Characterization of the swelling behavior of expansive clays using centrifuge technology

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Rivas, Nicolas Alejandro

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Experimental techniques with emphasis in centrifuge testing were implemented to characterize the swelling behavior of expansive clays. This research consisted in three self-contained sections related to the study of different aspects of expansive clays. The first research component focused on the implementation of a qualitative mineralogy analysis performed using x-ray diffraction to determine the main clay minerals in an expansive soil. The analysis was performed on the clay-sized fraction of the soil and samples with preferential and random orientation were used in the analysis. Vacuum filtration was used to produce oriented samples in order to maximize the intensity of the diagnostic basal spacing of the clay minerals, and samples were subjected to different treatments to produce changes in the basal spacing or crystalline structure of the clay minerals to facilitate their identification. The second research component examined the effect of the coarse fraction on the swelling characteristics of expansive soils using a centrifuge-based approach. Vertical strains at the end of primary swelling were evaluated for different proportions of coarse fraction by volume. It was found that the magnitude of vertical strains at the end of primary swelling decreased with increasing coarse fraction. It was concluded that the swelling depended uniquely on the ratio between the volume of soil solids of the fine fraction and the volume of voids. Additionally, when correcting the initial void ratio of the specimens to account for this, the relationship between vertical strains at the end of primary swelling and initial void ratio for the soil mixtures defines a unique linear trend with the baseline material. The third research component examined the potential vertical rise at three field sites in Central Texas. Method 6048-A was applied to evaluate the PVR of three field sites using direct measurements of the swelling characteristics of soils sampled at each location. Project-specific data was generated in a relatively short time using this centrifuge-based method. The results obtained demonstrated the need for testing of project-specific samples, as a significant variation in PVR was observed in Site 2 and 3 between boring locations, while less variation between borings was found in Site 1


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