Resilient and permanent deformation of unsaturated unbound granular materials under cyclic loading by the large-scale triaxial tests


The road base and subbase are normally situated above the underground water table and thus in the unsaturated state. To study the cyclic behavior of unbound granular materials (UGMs) in the road base and subbase courses under controlled matric suction conditions, a series of cyclic tests on the unsaturated UGMs were conducted by the large-scale triaxial apparatus. The large-scale triaxial apparatus was upgraded using an unsaturated module to control the matric suction by the axis-translation technique. Emphases were placed on the effects of matric suction and cyclic stress amplitude on the accumulated axial strain and resilient modulus of UGMs. Test results showed that the increase in matric suction reduced the development of accumulated axial strain exponentially under different cyclic stress amplitudes. Based on the shakedown theory, both the plastic shakedown and plastic creep limits were determined, which tended to grow linearly with the increase in matric suction. A new empirical model was proposed to predict the accumulated axial strain of unsaturated UGMs. Moreover, the increase in both matric suction and cyclic stress amplitude led to the increase in resilient modulus, and linear relationships existed between the resilient modulus and matric suction.

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G s :

Specific gravity

w p :

Plastic limit

w l :

Liquid limit

σ net :

Net confining pressure

σ 3 :

Confining pressure

u a :

Pore air pressure

u w :

Pore water pressure

s :

Matric suction

q ampl :

Amplitude of cyclic deviatoric stress

N :

Number of cycle

ε a :

Axial strain

\(\varepsilon_{\text{a}}^{\text{t}}\) :

Total axial strain

\(\varepsilon_{\text{a}}^{\text{acc}}\) :

Accumulated axial strain

M r :

Resilient modulus


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The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51878513, 51778571), the Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation (No. LY18E080029), the Key Research and Development Program of Zhejiang Province (No. 2018C03038) and the Science and Technology Research Program of Wenzhou city (No. S20180004).

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Correspondence to Zhigang Cao.

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Gu, C., Zhan, Y., Wang, J. et al. Resilient and permanent deformation of unsaturated unbound granular materials under cyclic loading by the large-scale triaxial tests. Acta Geotech. 15, 3343–3356 (2020).

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  • Deformation
  • Granular materials
  • Large-scale triaxial test
  • Matric suction
  • Resilient modulus
  • Traffic loading