Analytical, experimental, and field evaluations of soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements
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The increasing use of geosynthetics in stabilization of pavement systems under traffic loads and environmental changes requires proper understanding of the mechanisms that govern the soil-geosynthetic interaction. Significant research has already been conducted on the soil-geosynthetic interaction under ultimate conditions, which is relevant to reinforcement of retaining walls and steep slopes. However, little research has been undertaken to investigate the properties and mechanisms that govern the soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements, which is relevant to applications such as the geosynthetic stabilization of pavement layers. While characterization of the maximum geosynthetic strength (e.g., tensile strength or pullout resistance) is relevant for the design of soil-geosynthetic systems under ultimate conditions, proper design properties in systems where geosynthetics are used to control deformations should involve characterization of the stiffness of soil-geosynthetic composite. The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements using analytical, experimental, and field evaluations. Three studies were conducted on different aspects of soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements: (1) Analytical and experimental evaluations of the soil-geosynthetic composite (SGC) model using large-scale soil-geosynthetic interaction tests, (2) analytical and experimental evaluations of soil-geosynthetic interaction using small-scale soil-geosynthetic interaction tests, and (3) field evaluation of soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements. Each study provides lessons and conclusions on specific aspects investigated in that study. Collectively, they suggest that the analytical model proposed in this study provides a good basis towards predicting the general performance of geosynthetic-stabilized pavements. The analytical formulation of the SGC model indicates that soil-geosynthetic interaction under small displacements can be characterized by the stiffness of soil-geosynthetic composite ( ), which is the slope of the linear relationship defined between the unit tension squared (T2) versus displacements (u) in each point along the active length of a geosynthetic. The linearity and uniqueness of the relationship between the unit tension squared (T2) and displacements (u) throughout the active length of specimens tested in a comparatively large soil-geosynthetic interaction device were experimentally confirmed. Overall, the experimental results from the large-scale soil-geosynthetic interaction tests were found to be in good agreement with the adopted constitutive relationships and with the analytical predictions of the SGC model. Evaluation of experimental results from tests conducted to assess repeatability indicated that the variability of the estimated values for the constitutive parameters ( and ) and the stiffness of soil-geosynthetic composite ( ) are well within the acceptable ranges when compared to variations of other soil and geosynthetic properties. Suitability of the assumptions and outcomes of the model was also confirmed for a variety of testing conditions and materials. Evaluation of the experimental data obtained from a subsequent experimental program involving small-scale soil-geosynthetic interaction tests indicates that although the assumptions of the analytical model do not fully conform to the conditions in a small-scale test, experimental results confirm the linearity and uniqueness of the relationship between the unit tension squared (T2) and the displacements (u) throughout the specimen. Evaluation of the results obtained from small- and large-scale interaction tests on five geosynthetics with a range of properties indicates that both large and small testing scales can be used for comparative evaluation of the stiffness of soil-geosynthetic composite among geosynthetics. However, since the stiffness values obtained from the two testing scales were found to be different, the stiffness values from the large-scale soil-geosynthetic interaction tests should be suitable for design purposes, while values from the small-scale interaction tests should be suitable for specification and comparison purposes. Evaluation of the long-term performance of full-scale paved test sections under both traffic and environmental loads indicates that stabilization with geosynthetics contributes to improving the road performance under both loading conditions. The benefits derived from using geosynthetics under traffic loads were realized by reducing the total length of rut or rutting depth. On the other hands, the benefits from using geosynthetics under environmental loads in roads founded on expansive subgrades were realized by mitigating the percentage of longitudinal cracks appears on the road surface. The latter benefits were found to be more pronounced towards the end of dry seasons, when longitudinal cracks tend to develop. Comparison among the performances of geosynthetic-stabilized test sections under environmental loads indicate that the benefit provided by geosynthetics correlates well with the stiffness of soil-geosynthetic composite ( ) characterized in the laboratory. Geosynthetic products with comparatively larger were found to lead to a comparatively better field performance.