Skip to main content
Log in

Directionally dependent strength and dilatancy behavior of soil–structure interfaces

  • Research Paper
  • Published:
Acta Geotechnica Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Soil–structure interfaces typically exhibit a shear behavior that is independent of the direction of relative displacement due to symmetry in the solid material's surface profile. This experimental study investigates the interface shear behavior of surfaces with asymmetric profiles inspired by the scales of snake skin. The results of shear box interface tests on two sandy soils indicate that the peak and residual interface shear strengths and dilatancy are greater when the soil is displaced against the sharp edges of the asperities (cranial direction) than when the soil is displaced along the asperities (caudal direction). The experimental results indicate that the effect of asperity geometry on the interface shear response can be captured with the ratio of asperity length to asperity height (L/H). Analysis of the stress–dilatancy behavior indicates that interfaces with a relatively short asperity length follow a classical flow rule developed for soils. However, the relationship between the mobilized stress ratio and the dilatancy rate is shown to be a function of the shearing direction and asperity geometry. Implementation of snake skin-inspired profiles on the surface of geotechnical structures may provide benefits in performance and efficiency during installation and service life. In general, the results of this study indicate the behavior of the soil-structure interfaces sheared in the cranial direction is similar to that of interfaces between soil and fully rough surfaces. In contrast, the behavior of the soil-structure interface sheared in the caudal direction shares characteristics with that of interfaces with smooth surfaces, including the mobilization of smaller a interface strength and dilation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Afzali-Nejad A, Lashkari A, Tabatabaie Shourijeh P (2017) Influence of particle shape on the shear strength and dilation of sand-woven geotextile interfaces. Geotext Geomem 45(1):54–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Carey TJ, Stone N, Kutter BL (2020) Grain Size Analysis and Maximum and Minimum Dry Density Testing of Ottawa F-65 Sand for LEAP-UCD-2017 . In: Kutter B, Manzari M, Zeghal M (eds) Model Tests and Numerical Simulations of Liquefaction and Lateral Spreading. Springer, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  3. DeJong JT, Westgate ZJ (2009) Role of initial state, material properties, and confinement condition on local and global soil-structure interface behavior. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 135(11):1646–1660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Dove J, Frost JD (1999) Peak friction behavior of smooth geomembrane–particle interfaces. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 125(7):544–555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Dove J, Jarrett J (2002) Behavior of dilative sand interfaces in a geotribology framework. J Geotech Geoenviron 128(1):25–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Farhadi B, Lashkari A (2017) Influence of soil inherent anisotropy on behavior of crushed sand-steel interfaces. Soils Found 57(1):111–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Filippov A, Gorb SN (2013) Frictional-anisotropy based systems in biology: structural diversity and numerical model. Sci Rep 3:1240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fioravante V, Ghionna VN, Pedroni S, Porcino D (1999) A constant normal stiffness direct shear box for soil-solid interface tests. Rivista Italiana Di Geotecnica 3:7–22

    Google Scholar 

  9. Han F, Ganju E, Salgado R, Prezzi M (2018) Effects of Interface roughness, particle geometry, and gradation on the sand-steel interface friction angle. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 144(12):1990.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hazel J, Stone M, Grace MS, Tsukruk VV (1999) Nanoscale design of snake skin for reptation locomotions via friction anisotropy. J Biomech 32(5):477–484.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hebeler GL, Martinez A, Frost JD (2015) Shear zone evolution of granular soils in contact with conventional and textured CPT friction sleeves. KSCE J Civil Eng 1–167:1267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Irsyam M, Hryciw RD (1991) Friction and passive resistance in soil reinforced by plane ribbed inclusions. Géotechnique 41(4):485–498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Klein MCG, Deuschle JK, Gorb SN (2010) Material properties of the skin of the Kenyan sand boa Gongylophis colubrinus (Squamata, Boidae). J Comp Physiol A 196:659–668.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Lings ML, Dietz MS (2005) The peak strength of sand-steel interfaces and the role of dilation. Soils Found 45(6):1–14

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Martinez A, DeJong J, Akin I, Aleali A, Arson C, Atkinson J, Bandini P, Baser T, Borela R, Boulanger R, Burrall M, Chen Y, Collins C, Cortes D, Dai S, DeJong T, Del Dottore E, Dorgan K, Fragaszy R, Frost D, Full R, Ghayoomi M, Goldman D, Gravish N, Guzman IL, Hambleton J, Hawkes E, Helms M, Hu DL, Huang L, Huang S, Hunt C, Irschick D, Lin H, Lingwall B, Marr WA, Mazzolai B, McInroe B, Murthy T, O'Hara K, Porter M, Sadek S, Sanchez M, Santamarina C, Shao L, Sharp J, Stuart H, Stutz HH, Summers AP, Tao J, Tolley M, Treers L, Turnbull K, Valdes R, van Passen L, Viggiani G, Wilson D, Wu W, Yu X, Zheng J (2020) Bio-inspired geotechnical engineering: principles, current work, opportunities, and challenges. Géotechnique (accepted).

  16. Martinez A, Frost JD (2017) The influence of surface roughness form on the strength of sand—structure interfaces. Geotechnique Letters 7(1):104–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Martinez A, Palumbo S (2018) Anisotropic shear behavior of soil-structure interfaces: bio-inspiration from snake skin. Proceedings of ASCE IFCEE 2018 Conference Orlando, FL

  18. Martinez A, Palumbo S, Todd BD (2019) Bio-Inspiration for anisotropic load transfer at soil-structure interfaces. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 145(10).

  19. Martinez A, Stutz HH (2019) Rate effects on the interface shear behaviour of normally and overconsolidated clay. Géotechnique 69(9):801–815.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Martinez A, O'Hara KV (2020) Skin friction directionality in monotonically- and cyclically-loaded bio-inspired piles in sand. DFI Journal 14(3)

  21. Marvi H, Hu DL (2012) Friction enhancement in concertina locomotion of snakes. J Royal Soc Interface 9(76):3067–3080.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Mortara G, Mangiola A, Ghionna VN (2007) Cyclic shear stress degradation and post-cyclic behaviour from sand–steel interface direct shear tests. J Can Geotech 44(7):739–752.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Motta P, Habegger ML, Lang A, Hueter R, Davis J (2012) Scale morphology and flexibility in the shortfin mako Isurus oxyrinchus and the blacktip shark Carcharhinus limbatus. J Morphol 273(10):1096–1110.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. O'Hara KB, Martinez A (2020) Effects of asperity height on monotonic and cyclic interface behavior of bioinspired surfaces under constant normal stiffness conditions. GeoCongress. Doi

  25. O’Hara KB, Martinez A (2020) Monotonic and cyclic frictional anisotropy in snakeskin-inspired surfaces and piles. J Geotech Geoenv Eng 146(11):04020116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Pra-ai S, Boulon M (2017) Soil–structure cyclic direct shear tests: a new interpretation of the direct shear experiment and its application to a series of cyclic tests. Acta Geotech 12:107–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Samanta M, Punetha P, Sharma M (2018) Influence of surface texture on sand–steel interface strength response. Géotechn Lett 8(1):1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Schanz T, Vermeer P (1996) Angles of friction and dilatancy of sand. Géotechnique 46(1):145–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Stutz HH, Doose R, Wuttke F (2018) Open science interface shear device. In: W Wu, HS Yu (eds) Proceedings of China-Europe conference on geotechnical engineering. vol 1, Springer, Springer Series in Geomechanics and Geoengineering 1: 615–618, Vienna, Austria,

  30. Stutz HH, Martinez A, Heepe L, Tramsen HT, Gorb SN (2019) Strength anisotropy at soil-structure interfaces with snake skin inspired structural surfaces. In: Ibraim E, Tarantino A (eds) 7th international symposium on deformation characteristics of geomaterials, IS-Glasgow 2019, 13008, EDP Sciences, E3S Web of Conferences, vol. 92, 7th international symposium on deformation characteristics of geomaterials, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

  31. Subba Rao KS, Allam MM, Robinson RG (1998) Interfacial friction between sands and solid surfaces. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Geotech Eng 131(2):75–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Taylor DW (1948) Fundamentals of soil mechanics. Wiley, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  33. Tong Z, Fu P, Zhou S et al (2014) Experimental investigation of shear strength of sands with inherent fabric anisotropy. Acta Geotech 9(April):257–275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Tramsen HT, Gorb SN, Zhang H, Manoonpong P, Dai Z, Heepe L (2018) Inversion of friction anisotropy in a bio-inspired asymmetrically structured surface. J Royal Soc Interface 15(138):20170629.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Uesugi M, Kishida H, Tsubakihara Y (1988) Behavior of sand particles in sand-steel friction. Soils Found 28(1):107–118

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Wong RKS, Arthur JRF (1985) Induced and inherent anisotropy in sand. Géotechnique 35(4):471–481

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Zhang G, Wang L, Zhang J-M (2011) Dilatancy of the interface between a structure and gravelly soil. Geotechnique 61(1):75–84

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Zhang G, Zhang J-M (2006) Monotonic and cyclic tests of interface between structure and gravelly soil. Soils Found 46(4):505–518

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The assistance of Stanislav Gorb, Lars Heepe, and Halvor Tram Tramsen in manufacturing the surfaces and discussing frictional anisotropy is acknowledged. This material is based upon work supported in part by the Engineering Research Center Program of the National Science Foundation under NSF Cooperative Agreement No. EEC-1449501. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hans Henning Stutz.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Stutz, H.H., Martinez, A. Directionally dependent strength and dilatancy behavior of soil–structure interfaces. Acta Geotech. 16, 2805–2820 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: