Effect of bentonite swelling on hydraulic conductivity of sand-bentonite mixtures (SBMs)

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Spears, Amber

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The hydraulic conductivity of sand-bentonite mixtures (SBMs) was measured to investigate the effects of mixing method, uniformity, and hydration of the mixtures. Triaxial tests were completed to determine the hydraulic conductivity of each specimen. Specimens using Ottawa sand and Wyoming bentonite, prepared with dry and suspension mixing conditions that altered the degree of hydration and swelling of bentonite, had varying bentonite content by percentage dry weight of sand. The conclusions of this experiment can be applied to the construction of cut off walls used in levees to mitigate groundwater seepage through underlying pervious layers. Eleven sand-bentonite specimens were tested in this study: nine were prepared using dry mixing and two were prepared using suspension mixing. The results do not show strong correlations between hydraulic conductivity and bentonite content, mixing method, clay void ratio, or time. Therefore, further investigation of the results was necessary. The bentonite void ratio (clay void ratio) assumes that bentonite is fully swelled for both blocked and partially blocked flow. Blocked flow occurs when the swelled bentonite blocks all the sand voids, forcing the water to flow within the bentonite voids. However, the results in this study shows that the concept of clay void ratio doesn’t capture the performance of SBMs when the bentonite is partially swelled; therefore, a new concept of effective clay void ratio was introduced to account for bentonite partial swelling. The effective clay void ratio determines the volume of swelled clay as a function of the volume of fully swelled bentonite. This is useful when comparing results with literature or predicting hydraulic conductivity in cases where only partial swelling of bentonite is expected.



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