Next-generation equipment and procedures for combined resonant column and torsional shear testing
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In this dissertation, work aimed at developing next-generation equipment and procedures for combined resonant column and torsional shear (RCTS) testing are detailed. The work in this dissertation covers three key areas of RCTS testing that need improvement to reach the next level of RCTS testing. The first area involved improvement in measurement resolution with modern control and monitoring equipment. Concurrently, original software was written to enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and repeatability of the test. The second area involved advancing concepts for evaluating and modeling nonlinear behavior of soil, which was done in part by using raw RCTS test data collected and stored from 2013-2017. The third area involved evaluating and modifying the design of the existing RCTS device to accommodate higher levels of shearing strain and provide higher loading capacity. First, when testing at small shear strains (< 0.001%) within the linear-elastic range of soils, very small excitation voltages must be used and very small voltages are recorded from the RCTS sensors. Obtaining accurate measurements in the linear-elastic range is critically important when testing at low confining pressures (in the range of 0.1 to 1 atm). In traditional RCTS data acquisition systems, very small recorded voltages are lost due to limited resolution of the control and monitoring subsystems. Concurrently, the very small recorded voltages are generally heavily contaminated by environmental background noise that invalidates the automated process for reducing raw data into engineering results. Control and monitoring equipment and software were developed that can enhance the measurement and data reduction process when making low-strain measurements. Second, testing of soil in the nonlinear shear strain range (typically greater than 0.001%) is a complex process that departs from traditional dynamic models for single-degree-of-freedom (SDOF) systems. Traditionally, RCTS results from testing in the nonlinear shear strain range involve slight adaptation of traditional SDOF models to obtain nonlinear relationships. Nonlinear dynamics model concepts were taken from literature and adapted to better understand and model nonlinear behavior of soils in RCTS testing. Furthermore, development of nonlinear models at moderate strains help to bridge the spectrum of soil testing which tends to divide into evaluating soils at small to moderate strains (< 0.2%) or at large strains (≥ 0.2%). Third, when testing soils at large shearing strains (> 0.2%), traditional RCTS systems are physically or electronically limited. At higher confining pressures (> 2 atm) where soils become quite stiff, the traditional RCTS control equipment is electronically incapable of driving enough torque output to strain soils in shear above desired levels (> 0.1%). At low confining pressures (< 1 atm) where soils are soft, the traditional RCTS device is physically constrained from achieving a degree of twist that generates strains above the moderate shear strain range (> 0.5%). An RCTS testing device was designed that has a torque-output capacity at least three times greater than a traditional RCTS device and an allowable degree of twist that can generate shearing strains above 1%.