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Grain-scale investigation of sand-pile interface under axial loading conditions using x-ray tomography

  • Doreau Malioche, Jeanne
Publication Date
Sep 28, 2018
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This doctoral work presents an experimental investigation into the mechanisms governing the macroscopic response of sand-pile interface during monotonic installation and subsequent axial cyclic loading. An innovative approach combining x-ray tomography and advanced image analysis tools is employed to extract information at different scales, including the micro-scale. A quantitative analysis of the behavior of individual sand grains in the vicinity of the pile offers valuable three-dimensional (3D) data set against which theoretical or numerical approaches could be tested.A series of tests is run on an instrumented close-ended conical model pile installed by monotonic jacking in a dense calcareous sand sample. Following the installation, the model pile is submitted to a large number of axial displacement-controlled loading cycles (a few thousands cycles) under constant normal stress. The tests are performed in a mini-calibration chamber that allows the acquisition of high resolution x-ray images at different stages of the loading. The chamber is admittedly not representative of field pile testing conditions for the main following reasons: the calibration chamber-to-pile diameter ratio and the sand particle-to-pile diameter ratio are far below the ratios recommended in the literature to limit scale effects on the interface response. Consequently, the results presented in this work can not, and should not, be directly extrapolated to field pile design. Yet, such a setup is able to reproduce qualitatively trends that are similar to those obtained at the macro-scale on large-scale experiments and allows the observation of full-field mechanisms taking place at the micro-scale.3D images resulting from the reconstruction of the x-ray scans are used to identify and follow the evolution of individual sand grains. Full-kinematics are measured thanks to a 3D Digital image Correlation (DIC) code, “TomoWarp2”. Image processing tools are also employed to measure local porosity changes and the production of fines by grain crushing at the interface.During pile installation, different zones where grains displacements concentrate are identified. A recirculation of the grains alongside the pile is also observed. Globally, the sand mass exhibits a dilative behavior except within a relatively thin layer (about 3 to 4·D50 thickness) around the model pile where grain crushing occurs. During subsequent loading cycles, the macroscopic response of sand-pile interface shows a two-phases evolution, with a non negligible increase of shaft resistance in the latter phase. For these two phases, the measurement of grain kinematics reveals a different behavior of the sand mass associated with a significant densification at the interface. In the first phase, the sand mass contracts radially within a region of thickness 4·D50. This mechanism is likely due to inter-granular rearrangement as measure by DIC. In the second phase, sand grains hardly move and the sand mass reaches a threshold density for which the friction on the shaft starts to increase substantially.

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