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Experimental investigation of microstructural changes in soils eroded by suffusion using X-ray tomography

Abstract : Internal erosion is a complex phenomenon which represents one of the main risks to the safety of earthen hydraulic structures such as embankment dams, dikes or levees. Its occurrence may cause instability and failure of these structures with consequences that can be dramatic. The specific mode of erosion by suffusion is the one characterized by seepage flow induced erosion and the subsequent migration of the finest soil particles through the surrounding soil matrix mostly constituted of large grains. Such a phenomenon can lead to a modification of the initial microstructure and, hence, to a change in the physical, hydraulic and mechanical properties of the soil. A direct comparison of the mechanical behaviour of soil before and after erosion is often used to investigate the impact of internal erosion on soil strength (shear strength at peak and critical state) using triaxial tests. However, the obtained results are somehow contradictory, as for instance in Chang's study [1], where it is concluded that the drained strength of eroded soil decreases compared to non-eroded soil while both Xiao and Shwiyhat [2] and Ke and Takahashi [3] have come to the opposite conclusion. A plausible explanation of these contradictions might be attributed to the rather heterogeneous nature of the suffusion process and to the way the coarse and fine grains are rearranged afterwards leading to a heterogeneous soil structure, a point that, for now, is not taken into account, nor even mentioned, in the existing analyses. In the present study, x-ray computed tomography (x-ray CT) is used to follow the microstructure evolution of a granular soil during a suffusion test, and therefore, to capture the induced micro-structural changes. The images obtained from x-ray CT reveal indeed that fine particles erosion is obviously not homogeneous, highlighting the existence of preferential flow paths that lead to a heterogeneous sample in terms of fine particles, void ratio and inter-granular void ratio distribution.
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Submitted on : Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 2:10:42 PM
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Cong Doan Nguyen, Nadia Benahmed, Edward Andò, Luc Sibille, Pierre Philippe. Experimental investigation of microstructural changes in soils eroded by suffusion using X-ray tomography. Acta Geotechnica, Springer Verlag, 2019, 14, pp.749-765. ⟨10.1007/s11440-019-00787-w⟩. ⟨hal-02063003⟩



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