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Frontiers of Structural and Civil Engineering >> 2007, Volume 1, Issue 2 doi: 10.1007/s11709-007-0023-1

Soil-water interaction in unsaturated expansive soil slopes

Institute of Geotechnical Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China;

Available online: 2007-06-05

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The intensive soil-water interaction in unsaturated expansive soil is one of the major reasons for slope failures. In this paper, the soil-water interaction is investigated with the full-scale field inspection of rainwater infiltration and comprehensive experiments, including wetting-induced softening tests, swelling, and shrinkage tests. It is demonstrated that the soil-water interaction induced by seasonal wetting-drying cycles is very complex, and it involves coupled effects among the changes in water content, suction, stress, deformation and shear strength. In addition, the abundant cracks in the expansive soil play an important role in the soil-water interaction. The cracks disintegrate the soil mass, and more importantly, provide easy pathways for rainfall infiltration. Infiltration of rainwater not only results in wetting-induced softening of the shallow unsaturated soil layers, but also leads to the increase of horizontal stress. The increase of horizontal stress may lead to a local passive failure. The seasonal wetting-drying cycles tend to result in a down-slope creeping of the shallow soil layer, which leads to progressive slope failure.

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