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Comparison of direct shear and triaxial tests for measurement of shear strength of sand




Rahman, Jamshed, author
Nelson, John D., advisor
Siller, Thomas J., committee member
Mielke, Paul W., committee member

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To ascertain the shear strength parameters of soils for engineering purposes is fundamental to soil mechanics and basic for designing earth-bearing and earth-retaining structures. Direct shear and triaxial tests are the most popular laboratory methods to determine these parameters. The direct shear test is used widely because it is simple and quick. The test has several disadvantages, however. The non-uniform stress-strain behavior, the rotation of principal planes during the test, and the imposition of the failure plane are chief among them. The triaxial test was designed as a possible alternative that eliminates some of these disadvantages. Direct shear test results are always comparable to those of the triaxial test; the difference usually is negligible from a practical point of view. Researchers have tried to unfold the intricacies involved in the direct shear test especially the complicated stress-strain behavior that a soil experiences during this test. Data, however, are lacking that determine the difference and establish a correlation between the results of the two tests. This study compares the two tests for measurement of shear strength parameters of sand. Triaxial and direct shear tests were performed on silica sand under the same density and normal stress conditions. Five sets of triaxial tests and 20 direct shear tests each were performed using four different makes of direct shear machines. The results of the direct shear tests were compared with those of the triaxial tests considering the latter as benchmarks. The possible effect of the structural features of the direct shear equipment on results was briefly studied. The results showed that the shear strengths from direct shear tests are higher than those from the triaxial tests. All four direct shear machines gave cohesion values different from each other and higher than the benchmark value. The Soiltest and Wykeham Farrance machines gave almost the same friction angle that was higher than the benchmark value by 4 degrees. The friction angle value from the ELE machine was higher by 2.7 degrees while those from Clockhouse machine were lower by 4.5 degrees as compared to the benchmark value.


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Shear strength of soils
Soil mechanics


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