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Finite Element Study of Soil Structure Interface

Problem

Haydar Arslan
University of Colorado-Boulder
Department of Civil Engineering
Boulder, CO

ABSTRACT
The shear stress parameters of the soil-structure interfaces were analyzed by Finite
Element modeling of direct shear test. The model is used to determine the stress
deformation behavior of clay-concrete interfaces, and to observe influence of area
reduction to shear stress at the clay concrete interface. The results of the FE study
showed that there is about seven percent stress increment due to the area change during
the direct shear test and area correction can not be ignored for soil structure interface
analysis.

Finite Element, Soil Structure Interaction, Direct Shear, Area Reduction

INTRODUCTION
Soil-Structure Interaction (SSI) analyses have been studied last 30 years for analyzing, designing, and
monitoring geotechnical structures. Clough and Duncan (1971), Ebeling et al. (1993), Ebeling and
Mosher (1996), and Ebeling, Peters, and Mosher (1997), Ebeling, Pace, and Morrison (1997) are some
examples of state-of-the-art studies available for SSI analyses.

Most often, interface tests were performed to determine the soil-to-structure friction angle for design of
geotechnical structures, such as retaining walls, buried culverts, piles, etc., and, in some cases, for the
determination of parameters for constitutive modeling of interface response. Early systematic efforts to
obtain data on the behavior of soil-to-structure interfaces were carried out by Potyondy (1961), and
Peterson et al. (1976). Their tests were performed using a slightly modified Direct Shear Box (DSB) in
which a concrete specimen occupied one of the halves of the shear box. In most cases, the soil sample
was prepared against a concrete specimen situated at the bottom. The tests were typically performed by
first increasing the normal pressure to a desired value, then shearing the interface under constant normal
stress to a maximum displacement of about 12.5 mm.

In SSI analyses, the soil-structure interface is represented by interface elements. Several kinds of
interface elements have been developed to model the behavior of the interface under certain loading
conditions. In most of the interface models, the interface yield stress is determined by the Mohr-
Coulomb criterion (Goodman, Taylor, and Brekke 1968; Clough and Duncan 1971; Zaman, Desai, and
Drumm 1984; Desai, Muqtadir, and Scheele 1986; and Wong, Kulhawy, and Ingraffea 1989). In this
study Mohr Coulomb model is applied to direct shear type soil-concrete interface by considering the
influences of area reduction on the SSI analysis.
FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS
A Plane strain model is used for structures with a uniform cross section and corresponding stress state
and loading scheme over a certain length perpendicular to the cross section. Displacements
perpendicular to the cross section are assumed to be zero.

Soil Elements
The 6-node triangle element is chosen for a 2D analysis (Figure 1). It provides a second order
interpolation for displacements. The element stiffness matrix is evaluated by numerical integration using
a total of three Gauss points (stress points).

Mohr-Coulomb model is used as a first approximation of soil behavior in general. The model involves
five parameters, namely Young's modulus, E, Poisson's ratio, n, the cohesion, c, the friction angle, f, and
the dilatancy angle, y.

Figure 1. Position of nodes and stress points in soil elements (Brinkgreve et al., 1998)

Interfaces
Interfaces are used to model the interaction between structures and the soil. Examples of geotechnical
structures involving interfaces are presented in Figure 2. A typical application of interfaces would be to
model the interaction between a sheet pile wall and the soil, which is intermediate between smooth and
fully rough. In this application interfaces are placed at both sides of the wall. The roughness of the
interaction is modelled by choosing a suitable value for the strength reduction factor in the interface.
This factor relates the interface strength (wall friction and adhesion) to the soil strength (friction angle
and cohesion).
Figure 2. Examples in which interfaces are used (Brinkgreve et al., 1998)

Interface Elements.

Interfaces are composed of interface elements. Figure 3 shows how interface elements are connected to
soil elements. When using 6-node soil elements, the corresponding interface elements are defined by
three pairs of nodes. In Figure 3 the interface elements are shown to have a finite thickness, but in the
finite element formulation the coordinates of each node pair are identical, which means that the element
has a zero thickness.

Figure 3. Distribution of nodes and stress points in interface elements and connection with soil elements
(Brinkgreve et al., 1998)

Interface Strength.

An elastic-plastic model is used to describe the behaviour of interfaces for the modelling of soil-structure
interaction. The Coulomb criterion is used to distinguish between elastic behaviour, where small
displacements can occur within the interface, and plastic interface behaviour (slip).

For the interface to remain elastic the shear stress t is given by:

(1)

For plastic behaviour t is given by:

(2)

where fi and ci are the friction angle and cohesion of the interface and sn and t are the normal stress and
shear stress acting in the interface. The strength properties of interfaces are linked to the strength
properties of a soil layer. Each data set has an associated strength reduction factor for interfaces (Rinter).
The interface properties are calculated from the soil properties in the associated data set and the strength
reduction factor by applying the following rules:

(3)

(4)

(5)

Calculation of a Factor of Safety value was executed by reducing the strength parameters of the soil
(Phi-c reduction). In the Phi-c reduction approach the strength parameters tan(f and c of the soil are
successively reduced until failure of the structure occurs.
The total multiplier SMsf is used to define the value of the soil strength parameters at a given stage in the
analysis,

(6)

where the strength parameters with the subscript 'input' refer to the properties entered in the material sets
and parameters with the subscript 'reduced' refer to the reduced values used in the analysis. SMsf is set to
1.0 at the start of a calculation to set all material strengths to their unreduced values. The strength
parameters are successively reduced automatically until failure occurs. At this point the factor of safety
is given by,

(7)

This approach resembles the method of calculation of safety factors conventionally adopted in slip-circle
analyses. When using Phi-c reduction in combination with advanced soil models, these models will
actually behave as a standard Mohr-Coulomb model, since stress-dependent stiffness behavior and
hardening effects are excluded.

Msf; SMsf multipliers are associated with the Phi-c reduction option for the computation of safety
factors. The total multiplier SMsf is defined as the quotient of the original strength parameters and the
reduced strength parameters and controls the reduction of the tan(f) and c at a given stage in the
analysis. In contrast to most other total multipliers, SMsf is set to 1.0 at the start of a calculation to set all
material strengths to their unreduced values. SMsf is used to specify the increment of the strength
reduction of the first calculation step.

The Total displacements are the total vectorial displacements |u| at all nodes at the end of the current
calculation step, displayed in a plot of the undeformed geometry. The Total increments are the vectorial
displacement increments |Du| at all nodes as calculated for the current calculation step, displayed on a
plot of the undeformed geometry.

Methodology

The effect of area correction on the concrete body and clay interface has been evaluated by modeling
two separate direct shear tests and those have been compared in the project. The first model represents
the real direct shear test with the dimensions of 66 cm. There is no area change at the second model,
and two different boxes are used at the bottom and top of the shear box. The dimensions of the bottom
box are 1010 cm and the dimensions of the top box are 66 cm. The load and soil properties of the two
models are the same. In order to observe the interface behavior, a direct shear model is set up using a
commercially available finite element program Plaxis.

The Direct Shear Model

Since soil is a multiphase material, special procedures are required for the simulation of non-linear and
time dependant behavior. To overcome these difficulties, simplified models that behave like the real
model are used for the numerical analysis. In this study, direct shear model is used as a simplified model
of the concrete-soil interface model.

MATERIALS
The material properties used in this study are derived from zer inicioglus thesis (inicioglu, 2001).
Permeability of the clay is used as 1 mm/day. The interface permeability is taken as neutral, because the
interface should not influence the flow in the surrounding soil. This means that the interface is neither
works as a drain nor an impermeable material.

The material model selected for the clay material is Mohr-Coulomb model and the material type is
undrained. The Mohr-Coulomb model is a model of perfect plasticity. Plasticity is associated with the
development of irreversible strains. Table 1 gives the properties of the materials used in this study.
Table 1. The properties of the materials used in this study

The direct shear box model in the first phase of this study consists of two clusters, as it is seen in Figures
4 and 5.

Figure 4. The direct shear box model for the first phase of the first model

Figure 5. The direct shear box model for the first phase of the second model

The interfaces are created between two clusters to maintain full interaction between the structure and the
soil. A positive interface in the concrete cluster and a negative interface in the clay cluster are created.

The generation of the mesh is based on a robust triangulation procedure. The generated mesh is shown in
Figure 6 and Figure 7. Although interface elements have a zero thickness, the interfaces are drawn with a
certain thickness in order to show the connection between soil elements and interfaces.
Figure 6. The generated mesh for the first direct shear box model.

Figure 7. The generated mesh for the first direct shear box model.

The phreatic line is chosen under the clay liner to eliminate the effect of water on the soil-concrete
interface (Figure 8 and Figure 9). The calculation consists of two phases. The first one is for loading, and
the second one is for the execution of shearing. In the first phase of the calculation, SMdisp is selected as
zero to have zero displacement. The reason is to initiate the loading of the direct shear box. SMload and
SMweight are selected as one in both phases to have permenant application of the traction loads and the
weight forces. In the second phase SMdisp is increased to one in order to shear the clay surface with the
movement of the concrete block.

Figure 8. The phreatic line of the direct shear model


Figure 9. The phreatic line of the direct shear model

RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS


After running the direct shear box model, the generated mesh modified due to the interaction between
the clusters representing the concrete block and the clay. The deformed mesh for the two models are
shown in Figure 10 and Figure 11. The frictional behavior of the clay can be observed above the
interface. Total deformation in the soil body for the both model is shown in Figure 12.

Figure 10. The deformed mesh after the direct shear test

Figure 11. The deformed mesh after the direct shear test

Figure 12. Total displacements inside the soil body at both models
Shear stresses inside clay body are shown in the Figure 13 and Figure 14. The figures show that shear
stress increases by getting closer to the interface. It is in agreement with the deformed mesh of the
model.

Figure 13. Shear stress of the clay when area reduction is not considered
Figure 14. Shear stress of the clay body when area reduction is considered

CONCLUSIONS
In this study, the clay-concrete interface shear behavior is investigated by using finite element package
program, Plaxis. Direct shear box is modeled to represent the shearing and to determine the role of
interface material. The direct shear box model provides to analyze the shear stress parameters for the
interface elements, and the stress deformation behavior of the soil during the shearing. The results of the
models are in accordance with Metehans (1996) experimental direct shear test results. The FE study
showed that stress rotation starts after the 1% strain under shear loading shearing. Stress rotation
continues up to 4% strain, however stress rotation is not observed after the 4% strain level. The area
change during the direct shear test affects the shear stress of the soil-concrete interface. The shear stress
of the real direct shear test model is 78.45kN/m2, and the shear stress of the second model that ignores
the area change is 83.66kN/m2. The results show that there is about seven percent stress increment due
to the area change during the direct shear test.

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