Effect of fabric on the swelling of highly plastic clays
Expansive soils are extremely problematic in transportation projects, and significant research has been done into examining the effect of moisture content changes and index properties on the swelling of soils. However, little has been reported on the effect of soil structure, or fabric, on swelling. The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of the soil fabric on swelling while, at the same time, validating a new set-up for a centrifuge testing program developed over the course of the project to allow for testing of undisturbed specimens. Testing to examine fabric was performed using two methods at the same effective stress, the conventional swelling test, ASTM D4546, and a new double infiltration approach in a centrifuge, on specimens of the Cook Mountain clay which were either compacted in the testing set-up or trimmed into cutting rings from soil compacted via ASTM D698, the Standard Proctor test. Specimens were compacted either dry of optimum to create a flocculated soil structure or wet of optimum to create a dispersed soil structure. Specimens were tested at their as-compacted moisture content or at a moisture conditioned moisture content to remove the effect of the initial moisture content. The results show that soils with a dispersed structure tended to swell more, over a longer time frame, and with a higher amount of secondary swelling in relation to soils with a flocculated structure when tested using the same initial moisture content. The strong influence of the initial moisture content on swelling was also verified. Further, soil specimens prepared at a comparatively high dry density for a given fabric and initial moisture content were found to swell more than soils prepared at a comparatively low dry density. The new centrifuge set-up, involving submerged specimens, was validated and was found to produce similar swelling results as those obtained from the ASTM D4546 tests. In addition, the new centrifuge approach was found to be more expeditious and results in less secondary swelling than the conventional ASTM approach.