Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil: Numerical and Mathematical Analysis of Laboratory Triaxial Compression Tests

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Virginia Tech

Geosynthetic reinforced soil (GRS) is a soil improvement technology in which closely spaced horizontal layers of geosynthetic are embedded in a soil mass to provide lateral support and increase strength. GRS is popular due to a relatively new application for bridge support, as well as long-standing application in mechanically stabilized earth walls. Several different GRS design methods have been used, and some are application-specific and not based on fundamental principles of mechanics. Because consensus regarding fundamental behavior of GRS is lacking, numerical and mathematical analyses were performed for laboratory tests obtained from the published literature of GRS under triaxial compression in consolidated-drained conditions.

A three-dimensional numerical model was developed using FLAC3D. An existing constitutive model for the soil component was modified to incorporate confining pressure dependency of friction angle and dilation parameters, while retaining the constitutive model's ability to represent nonlinear stress-strain response and plastic yield. Procedures to obtain the parameter values from drained triaxial compression tests on soil specimens were developed. A method to estimate the parameter values from particle size distribution and relative compaction was also developed. The geosynthetic reinforcement was represented by two-dimensional orthotropic elements with soil-geosynthetic interfaces on each side.

Comparisons between the numerical analyses and laboratory tests exhibited good agreement for strains from zero to 3% for tests with 1 to 3 layers of reinforcement. As failure is approached at larger strains, agreement was good for specimens that had 1 or 2 layers of reinforcement and soil friction angle less than 40 degrees. For other conditions, the numerical model experienced convergence problems that could not be overcome by mesh refinement or reducing the applied loading rate; however, it appears that, if convergence problems can be solved, the numerical model may provide a mechanics-based representation of GRS behavior, at least for triaxial test conditions.

Three mathematical theories of GRS failure available in published literature were applied to the laboratory triaxial tests. Comparisons between the theories and the tests results demonstrated that all three theories have important limitations.

These numerical and mathematical evaluations of laboratory GRS tests provided a basis for recommending further research.

geosynthetic reinforced soil, three-dimensional numerical analyses, constitutive model for dense coarse-grained soil, constitutive model for geosynthetic and interfaces with soil, numerical and mathematical analyses of GRS triaxial tests