soil’s virgin compression line (VCL) and its normal consolidation line (NCL) at saturated condition based on results of oedometric constant water content compression and soaking tests performed on a compacted Nanyang expansive clay. A one-parameter model is proposed to describe the variation of the soaking collapse with the pre-soaking degree of saturation under virgin condition once (1) a soil’s yielding point can be clearly defined and (2) the degree of saturation during virgin compression is known. This model can be used to predict the VCL from the NCL. Data of the Nanyang expansive clay, along with published data of nine soils that were derived from constant water content or constant suction compression tests (including oedometric and triaxial compression), were used to calibrate and validate the model. It is shown that the model, when combined with a degree of saturation-volume model and the information of yielding and NCL, can predict reasonable VCLs for all examined soils and suitably capture several characteristics of the VCL including the nonlinearity and pressurised saturation. A constant model parameter of 1.5 is found suitable for all examined soils. The model is also used to predict the VCLs of two compacted soils from the constant degree of saturation compression, which is a recently developed testing technique to evaluate the compression behaviour of unsaturated soils, with reasonable agreement achieved.

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G s :

Specific gravity

I p :

Plasticity index

N 0 :

Specific volume on the NCL at lnσ′ = 0

p′ :

Net mean stress

R 2 :

Coefficient of determination

s :


S r :

Degree of saturation

S r,sat :

Degree of saturation at saturation

S r,y :

Degree of saturation at yielding

v :

Specific volume

v c :

Soaking collapse

v ps :

Specific volume at pressurized saturation

v s :

Specific volume at saturation

w :

Water content

w L :

Liquid limit

γ d :

Dry unit weight

γ dmax :

Maximum dry unit weight

ζ :

Model parameter

κ :

Recompression index

λ :

Compression index for unsaturated soil

λ 0 :

Compression index for saturated soil

μ :

Collapse ratio

μ y :

Collapse ratio at yielding

σ′ :

Effective stress (for saturated soil) or net stress (for unsaturated soil)

σ′ :

Net stress at pressurized saturation

σ′ v :

Net vertical stress

ψ, ϕ, n, m :

Model parameters of Gallipoli et al. [14] model


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Correspondence to Wei-lie Zou.

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Han, Z., Vanapalli, S.K., Zou, W. et al. Modelling virgin compression line of compacted unsaturated soils. Acta Geotech. 14, 1991–2006 (2019).

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  • Compacted soil
  • Partial saturation
  • Virgin compression
  • Volumetric behaviour