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Simple shear testing of sensitive, very soft

offshore clay for wide strain range
G. Lanzo, A. Pagliaroli, P. Tommasi, and F.L. Chiocci

Abstract: Stiffness and damping properties of sensitive, very soft clay sediments of the Italian Adriatic continental shelf
are determined by means of two series of cyclic simple shear tests (one with 12 stages and one with two stages). The ap-
paratus used in this research is capable of investigating the stressstrain behaviour of the soil in a wide range of shear
strains from about 0.0004% to 1%. Test results were expressed in terms of small-strain shear modulus (G0), normalized
equivalent shear modulus (Geq/G0), and damping ratio (D) versus cyclic shear-strain amplitude (gc). These parameters were
analyzed in the framework of existing literature by comparison with empirical correlations developed for onshore materials
of different plasticity and, limited to G0, also for soft soils. The dependence of G0, Geq/G0gc, and Dgc on factors such as
void ratio, stress history, and loading cycles is analyzed and discussed.
Key words: soft offshore clay, simple shear test, cyclic loading, stiffness, damping ratio.
Resume : Les proprietes de rigidite et damortissement de sediments dargile tres molle et sensible provenant du plateau
continental adriatique italien sont determinees par des essais cycliques de resistance au cisaillement simple a deux etapes
(un essai a 12 etapes et un essai a 2 etapes, respectivement). Lappareil utilise dans cette etude permet dinvestiguer le
comportement en contrainte deformation du sol dans un eventail de deformation en cisaillement, denviron 0,0004 % a
1 %. Les resultats des essais sont exprimes en termes du module de cisaillement a faible deformation (G0), du module de
cisaillement equivalent normalise (Geq / G0) et du rapport damortissement (D) versus lamplitude de la deformation en ci-
saillement cyclique (gc). Ces parametres sont analyses dans le cadre de la litterature existante en les comparant aux corre-
lations empiriques developpees pour les materiaux terrestres de plasticite differente, et, seulement pour G0, pour les sols
mous. La dependance de G0, Geq / G0 gc et D gc sur les facteurs tels que lindice des vides, lhistorique des contraintes
et les cycles de chargement est analysee et discutee.
Mots-cles : argile marine molle, essais en cisaillement simple, chargement cyclique, rigidite, rapport damortissement.

Introduction 1995). In particular, cyclic behaviour of soft clays has been

studied by a number of researchers (e.g., Kokusho et al.
An understanding of the behaviour of very soft offshore
1982) and more recently has gained increasing attention
clays under cyclic loading is instrumental for the solution of
(Shibuya et al. 1997; Shibuya and Tamrakar 2002; Teacha-
a number of marine geotechnical problems such as founda-
vorasinskun et al. 2002). On the other hand, research on the
tion of offshore structures and stability of submarine slopes
stiffness and damping properties of very soft offshore ma-
subjected to earthquake excitation or wave action. This be-
rine clayey sediments is extremely scarce, with a few excep-
haviour is commonly expressed in terms of stiffness and
tions for large strains (Frydman et al. 1988; Vucetic 1990).
damping properties of soils. Over the past three decades,
Recent investigations on soft marine clay sediments are es-
the stiffness and damping properties of onshore soils ranging
sentially devoted to the study of compressibility, undrained
from very stiff to very soft have been extensively studied
strength, and small-strain stiffness from in situ and labora-
and found to be a function of several variables such as shear
strain amplitude, magnitude of confining stress, stress his- tory tests (Tan et al. 2002).
tory, number of loading cycles, and strain rate (Dobry and This paper presents the results of an experimental investi-
Vucetic 1987; Stokoe et al. 1994, 1999; Tatsuoka et al. gation using a cyclic simple shear apparatus on very soft clay
sediments from the Italian Adriatic continental shelf. Empha-
sis is given to the measurement in a wide strain range of the
Received 5 September 2008. Accepted 8 May 2009. Published stiffness and damping parameters, i.e., the small-strain stiff-
on the NRC Research Press Web site at on ness expressed by the maximum shear modulus (G0), the
5 November 2009. equivalent shear modulus (Geq), and the damping ratio (D),
G. Lanzo1 and A. Pagliaroli. Department of Structural and whose definitions are illustrated in Fig. 1. The influence of cy-
Geotechnical Engineering, University of Rome La Sapienza, Via clic shear-strain amplitude (gc), vertical consolidation stress,
A. Gramsci 53, 00197 Rome, Italy. void ratio (e), stress history, and number of loading cycles on
P. Tommasi. Institute for Environmental Geology and Geo- the aforementioned parameters is examined and discussed.
Engineering, National Research Council, Rome, Italy.
F.L. Chiocci. Department of Earth Sciences, University of
Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy. Geological framework
1Corresponding author (e-mail: The study area is located in the central southern Adriatic

Can. Geotech. J. 46: 12771288 (2009) doi:10.1139/T09-059 Published by NRC Research Press
1278 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

Fig. 1. Parameters describing the cyclic behaviour of soils: D, on the Quaternary substratum, 14 km offshore from Punta
damping ratio; G0, maximum shear modulus; Geq, equivalent shear Penna, south of the town of Vasto, Abruzzi (Fig. 2). Core 9
modulus corresponding to tc and gc; DW, area enclosed by the loop; is 5 m long and was taken at a water depth of 45 m where
gc, cyclic shear-strain amplitude; tc, cyclic shear-stress amplitude. the pelitic unit is 16 m thick. Core 2 is 2 m long and was
taken at a water depth of 70 m, where the pelitic unit is
6 m thick. Cores were recovered through a 90 mm diameter
pneumatic-powered Alpine vibrocorer handled from a pon-
toon boat. To minimize disturbance with respect to gravity
coring, sampling was carried out without vibration (i.e., the
corer engine was switched off). In fact, the vibrocorer was
positioned on the seabed first and then driven into the sedi-
ment at a low penetration rate using its own weight (about
16 kN). Disturbance was evaluated by analyzing digital ra-
diographs of the cores and comparing the curvature of the
depositional laminae produced by different sampling meth-
ods. At coring site 9, sampling was repeated using a faster
release of the vibrocorer. The resulting core (9H) presents
an apparent curvature of the depositional laminae, whereas
that obtained by means of a gradual application of the corer
weight (core 9) is characterized by nearly planar laminae
(Fig. 4).
The reduced disturbance of the material encouraged in-
vestigation of some aspects of the mechanical behaviour of
Sea, some 14 km off the coast of the Abruzzi region, Italy the intact material (e.g., stiffness and damping properties at
(Fig. 2). It is part of the 40 km wide central Adriatic conti- very low strains and compressibility in oedometric condi-
nental shelf, which extends between the Meso-Adriatic de- tions).
pression and the Tremiti Islands high, with an average slope Simple cyclic shear tests were performed on specimens
in the study area of 0.28. from core 2, and oedometer tests and the log of geotechnical
Along the Italian Adriatic coast, shallow and intermediate properties were derived from investigations conducted on
depth water masses move geostrophically counterclockwise samples taken from core 9.
(Artegiani et al. 1997), dispersing towards the southwest Due to the homogeneity of the depositional conditions in
the pelitic sediments discharged by the Po River (1.5  107 the study area, the material recovered in cores 2 and 9
Mg/year) and by the minor rivers draining the Apenninic (11 km apart) can be considered as being virtually the
chain (2.4  107 Mg/year). The Po River sediments re- same, namely a clay and silt of medium plasticity (CF =
leased in the northern Adriatic Sea were found along the 47%50%, PI = 1925, where CF is the clay fraction and
coast even farther south of the study area (i.e., hundreds PI is the plasticity index), having a specific gravity of 2.75
of kilometres). (low-plasticity clay (CL) according to the US Geological
All cross the Adriatic shelf, a well-defined erosional un- Survey (USGS) classification). The natural water content is
conformity formed during the last glacial sea-level lowstand close to or slightly above the liquid limit. The material is
(sedimented about 20 000 years before the present) separates rather homogeneous as indicated by the slight variability in
the overconsolidated Quaternary sequences from the overly- plasticity and grain size and the minimal variability in bulk
ing sedimentary units deposited during the last sea-level density calculated from X-ray absorption, except for minor
cycle (Fig. 3). These units were formed by backstepping small-scale changes (Fig. 4).
transgressive units (20 0008000 years before the present), A typical log of geotechnical properties measured on sam-
mainly siltysandy, overlaid by a highstand muddy deposit ples from core 9 is shown in Fig. 5. In the shallower layer,
(8000 years before the present) (Trincardi et al. 1996). The the undrained strength (cu) measured by means of a labora-
latter, which is the target of the geotechnical characterization, tory vane test regularly decreases from 4 kPa at the seafloor
has a maximum thickness of up to 25 m in the middle shelf to 1.7 kPa at 1 m below the seafloor. Below this depth, cu
(4050 m water depth) and decreases in thickness towards increases linearly down to a depth of 5 m, according to the
the basin, reducing to a 23 m thick drape at the shelf break. 0
expected ratio cu =s v0 calculated from the expression by Ler-
Several seismic units can be defined within the highstand oueil et al. (1985), assuming the effective vertical in situ
deposit. They result from the evolution of the continental 0
stress (s v0 ) is equal to the preconsolidation pressure (s p0 ).
shelf environment, which follows the stabilization of sea
level around its present position. However, the corer pene- The relatively high cu and bulk density (r) measured im-
trates only the most recent highstand unit and therefore can mediately below the seafloor (from 0.2 to 0.7 m) suggest
be considered representative of the present-day depositional that the sediment within this depth interval is slightly over-
conditions of the shelf (Fig. 3). consolidated. At greater depths, cu increases linearly as in a
normally consolidated cohesive sediment. Among possible
sources of overconsolidation (Perret et al. 1995), those af-
Sampling and geotechnical properties fecting only such a limited portion of the deposit seem to be
Two cores for geotechnical testing (cores 2 and 9) were restricted to bioturbation and thixotropy. Bioturbation acts to
recovered from the uppermost part of the pelitic unit lying accelerate consolidation and as a viscous cement and was

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Lanzo et al. 1279

Fig. 2. Location of study area and sampling sites (2 and 9).

Fig. 3. High-resolution seismic profile of the study area, showing the different units forming the continental shelf. Ex. vert., vertical exag-
geration; twtt, two-way travel time.

identified in high-resolution X-ray computerized tomogra- the in situ values of Iv (Iv0) calculated on specimens from
phy (CT) scans of other Italian shelf deposits in conjunction core 9 (i.e., the sedimentation compression curve (SCC)).
with high cu values and low water contents. Values of Iv0 are very close to the curve averaging the in
Incremental loading oedometer tests were conducted on situ changes of Iv with depth, calculated from a large num-
samples retrieved at three different depths, namely 0.5, 1.0, ber of marine sediments (the sedimentation compression line
and 2.0 m. Average values of the compression index (Cc) (SCL) proposed by Burland 1990).
and swelling index (Cs) are 0.47 and 0.07, respectively. Note The position of the three normalized oedometer compres-
that the value of Cc evaluated from the curve is close to that sion curves with respect to the ICL and SCL (or SCC) con-
obtained from the well-known relationship Cc = 0.009(wL firms the indication provided by undrained strength data. At
10) (where wL is the liquid limit), which yields Cc = 0.40. 0
low values of s v0 , the oedometer curves show a greater de-
The oedometer tests are represented in Fig. 6 using the parture from the ICL as the sampling depth descreases. The
normalized void index Iv e  e100 =Cc (Burland 1990), two shallower specimens also exhibit a higher stress sensi-
where Cc and e100 are the compressibility index and the tivity (Ss) than the specimen from 2.00 m. Ss is the ratio of
void ratio, respectively, at a vertical effective stress of the yielding stress to the stress at the same Iv on the ICL,
100 kPa for the reconstituted sediment. The resulting which is considered a measure of the excess strength with
Iv log s v0 curves (where s v0 is the vertical effective consol- respect to the reconstituted soil (Chandler 2000). Similar re-
idation stress) were successively compared with the intrinsic sults are found using, instead of Ss, the ratio of the yielding
compression line (ICL), representing the normalized behav- stress to the in situ stress, which Leroueil and Vaughan
iour in oedometric compression of the reconstituted soil and (1990) related to the strength due to soil structure.

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1280 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

Fig. 4. Digital radiographs of 500 mm long core sections. Note the the problems associated with false deformations and system
sharp curvature of depositional laminae of core 9H (radiograph in compliance were reduced to negligible levels, thus enabling
the centre) produced by fast coring. The variation of the bulk den- the measurement of soil properties even at very small
sity (r) calculated from X-ray absorption along the core is also re- strains.
ported for cores 2 and 9. Since its introduction, the DSDSS device has been used to
investigate the cyclic properties of different types of soils in
the range of strain amplitude (gc) between approximately
0.0003% and 1.0% (Lanzo et al. 1997; Vucetic et al. 1998;
DElia et al. 2003; Matesic and Vucetic 2003). The capabil-
ity of the DSDSS device to measure small-strain cyclic
properties of Vasto clay is presented in Fig. 7, where typical
cyclic loops at s v0 = 80 kPa are plotted for five different am-
plitudes ranging between 0.0004% and 1%. It can be seen
that cyclic loops are recorded with satisfactory accuracy
even at small cyclic strains and provide a reliable evaluation
of both shear modulus and damping ratio. At gc values
smaller than 0.001%, Geq can be determined accurately,
whereas the measurement of D is affected by ambient vibra-

Testing procedure and program

Tests were conducted on saturated specimens, 66 mm in
diameter and 20 mm in height, sampled from core 2 at a
depth of 1.2 m. The shape and lateral confinement of the
specimens are similar to those of the Norwegian Geotechni-
cal Institute (NGI) simple shear device sheared under con-
stant-volume, equivalent-undrained conditions according to
the procedure suggested by Bjerrum and Landva (1966).
Constant-volume conditions were obtained by keeping the
height of the specimens constant. Since the specimens are
confined laterally by the wire-reinforced membranes, which
restrict or almost completely prevent lateral deformations,
maintaining constant height results in a constant-volume
test. Consequently, the variation of vertical stress during cy-
clic shearing due to the imposed constant-volume conditions
was considered equivalent to the variation of the pore pres-
sure that would have developed in a truly undrained test.
Therefore, test results describe the undrained behaviour of
Vasto clay sediments. The concept of the constant-volume,
equivalent-undrained testing is treated extensively in Dyvik
et al. (1987).
The test program included two series of tests, referred to
as series A and B (Table 1). The average natural water con-
tent (w0) and initial void ratio (e0) were 61.5% and 1.635,
respectively, for the specimens in series A and 58.4% and
1.523, respectively, for the specimens in series B. Each ser-
Cyclic behaviour ies of tests was composed of several stages of loading and
Experimental apparatus unloading at different values of s v0 . At the completion of pri-
Vasto clay was tested in a simple shear testing apparatus mary consolidation, each specimen was subjected to several
called the double specimen direct simple shear (DSDSS) de- steps of strain-controlled cyclic shearing, gradually increas-
vice. This apparatus was constructed at the University of ing the magnitude of gc.
Rome La Sapienza (DElia et al. 2003) based on the proto- Twelve stages were executed for series A. Tests were
type designed and built at the University of California in conducted according to the following sequence: (i) loading
Los Angeles, Calif. (Doroudian and Vucetic 1995). The ba- phase with s v0 from 80 to 320 kPa, (ii) unloading phase
sic configuration and the main features of the original de- with s v0 from 320 to 20 kPa, (iii) reloading phase with s v0
vice were maintained in constructing the new version, and up to 640 kPa, and (iv) second unloading phase with s v0
only minor modifications have been made. It is worth recall- down to 40 kPa. In the first loading phase, tests at s v0 lower
ing the main peculiarity of the device, namely that two than 80 kPa were not carried out because the applied forces
specimens of the same soil are sheared simultaneously in at very small strains are comparable with the accuracy of the
simple shear mode, instead of just one. Due to its specific DSDSS load cell. In Table 1, the values of the overconsoli-
configuration and the stiffness of the device components, all dation ratio (OCR) and the void ratio at the end of primary

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Lanzo et al. 1281

Fig. 5. Geotechnical profiles of core 9. Horizontal bars in the water content plot denote the range between plastic and liquid limits.

Fig. 6. Normalized oedometer compression curve compared with strains, in terms of Geqgc, Geq/G0gc, and Dgc relation-
the intrinsic compression line (ICL) and the sedimentation com- ships. The effects of s v0 , OCR, e, and N are examined and
pression line (SCL). discussed.

Variation of equivalent shear modulus with strain

Average values of Geq and gc pertaining to the different
steps are plotted in Fig. 8 for each s v0 in the loading and un-
loading stages. The Geq data are connected by solid lines
representing the variation of Geq with gc. These curves are
then extrapolated (broken lines) to gc = 0.0001% to estimate
Figure 8a displays representative Geqgc relationships cor-
responding to the loading and first unloading stages for the
tests in series A. The plots show that the modulus Geq de-
creases as gc increases at all confining stresses. In general,
this reduction starts to appear at gc & 0.001% and becomes
appreciable as gc increases above 0.01%. Further, under the
same s v0 , the Geqgc curves pertaining to the overconsoli-
dated states plot higher than those corresponding to nor-
mally consolidated soils. This is because the specimens
tested upon unloading have higher overconsolidation ratios
and lower void ratios than those tested in the normally con-
consolidation (ec) are reported for each stage. The gc values solidated state upon loading. In Fig. 8b, typical Geqgc rela-
varied between 0.0004% and 0.04%, i.e., slightly below the tionships for the tests in series B are presented, in which the
volumetric threshold shear strain that is about 0.04% for whole range of shear strains from 0.004% to slightly above
soils of similar plasticity (Vucetic 1994). No more than 10 1% was investigated.
cycles were applied in each step. For series B, only a load-
ing phase was carried out consisting of two stages with s v0 Small-strain shear modulus
equal to 80 and 160 kPa (Table 1). The gc values covered a
wide range of strains, from 0.0004% to 1%. The number of Literature correlations
cycles (N) applied in each step at constant gc > 0.01% was It is well established that G0 is influenced by the mean
equal to 30. In both series, the shape of cyclic straining was effective confining stress (s m ), OCR, and e. Many attempts
approximately sinusoidal, with a frequency ranging from 0.1 have been made to describe the dependency of G0 on these
to 0.3 Hz. parameters, most of which are expressed by relationships in
the form
Test results and discussion 1 0 n
G0 SFes m s r 1n OCRk
The results of cyclic tests are presented for small strains,
in terms of maximum shear modulus, and medium to large where F(e) is a void ratio function; S, n, and k are nondi-

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1282 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

Fig. 7. Cyclic stressstrain loops obtained from Vasto clay in the B series tests (see Table 1) at s v0 = 80 kPa for eight different values of gc.

Table 1. Summary of cyclic testing conditions.

Vertical effective Void ratio at the

Vertical loading consolidation Cyclic shear-strain end of primary Overconsolidation
Series Stage No. sequence stress, s v0 (kPa) amplitude, gc (%) consolidation, ec ratio (OCR)
A 1 Loading 80 0.00040.04 1.316 1
A 2 Loading 160 0.00040.03 1.211 1
A 3 Loading 320 0.00040.03 1.082 1
A 4 Unloading 160 0.00040.03 1.092 2
A 5 Unloading 80 0.00040.03 1.108 4
A 6 Unloading 40 0.00040.03 1.130 8
A 7 Unloading 20 0.00040.03 1.149 16
A 8 Reloading 80 0.00040.04 1.128 4
A 9 Reloading 320 0.00050.04 1.059 1
A 10 Reloading 640 0.00050.04 0.957 1
A 11 Second unloading 160 0.00050.04 0.982 4
A 12 Second unloading 40 0.00050.04 1.040 16
B 1 Loading 80 0.00041.1 1.298 1
B 2 Loading 160 0.00041.2 1.191 1

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Lanzo et al. 1283

Fig. 8. Variation of Geq with gc for the tests in (a) series A and and 127 for normally consolidated and overconsolidated
(b) series B. soils, respectively; and F(e) = (7.32 e)2/(1 + e). Based on
the analysis of normally consolidated soils with e ranging
from 1 to 5, Shibuya et al. (1997) expressed G0 as
5 G0 A 1 e2:4 s v0 0:5
where F(e) = (1 + e)2.4. The empirical parameter A in
eq. [5] has an average value of about 24 000 for a reference
stress sr = 98.1 kPa. In both eq. [4] and eq. [5], G0 and s m
(or s v ) are expressed in kilopascals.
An alternative way to take into account the dependency of
G0 on state and stress history under isotropic conditions was
proposed by Viggiani (1992) and Rampello et al. (1994).
They expressed G0 only as a function of two independent
variables, namely the isotropic mean effective stress (p)
and the isotropic overconsolidation ratio (R). In fact, the in-
fluence of e (or specific volume v) can be expressed as a
function of p through the compressibility relationship,
which is uniquely determined for normally consolidated
states and accounted for by R for overconsolidated states.
Under these hypotheses, Viggiani and Rampello et al. pro-
posed the following equation:
6 G0 S p0 n pr 1n Rm
where S*, n*, and m are nondimensional stiffness para-
meters similar to S, n, and k, respectively; and pr is a refer-
ence stress. It can be demonstrated that eq. [6] can also be
written as

7 G0 =pr S p0 =pr n pe0 =p0 c
where pe0 is the equivalent pressure, and c is a nondimen-
sional stiffness parameter (c = m/L, where L = (l k)/l,
in which l and k being the slopes of the normal compres-
sion and swelling lines in the lnp v plane, respectively).
Proposed formulation
A similar approach may be applied to describe the effect
of stress magnitude and history on the small-strain stiffness
mensional stiffness parameters accounting for the nature of of a soil subjected to oedometric compression using the fol-
the soil; and sr is a reference stress, usually taken as the at- lowing expression:
mospheric pressure (pa). The main difference among the var-
ious relationships depends on the choice of void ratio 8 G0 S s m
0 n
s r 1n OCRm
function (e.g., Hardin and Black 1969; Hardin 1978; Ja-
miolkowski et al. 1994). In particular, Jamiolkowski et al. It must be considered that (see Fig. 9)
(1994) showed that using the void ratio function 1
9 OCR s p0 =s v0 s ve
=s v0 ^
2 Fe e
where s ve is the equivalent vertical consolidation stress de-
the effect of OCR may be considered negligible (i.e., k & 0 fined as
in eq. [1]) for a wide spectrum of soils, and thus eq. [1] may
be rewritten in a simpler form: 10 s ve s r 10er ec =Cc
0 n
3 G0 SFes m s r 1n where er is the void ratio at s v0 = sr = 1 kPa (Fig. 9). In
eq. [9], the value of L, previously introduced for isotropic
For soft natural clays, it is worth recalling the empirical compression, can be used without appreciable error for K0
correlation proposed for G0 by Kokusho et al. (1982) based conditions, where K0 is the coefficient of earth pressure at
on test results on alluvial clays with e ranging from 0.9 to 4 rest, because l = 0.434Cc and k & 0.434Cs:
0 0:6
4 G0 A 7:32  e2 =1 es m 11 L l  k=l Cc  Cs =Cc
where A is a nondimensional stiffness parameter equal to 90 Taking into account eq. [9], it is possible to write eq. [8] as

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1284 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

Fig. 9. Equivalent one-dimensional consolidation pressure (s ve ). Fig. 10. Variation of G0 versus (a) void ratio at the end of primary
NCL, normal consolidation line. consolidation (ec) and (b) vertical effective stress (s v0 ).

12 G0 S s m
0 n 0
s r 1n s ve =s v0 c

13 G0 =s r S s m
0 0
=s r n s ve =s v0 c

Estimate of G0 with the proposed relationship

The G0 values estimated from test results can be used to
verify the applicability of the aforementioned relationships.
To this purpose, G0 values from the tests in series A are
plotted in Figs. 10a and 10b as a function of ec and s v0 , re-
spectively. Different symbols refer to different OCR values,
i.e., solid symbols for normally consolidated states (OCR =
1) and open symbols for overconsolidated states (OCR > 1).
In Fig. 10b, the data points with OCR = 1 have been quali-
tatively interpolated using a solid line, whereas those with
OCR > 1 have been interpolated using broken lines averag-
ing the unloadingreloading branches. For both normally
consolidated and overconsolidated states, G0 increases al-
most linearly with an increase in s v0 . However, in agreement
with data from the literature, it can be observed that the G0 0
values corresponding to normally consolidated states plot on Fig. 11. Variation of G0 versus mean effective stress (s m ).
a straight line that is steeper than those corresponding to the
overconsolidated states.
In Fig. 11, the same set of G0 data is plotted versus the
mean effective stress s m s v0 2s h0 =3, where s h0 K0 s v0
is the horizontal effective stress. The values of K0 for the
loadingunloadingreloading sequence were evaluated using
the relationships proposed by Mayne and Kulhawy (1982),
assuming the angle of shearing resistance 4 = 318 based on
the empirical correlation between 4 and PI by Kenney
(1959). In Fig. 11, the G0 values pertaining to overconsoli-
dated states plot slightly higher than those referring to the
normally consolidated states.
To reduce the influence of void ratio, the normalized
maximum shear modulus, i.e., G0/F(e), is plotted versus s m
in Fig. 12 for normally consolidated and overconsolidated
states. The void ratio functions F(e) proposed by Jamiol-
kowski et al. (1994) and Kokusho et al. (1982), reported in
eqs. [2] and [4], respectively, have been used; the F(e) sug-
gested by Shibuya et al. (1997) was not considered because the data points, which are approximately distributed along
it refers only to normally consolidated soils. The employed straight lines. This circumstance is confirmed by the value
normalization procedure further reduces the scatter between of the coefficient of linear regression (r2) of all data, which

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Lanzo et al. 1285

0 0
Fig. 12. Variation of G0/F(e) versus mean effective stress (s m ). Fig. 13. Values of G0 =s ve =s v0 c versus mean effective stress (s m

is equal to 0.961 or 0.976 using F(e) in eq. [2] and [4], re- Fig. 14. Values of Geq/G0 versus cyclic shear-strain amplitude (gc).
The alternative approach, in which G0 is expressed only
as a function of s m and OCR, was also adopted to reduce
the data according to eq. [13]. To apply eq. [13], two param-
eters are needed, i.e., Cc = 0.47 as already mentioned and
er = 2.16; and it was assumed that sr = 1 kPa. The parame-
ters S*, n*, and c were determined through a multiple linear
regression analysis of the G0 data, which yielded the values
of 233, 1, and 0.21, respectively. A value of L = 0.87 was
determined for this soil and, accordingly, a value of m =
0.18 was obtained. The G0 data were therefore normalized
with respect to the ratio s ve =s v0 raised to the power c (or,
analogously, to OCR raised to the power m) and plotted ver-
sus s m in Fig. 13. The value of r2 is 0.975, implying that
normally and overconsolidated G0 data can be approximated
with a satisfactory accuracy by eq. [13].

Variation of normalized shear modulus with strain

The average Geq values (Fig. 8) were divided by the esti- Fig. 15. Variation of Geq,N/Geq,1 with the number of cycles N at
mated G0 to obtain Geq/G0. The variation of Geq/G0 with gc different values of gc.
is presented in Fig. 14 for the tests in series B. The data
points plot between the curves suggested by Vucetic and
Dobry (1991) for clays with PI = 15 and PI = 30 (repro-
duced in the same plot) but plot systematically above the
curves proposed by Darendeli (2001) for the same values of
PI at a mean isotropic confining stress of 100 kPa.
The effect of N on the shear modulus is shown in Fig. 15.
The ratio Geq,N/Geq,1 (i.e., Geq at cycle N (Geq,N) normalized
with respect to Geq at N = 1 (Geq,1)) is plotted versus N at
s v0 = 80 kPa and for three values of gc (*0.01%, *0.1%,
and *1.0%). It can be seen that Geq is virtually not affected
by N at gc & 0.01% but exhibits a progressive reduction as
gc increases. At gc & 1.0%, the ratio Geq,N/Geq,1 reaches a
stable value of about 0.75 after around 20 cycles. Based on
these results, the degradation parameter t = log(Geq,N/Geq,1)/
logN (Idriss et al. 1978; Tan and Vucetic 1989) was also de-
termined and plotted versus gc in Fig. 16. The t values, qual-
itatively interpolated using a bold line in Fig. 16, are

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1286 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

Fig. 16. Effect of plasticity index on degradation parameter of nor- Fig. 17. Variation of damping ratio (D) with gc.
mally consolidated clays (modified from Tan and Vucetic 1989).
Data for Vasto clay refer to the B series and s vc = 80 kPa.

Fig. 18. Variation of DN/D2 with the number of cycles (N) at dif-
ferent values of gc.
consistent with data from the literature for different clays
with various PI values.

Variation of damping ratio with strain amplitude

The variation of D with gc for two values of s v0 corre-
sponding to the loading stages of the B series tests is pre-
sented in Fig. 17. The D values corresponding to the second
cycle of straining are plotted together with the Dgc curves
proposed by Vucetic and Dobry (1991) for PI = 15 and 30
and those proposed by Darendeli (2001) for the same values
of PI at s m = 100 kPa. The Darendeli curves well represent
the variation of the experimental data with gc over the entire
range of investigated shear strains, even though they slightly
overestimate damping values at medium to large strains.
Conversely, the variation of D is not satisfactory reproduced
by the curves proposed by Vucetic and Dobry. In fact, for
gc = 0.001%0.01% the experimental values lie close to the
curve for PI = 30, whereas the D values for gc higher than
0.1% are superimposed on the curve for PI = 15. by some void ratio function F(e). Once normalized, the G0
The effect of N on the damping ratio is shown in Fig. 18. values plotted versus s m 0
were distributed in both cases
The ratio DN/D2 (i.e., D at cycle N normalized with respect along straight lines with no significant scatter. The normal-
to D at N = 2) is plotted versus N at s v0 = 80 kPa for gc & ization procedures could be utilized for confirming the influ-
0.1% and 1.0%. It can be seen that D is slightly affected by ence of the structure of the natural soils on the mechanical
N at gc & 0.1% and exhibits a progressive reduction as gc behaviour suggested by the normalized compression curve.
increases towards gc & 1.0%. After 30 cycles, the damping In fact, a comparison between the normalized G0 values for
ratio is reduced by about 20% with respect to that measured natural and reconstituted materials has been undertaken in
at N = 2. the framework of an ongoing research project.
At medium to large strains, the plots of the normalized
Conclusions shear modulus and damping ratio versus shear-strain ampli-
Shear modulus and damping properties of sensitive, very tude are satisfactorily reproduced by curves from the litera-
soft offshore clay from the Italian Adriatic continental shelf ture of onshore cohesive soils with similar plasticity. In
were investigated by means of cyclic simple shear tests over particular, the curves of Darendeli (2001) better reproduce
a wide range of shear-strain amplitude, vertical stress, void the variation in damping ratio with gc, and the curves pro-
ratio, and stress history. posed by Vucetic and Dobry (1991) provide a closer approx-
The dependence of the small-strain shear modulus G0 on imation of the experimental data of Geq/G0 over the whole
stress and history parameters (s m0
, e, and OCR) was exam- range of shear strains.
ined. Two normalization procedures were used to reduce The degradation characteristics of the soft clay due to the
the data, i.e., divide G0 by a function of OCR or divide G0 loading cycles of strain were also found to be in satisfactory

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Lanzo et al. 1287

accordance with data from the literature on soils with simi- Kokusho, T., Yoshida, Y., and Esashi, Y. 1982. Dynamic properties
lar plasticity characteristics. of soft clays for wide strain range. Soils and Foundations, 22(4):
Acknowledgments Lanzo, G., Vucetic, M., and Doroudian, M. 1997. Reduction of
shear modulus at small strains in simple shear. Journal of Geo-
The testing was supported through a grant from the Min- technical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, ASCE, 123(11):
istero dellUniversita e Ricerca Scientifica (MIUR). 10351042. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1090-0241(1997)123:11(1035).
Leroueil, S., and Vaughan, P.R. 1990. The general and congruent
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1288 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 46, 2009

ternational Conference on Recent Advances in Geotechnical Geq equivalent shear modulus

Earthquake Engineering and Soil Dynamics, St. Louis, Mo., 2 Geq,N equivalent shear modulus at cycle N
7 April 1995. State of the Art Report, Vol. 2, pp. 851879. Geq,1 equivalent shear modulus at N = 1
Teachavorasinskun, S., Thongchim, P., and Lukkunaprasit, P. 2002. G0 maximum shear modulus
Iv normalized void index
Shear modulus and damping of soft Bangkok clays. Canadian
Iv0 normalized in situ void index
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Trincardi, F., Asioli, A., Cattaneo, A., Correggiari, A., Vigliotti, L., K0 coefficient of earth pressure at rest
and Accorsi, C.A. 1996. Transgressive offshore deposits on the m nondimensional stiffness parameter
central Adriatic shelf: architecture complexity and the record of n nondimensional stiffness parameter
the younger dryas short-term event. Il Quaternario, 9: 753762. n* nondimensional stiffness parameter
Viggiani, G. 1992. Small-strain stiffness of fine-grained soils. N number of loading cycles
Ph.D. thesis, City University, London, UK. OCR overconsolidation ratio
Vucetic, M. 1990. Normalized behavior of clay under irregular cyc- p isotropic mean effective stress
lic loading. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 27(1): 2946. pa atmospheric pressure
doi:10.1139/t90-004. pe0 equivalent pressure
Vucetic, M. 1994. Cyclic threshold shear strains in soils. Journal of pr reference stress
Geotechnical Engineering, ASCE, 120(12): 22082228. doi:10. PI plasticity index
1061/(ASCE)0733-9410(1994)120:12(2208). r2 coefficient of regression
Vucetic, M., and Dobry, R. 1991. Effect of soil plasticity on cyclic R isotropic overconsolidation ratio
response. Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, ASCE, 117(1): S nondimensional stiffness parameter
89107. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9410(1991)117:1(89). Ss ratio of yielding stress to stress at the same Iv on
Vucetic, M., Lanzo, G., and Doroudian, M. 1998. Damping at the ICL
small strains in cyclic simple shear test. Journal of Geotechnical S* nondimensional stiffness parameter
t degradation parameter
and Geoenvironmental Engineering, ASCE, 124(7): 585594.
v specific volume
wL liquid limit
w0 average natural water content
List of symbols DW area enclosed by the loop
g shear strain amplitude
Anondimensional stiffness parameter gc cyclic shear strain amplitude
cnondimensional stiffness parameter k slope of swelling line in lnpv plane
cuundrained strength l slope of normal compression line in lnpv plane
Cc compression index L nondimensional stiffness parameter
Cc compressibility index of reconstituted soil r bulk density
Cs swelling index sr reference stress
CF clay fraction s h0 horizontal effective stress
D damping ratio sm0
mean effective confining stress
DN damping ratio at Nth cycle s p0 preconsolidation pressure
D2 damping ratio at 2nd cycle s v0 effective vertical stress
evoid ratio 0
s ve equivalent vertical consolidation stress
ecvoid ratio at the end of primary consolidation 0
s v0 effective vertical in situ stress
ervoid ratio at sr = 1 kPa t shear-stress amplitude
e0initial void ratio tc cyclic shear-stress amplitude
e100void ratio at a vertical effective stress of 100 kPa of 4 angle of shearing resistance
reconstituted soil
F(e) void ratio function

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