Undrained, monotonic shear strength of loose, saturated sand treated with a thixotropic bentonite suspension for soil improvement
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Liquefaction is a phenomenon that occurs in loose saturated sand deposits that are subjected to earthquake loading. This phenomenon can cause massive displacements and significant destruction. Many methods for mitigating liquefaction have been proposed and investigated including compaction, drainage, and grouting. One such liquefaction mitigation technique involves the addition of bentonite fines to the pore spaces of a loose, saturated sand via permeation of an engineered clay suspension. This method of soil improvement has provided the basis and motivation for this research. Also, the effect of plastic and non-plastic fines on the static and cyclic response of sands is somewhat contradictory throughout the literature. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to characterize the affect of an engineered bentonite pore fluid on the undrained monotonic response of loose, saturated Ottawa sand in order to determine its feasibility for use as an effective method for liquefaction mitigation. The permeation of engineered bentonite suspensions is proposed as a passive site remediation technique. Thus, the suspensions were delivered to loose Ottawa sand specimens in the laboratory by permeation in a newly designed three-way split mold. This split mold was used to create easily tested specimens that would have an initial soil fabric similar to that expected after permeation in the field. The bentonite suspensions were treated with sodium pyrophosphate to reduce the initial yield stress and viscosity in order to allow for permeation. Three different bentonite suspensions were utilized throughout this study each having different properties and delivering slightly different amounts of bentonite to the loose, saturated sand. The affect of this engineered pore fluid on the undrained shear response of loose, saturated Ottawa sand was compared to the undrained shear response of clean sand and dry-mixed sand and bentonite. The specimen preparation method (dry-mixed or permeated) was shown to have a significant effect on the response of the sand specimens. While the dry-mixed specimens produced larger and more sustained positive pore water pressures than the clean sand (resulting in an increased tendency to flow), the permeated specimens showed a marked decrease in the generation of excess pore water pressures, displayed a more dilative response, and thus resulted in a soil structure that was less likely to flow. Finally, the results of tests on specimens permeated with engineered bentonite suspensions show that there is little to no change in the effective friction angle at critical state. A method for effectively testing permeated soil specimens was developed in this study. This method has laid the framework for further investigations into the use of engineered bentonite suspensions for liquefaction mitigation by permeation grouting.