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Analysis of Lightweight Deflectometer Test Based on

In Situ Stress and Strain Response

Michael A. Mooney1 and Patrick K. Miller2

Abstract: The lightweight deflectometer 共LWD兲 is gaining acceptance and popularity as an in situ spot-testing device for quality
control/quality assurance of earthwork compaction. Little research has been conducted to investigate the stress–strain response within the
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soil during LWD testing. Similarly, little research has been performed to examine the appropriateness of using homogeneous, isotropic,
linear elastic half-space theory to estimate soil modulus 共ELWD兲 from LWD results. With this aim, an array of vertical stress and strain
sensors was placed within the soil to measure the stress–strain response during LWD loading. Measured in situ stress values matched well
with stresses predicted using homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic half-space theory. In situ stress data revealed that the contact stress
distribution between the soil surface and loading plate is a function of the soil type. Measured in situ strain values did not correspond well
with strains predicted using homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic elasticity. An exponentially increasing modulus function was required
to match experimental with theoretical elastic strains. The results indicate that the commonly used form to predict ELWD is inappropriate
if the goal is to extract constitutive soil properties. Analysis of strain data suggests the LWD depth of influence 共measurement depth兲 is
0.9–1.1 times the plate diameter.
DOI: 10.1061/共ASCE兲1090-0241共2009兲135:2共199兲
CE Database subject headings: Deflection; Stress distribution; Measurement; Stress strain relations.

Introduction A number of studies have been performed to correlate ELWD to

results from other single-location 共spot兲 tests 共e.g., Alshibli et al.
The portable or lightweight deflectometer 共LWD兲 was developed 2005; Fleming et al. 2007; Siekmeier et al. 2000兲. However, to
to rapidly assess the in situ elastic modulus of surface soils. The use LWD testing and the resulting ELWD in mechanistic analysis
LWD is portable and testing is quick; a typical LWD has a mass and QC/QA, a number of issues must be better understood. First,
of approximately 20 kg, can be operated by one person, and re- in current practice, ELWD is determined via circular plate on a
quires 1 – 2 min per test location. The LWD is gaining acceptance half-space theory assuming homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic
and popularity due to the pavement community’s desire to move soil behavior 共i.e., Boussinesq analysis兲. The contact stress distri-
toward mechanistic pavement design and quality control/quality bution between the plate and soil surface is assumed to be either
assurance 共QC/QA兲 of soil properties used in mechanistic design, uniform or that resulting from a rigid plate on an elastic half-
e.g., modulus. The concept behind the LWD test is simple; an space 共i.e., inverse parabolic兲. The applicability of linear elastic
impulse load is imparted via a drop weight onto a circular plate half-space theory to LWD testing must be evaluated as must the
and into the soil 共see Fig. 1兲. Plate diameters vary from nature of plate/soil contact stress. Second, given the desire to
150 to 300 mm. The applied load is either measured or assumed assess the compaction or properties of a lift of soil, the depth of
constant based upon prior calibration. The impulse load is influence 共measurement depth兲 of the LWD must be better under-
15– 30 ms in duration and the peak force varies from 7 to 20 kN stood. Measurement depths ranging from 1 to 2 plate diameters
have been reported 共Nazzal et al. 2004; Siekmeier et al. 2000;
in magnitude. The response of the plate or ground surface 共access
Fleming et al. 2007; Brandl et al. 2003兲, though these studies
to ground provided through a small annulus in the plate兲 is mea-
have not been based on in situ stress–strain data. Third, if the
sured with a geophone or accelerometer. From the measured force
LWD is to be used for performance-based QC/QA 共e.g., of resil-
input and plate/ground response, a soil modulus 共ELWD兲 can be
ient modulus兲, the relationship between stress and strain in the
field and the lab must be better understood.
To address these issues, an array of vertical stress and strain
sensors was placed within the soil to measure stress–strain re-
Associate Professor, Division of Engineering, Colorado School of sponse of the soil during LWD testing. The LWD’s impulse force
Mines, Golden, CO 80401. E-mail: and plate velocity time histories were simultaneously recorded
Project Engineer, Olson Engineering Inc., Wheat Ridge, CO 80033. along with in-ground stress–strain time histories. To explore the
E-mail: influence of LWD plate diameter and applied load on soil re-
Note. Discussion open until July 1, 2009. Separate discussions must sponse, resulting ELWD, and measurement depth, 200 and 300 mm
be submitted for individual papers. The manuscript for this paper was
plate diameters were used and the drop mass height was varied.
submitted for review and possible publication on February 28, 2007;
approved on March 27, 2008. This paper is part of the Journal of Geo- The measured stress and strain values are presented and dis-
technical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Vol. 135, No. 2, February cussed. Tests were performed on compacted cohesive and nonco-
1, 2009. ©ASCE, ISSN 1090-0241/2009/2-199–208/$25.00. hesive soil profiles.


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

minus the drop weight has a mass of 6.83 and 8.25 kg, respec-
tively, for the 200 and 300 mm plate diameters. A laptop com-
puter and 16 bit PCMCIA data acquisition 共DAQ兲 card were used
to acquire data from both sensors. The DAQ system included an
analog, three pole, Butterworth, low pass filter at 1 , 000 Hz for
antialiasing. Data from the force transducer and geophone were
acquired at a sampling frequency of 50 kHz.

Modulus Determination
The commonly used method for extracting soil modulus from
LWD test results is derived from the theory of a homogeneous,
isotropic, linear elastic half-space subjected to a static load ap-
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plied over a circular area. The relationship between the applied

force via a circular plate and the surface displacement is given as
F共1 − ␯兲
w= 共1兲
Fig. 1. Picture and schematic of the lightweight deflectometer AGr0
where w = vertical displacement of the center of the plate; F
= applied force; G and ␯ = shear modulus and Poisson’s ratio of
the soil 共␯ = 0.3 used throughout兲; r0 = plate radius; and A
= contact stress distribution parameter. In Eq. 共1兲, A = 4 for an
LWD Characteristics inverse parabolic distribution, ␲ for a uniform distribution, and
A number of LWDs have been developed for commercial and 3␲ / 4 for a parabolic distribution 共Timoshenko and Goodier
research purposes. Table 1 presents a summary and comparison of 1951兲. Employing the relationship between G and Young’s modu-
the LWD used in this study and the common LWD devices used lus E yields
in previous research 共e.g., Fleming 2000; Siekmeier et al. 2000; 2F共1 − ␯2兲
Hoffmann et al. 2004; Adam et al. 2004兲. The essential compo- E= 共2兲
nents of the LWD device used here include a loading plate, load
housing, geophone, force transducer, urethane load damper, guide In traditional LWD analysis, the peak applied force Fpeak and
rod, and a drop mass 共see Fig. 1兲. The loading plate is circular displacement wpeak are extracted from the measured time histories
with a diameter of 200 or 300 mm. A 2 Hz geophone 共Geospace to determine E 共hereafter called ELWD兲. The applied force and
HS-1兲 is mounted to the load plate and isolated from direct force velocity time histories are measured by the load cell and geo-
impact by the housing. The response measured by the geophone phone, respectively, whereas the displacement time history is ob-
was within the calibrated range 共⬎4 Hz兲; the accuracy was deter- tained by numerically integrating the velocity. The trapezoid
mined by the noise floor of the system and equaled 0.2 mm/ s. A method was utilized for the integration with a time step of
piezoelectric force transducer 共PCB 206M30兲 resting atop the 0.02 ms, corresponding to the sampling frequency. Using error
load housing is signal conditioned to output 0 – 5 V DC for load- propagation techniques to account for the numerical integration,
ings from 0 to 22.2 kN beyond a 22.2 kN preload. The force the accuracy of the maximum displacement was estimated to be
transducer exhibited an accuracy of ⫾2% 共⫾0.44 kN兲 of its rated ⫾0.005 mm. This was verified by repeatability assessment of the
output over its operating frequency range of 0 – 40 kHz. The ure- calculated displacement from multiple drops at the same location.
thane load damper served to lengthen the impulse duration and The corresponding error in ELWD was determined to be ⬍4%. Fig.
decrease the force magnitude. The drop mass is approximately 2 illustrates typical time histories from LWD testing on com-
10 kg and drop height used ranged from 0.1 to 0.9 m. The device pacted clay using both 200 and 300 mm plate diameters and a

Table 1. Summary of LWD Characteristics

Characteristic CSM Zorn Prima Loadman TFT
Plate style Solid Solid Annulus Solid Annulus
Plate diameter 共mm兲 200, 300 150, 200, 300 100, 200, 300 130, 200, 300 100, 150, 200, 300
Plate mass 共kg兲 6.8, 8.3 15 12 6 Variable
Drop mass 共kg兲 10 10 10, 15, 20 10 10, 15, 20
Drop height 共m兲 Variable 0.72 Variable 0.8 Variable
Damper Urethane Steel spr. Rubber Rubber Rubber
Force meas. Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Plate resp. sensor Geophone Accelerometer Geophone Accelerometer Geophone
Impulse time 共ms兲 15–20 18⫾ 2 15–20 25–30 15–25
Max load 共kN兲 8.8a 7.07a 1–15a 20a 1–15a
Contact stress User def. Uniform User def. Rigid User def.
Poisson’s ratio User def. 0.5 User def. 0.5 User def.
Dependent upon drop height and damper.


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

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Fig. 3. Soil profiles and sensor locations

cations used in this study. Profile names reflect the collection of

layer stratigraphies that were deposited and contain sensors, e.g.,
clay/clay/clay 共C / C / C兲, sand/clay 共S / C兲, and sand/sand/clay
Fig. 2. Typical time history data from a LWD test 共S / S / C兲. All three profiles were constructed atop the native clay
soil using a front-end loader, grader, and vibratory roller com-
pacter. The clay soil had a plasticity index of 14 and was classi-
drop height of 0.9 m. Fpeak was found to be independent of plate fied as A-6 共5兲 per AASHTO and CL per the unified soil
diameter. As expected, for the same Fpeak, the measured plate classification system 共USCS兲. The sand had a Cu = 22.1, Cc
velocity and integrated plate displacement were greater for the = 0.90 and was classified as A-1-b per AASHTO and SP-SM per
smaller plate. USCS. The clay soil was moisture conditioned and mixed with a
soil reclaimer prior to placement. Typically, a 200– 300 mm thick
lift of premixed soil was placed with a front-end loader or grader.
In-Ground Instrumentation
The vibratory roller was then used to completely compact the lift.
Earth pressure cells 共EPCs兲 manufactured by Geokon 共100 mm Sensor arrays were placed as the layers were constructed in
diameter, Series 3500 semiconductor type兲 were used to measure accordance with the method described in Miller et al. 共2007兲. Fig.
in situ stress. EPCs were carefully calibrated and placed using a 3 shows the placement depths to the center of the EPCs and strain
technique developed by Theroux et al. 共2001兲. The most critical sensors as measured using surveying equipment. Due to vertical
performance factor is characterizing the relationship between spacing requirements to minimize sensor interference, the first
EPC response and free-field earth pressure in a calibration cham- and third layers of sensors were located within a vertical column
ber; then, reproducing this environment in the field. This and and the second layer of sensors was offset horizontally by
other factors important to EPC performance are described in de- 600 mm. LWD tests were performed at each of the four resulting
tail in Miller et al. 共2007兲. EPCs were found to have an uncer- sensor locations 共two EPC locations and two LVDT locations兲 for
tainty of ⫾1.5% of the measured stress 共Miller et al. 2007兲. each soil profile. Table 2 summarizes the average and standard
Linear voltage displacement transducers 共LVDTs兲 from RDP deviation of Fpeak, wpeak, and ELWD values resulting from multiple
Group 共Model LVDTH-200兲 were outfitted with end plates and test locations on each profile. The rationale for various ELWD val-
embedded in soil to measure in situ strain. Each LVDT had a ues is discussed later. In-ground sensor data from the adjacent test
stroke of 10 mm and a gauge length of 100 mm. The error in locations were merged to create the stress and strain profiles.
strain is a nonlinear function of the strain measured, and was
estimated to be 1.4⫻ 10−4 for a strain of 10−3 and 4.6⫻ 10−6 for a
strain of 10−5. A detailed discussion of the design, calibration, Results
error analysis, placement procedure, and other factors pertaining
to the EPCs and LVDTs can be found in Miller et al. 共2007兲. The
In Situ Stress Measurements
EPCs and LVDTs were oriented to measure vertical stress and
strain and were placed in the soil at various depths in vertical The array of sensors enabled the evaluation of average vertical
columns 共see Fig. 3兲. Herein, EPCs provide a measure of average stress and strain 共␴¯ z, ¯␧z兲 at up to three depths in the clay/clay/clay
vertical stress over a 100 mm diameter area, whereas LVDT- 共C / C / C兲, sand/clay 共S / C兲, and sand/sand/clay 共S / S / C兲 profiles
based strain sensors provide a measure of average vertical strain 共see Fig. 3兲. Fig. 4 illustrates the stress time histories ¯␴z共t兲 during
over a 100 mm gauge length. Therefore, experimental stress and 300 mm diameter LWD testing on profiles C / C / C and S / S / C.
strain results are presented as average values and will be reported For presentation purposes, the beginning of each ¯␴z共t兲 record was
with an overbar 共␴ ¯ z, ¯␧z兲. Data from the EPCs and LVDTs were aligned with t = 0; therefore, the time lag due to stress wave
acquired at a sample rate of 5 kHz with a field computer and data propagation through soil is not conveyed. Though the sensor
acquisition system that included an analog three-pole Butterworth depths were slightly different for the two profiles, they are close
low pass filter at 500 Hz to prevent aliasing. enough to elicit comparison. The stress pulse durations were
Fig. 3 depicts the three soil profiles and in-ground sensor lo- greater in the sand than in the clay. In both profiles, these dura-


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

Table 2. Results from LWD Testing
Inverse Uniform Parabolic
Force Deflection Soil stiffness parabolic ELWD ELWD
Profile and plate 共kN兲 共mm兲 ks 共kN/mm兲 ELWD 共MPa兲 共MPa兲 共MPa兲
Profile C/C/C
200 mm plate 8.7 共0.13兲 1.25 共0.10兲 7.0 31.7 共3.0兲 40.4 共3.8兲 53.8 共5.1兲
6.4 共0.05兲 0.93 共0.12兲 6.9 34.3 共4.7兲 40.7 共5.5兲 54.2 共7.4兲
4.0 共0.10兲 0.58 共0.10兲 6.9 34.8 共6.2兲 41.3 共7.2兲 55.1 共9.7兲
300 mm plate 8.9 共0.10兲 0.95 共0.05兲 9.4 28.4 共1.9兲 36.2 共2.4兲 48.2 共3.2兲
6.6 共0.10兲 0.74 共0.05兲 8.9 27.2 共2.1兲 34.7 共2.6兲 46.2 共3.5兲
4.2 共0.13兲 0.50 共0.04兲 8.4 25.2 共2.4兲 32.1 共3.0兲 42.8 共4.0兲
Profile S/C
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200 mm plate 8.6 共0.08兲 0.57 共0.03兲 15.1 68.5 共3.7兲 87.2 共4.7兲 116.3 共6.2兲
6.2 共0.08兲 0.41 共0.04兲 15.1 69.7 共6.2兲 88.7 共7.8兲 118.3 共10.4兲
300 mm plate 8.7 共0.05兲 0.53 共0.02兲 16.4 50.0 共2.1兲 63.7 共2.7兲 84.9 共3.6兲
6.3 共0.05兲 0.40 共0.02兲 15.8 47.3 共1.7兲 60.3 共2.2兲 80.4 共2.9兲
Profile S/S/C
300 mm plate 8.9 共0.06兲 0.66 共0.03兲 13.5 40.8 共2.4兲 52.0 共3.0兲 69.3 共4.0兲
Note: Standard deviations are shown in parenthesis. *Results from LWD tests at four locations above sensors.

tions decreased with depth. Stress pulse rise time was very similar tween a rigid plate and soil was dependent on soil type. He sug-
at z = 0.14 m 共z / D = 0.5兲 in each soil profile; however this rise gested that the rigid plate stress distribution on cohesive soil is
time decreased more considerably with depth in the clay soil. Fig. inverse parabolic as elastic theory would suggest but parabolic for
4 illustrates a significant difference in in situ stress in the clay and a rigid plate on granular soil 共Terzaghi 1943兲. Using tactile pres-
sand profiles. The ¯␴z共peak兲 values at z = 0.14 m and z = 0.4 m sure sensors, Paikowsky et al. 共2000兲 experimentally verified this
共z / D = 1.2兲 were more than 50% greater in sand than in clay. The parabolic stress distribution between a rigid strip footing and
¯␴z共peak兲 measured at z = 0.6 m 共z / D = 2兲 was much lower in the sand. Terzaghi further theorized that the rigid plate contact stress
clay underlying the sand than in the homogeneous clay profile. distribution on mixed soils was inverse parabolic at low stresses,
This latter result is consistent with the stress reducing effect of an uniform at medium stresses, and tended toward parabolic near
overlying stiff layer 共Burmister 1958兲. failure.
The significant differences in ¯␴z共peak兲 observed at shallow To investigate the role of contact stress on observed differ-
depths in different soils can be explained by different contact ences in vertical stress, measured ¯␴z共peak兲 values were compared
stress distributions between a rigid plate and clay or sand soils. It with theoretical vertical stress distributions derived using inverse
is well known 共e.g., Timoshenko and Goodier 1951兲 that rigid parabolic, parabolic, and uniform contact stress distributions ap-
plate on an elastic half-space theory predicts a contact stress with plied to a homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic half-space.
an inverse parabolic distribution. Likewise, a flexible plate on an Achenbach 共1999兲 demonstrated that elastic theory considering
elastic half-space yields a uniform contact stress distribution. static loading can be used for dynamic loading when the travel
Terzaghi 共1943兲 theorized that the contact stress distribution be- time for stress waves through the volume of involved soil is much
less than the duration of the load pulse. For LWD testing on the
soils herein, shear wave velocities of 125– 250 m / s were ob-
served during seismic analysis of surface wave testing. With an
effective depth conservatively on the order of 1.5D 共0.45 m兲, the
calculated travel times of 1.8– 3.6 ms are four to eleven times
lower than the load pulse duration 共15– 20 ms兲. Therefore, static
analysis using the measured dynamic force provides a reasonable
approximation to which the dynamic stress measurements can be
compared. Adam et al. 共2004兲 reached a similar conclusion using
a different approach.
Theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 profiles were determined via finite-element
analysis 共Comsol Multiphysics兲 using an axisymmetric mesh ge-
ometry with dimensions 5 m wide by 9 m tall. Second-order
Lagrange elements ranging in dimension from 5 mm 共used from
r = 0-1 m兲 to 50 mm were used. The numerically determined
stress profiles were validated by comparison with analytical solu-
tions for ␴z共peak兲 at r = 0 per Eq. 共3兲 using the contact pressure
distributions expressed in Fig. 5. The numerically determined
␴z共peak兲 profiles were also validated for r ⬎ 0 by comparison with
analytical solutions developed by Harr and Lovell 共1963兲 for uni-
Fig. 4. In situ average vertical stress time histories for: 共a兲 soil profile form and parabolic contact stress distributions, and with Sneddon
S/S/C; 共b兲 soil profile C/C/C 共1946兲 for an inverse parabolic contact stress distribution. The


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Fig. 6. 共a兲–共c兲 In situ vertical stress time histories measured during

200 and 300 mm LWD tests 共Fpeak = 8.8 kN兲; and 共d兲 normalized
measured and average theoretical peak vertical stresses 共averaged
over 100 mm diameter horizontal plane兲

has a significant influence on the in situ stress state throughout the

measurement depth of the LWD. The implications on LWD analy-
Fig. 5. Peak measured and theoretical vertical stress profiles with sis are addressed in the Discussion section.
depth for the 300 mm plate diameter loading. To compare to mea-
The influence of plate diameter on in situ stress is illustrated in
sured stresses, theoretical stresses reflect the average over 100 mm
Fig. 6 with results from LWD testing on profile C / C / C. Figs.
diameter horizontal plane centered at r = 0.
6共a–c兲 present ¯␴z共t兲 responses at three depths due to 200 and
300 mm diameter LWD loading. Fpeak values were effectively
difference between the numerical and closed form solutions was identical for both cases 共see Table 2兲. ¯␴z共peak兲 is significantly
less than 0.5% in all cases. For direct comparison with measured greater for the 200 mm diameter plate at z = 0.14 m and slightly
¯␴z共peak兲 values, theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 profiles were determined by av- greater at z = 0.42 m. ¯␴z共peak兲 values were essentially identical for
eraging ␴z共peak兲 values over r = 0 – 50 mm. It is worth noting that the two diameters at z = 0.68 m. The ratio of 200 and 300 mm
the differences between theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 and ␴z共peak兲 at r = 0 diameter ¯␴z共peak兲 values are shown in Fig. 6共d兲. Measured stress
ranged from 1 to 6% over the depths where sensor data are avail- matches with those predicted by homogeneous, isotropic, linear
able 共z = . 0.13– 0.70 m兲 elastic theory quite well. Accordingly, the ¯␴z共peak兲 values reach
similar values at z ⬇ 0.5 m. It follows that the measurement depth
2␲ r0
3q共r兲 z 3r is less for 200 mm LWD loading than for 300 mm LWD loading.
␴z共peak兲 = drd␣ 共3兲
0 0 2␲ 共r2 + z2兲5/2 Fpeak can be modified by adjusting the drop mass height. Figs.
7共a and b兲 show ¯␴z共peak兲 values from the 300 and 200 mm diam-
The average theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 profiles together with the eter plates, together with the theoretical distributions of ¯␴z共peak兲 for
¯␴z共peak兲 values measured during LWD testing on profiles C / C / C, an inverse parabolic and uniform 共Fpeak = 8.8 kN only兲 contact
S / C, and S / S / C are presented in Fig. 5. The theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 stress distribution. Fig. 7共c兲 shows the ratio of 200 and 300 mm
values provide a logical explanation for the differences in mea- diameter ¯␴z共peak兲 values along with the theoretical distributions for
sured ¯␴z共peak兲 values observed in Figs. 4 and 5. Further, these an inverse parabolic and uniform contact stress distributions. Fig.
results provide some evidence to support Terzaghi’s theory on 7 illustrates again the match between measured values and those
contact stress distribution. Theoretically, contact stress distribu- derived from homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic half-space
tion has an influence on ␴z to a depth of 0.4 m 共z / D = 1.3兲. The theory. Terzaghi et al. 共1943兲 discusses the tendency of an inverse
higher ¯␴z共peak兲 values measured in S / S / C are consistent with the parabolic contact pressure distribution to shift toward a uniform
parabolic contact stress distribution, whereas the measured distribution at failure. This may explain the tendency of ¯␴z共peak兲
stresses in C / C / C lie between the inverse parabolic and uniform data during Fpeak = 8.8 kN loading toward the theoretical response
contact stresses. According to Fig. 5, the stresses measured in the for uniform contact stress.
S / C profile align with uniform contact stress theory. This may be
explained by the fact that the sand and clay layers 共0.25 m thick兲
In Situ Strain Measurements
both lie within the influence of contact stress distribution 共i.e.,
z / D = 1.3 in Fig. 5兲. These results support the conclusion that rigid The LVDT-based strain sensors 关see Miller et al. 共2007兲 for a
plate/soil contact stress distribution is dependent on soil type and complete description兴 were placed at similar depths to the EPCs.


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Fig. 7. 共a兲–共b兲 Measured and theoretical peak vertical stresses 共aver-

aged兲 with depth for 300 and 200 mm LWD tests on profile C/C/C;
and 共c兲 normalized measured and averaged theoretical peak vertical
stresses from LWD tests on profile C/C/C

Vertical strain averaged over the 100 mm gauge length ¯␧z was
measured in profiles C / C / C and S / C. Fig. 8 illustrates the strain
time histories ¯␧z共t兲 captured at z = 0.13 m 共C / C / C兲 and 0.14 m
共S / C兲 due to 200 and 300 mm LWD loading 共Fpeak = 8.8 kN兲. The
error bars at ¯␧z共peak兲 represent ⫾1 SD uncertainty. Similar to the
¯␴z共t兲 behavior observed 共Fig. 5兲, ¯␧z共peak兲 values were greater in
profile S / C than in profile C / C / C for both 200 and 300 mm
diameter loading 共Fig. 8兲. Further, 200 mm plate diameter loading
produced ¯␧z共peak兲 values considerably greater than the 300 mm
plate diameter at z = 0.14 m, consistent with observed ¯␴z共t兲 behav-
ior 共Fig. 6兲. Fig. 8 also reveals measurable plastic strain resulting
from 200 mm diameter loading compared to insignificant plastic
strain during 300 mm diameter loading. Levels of plastic strain
were consistent in repeated 200 mm diameter LWD tests on pro-
file C / C / C.
Fig. 9 presents ¯␴z共t兲 and ¯␧z共t兲 responses and the associated
¯␴z − ¯␧z behavior at z = 0.14 m in profile C / C / C due to three
200 mm diameter LWD Fpeak loadings. Although the load-

Fig. 9. In situ measured vertical stress 共a兲 and strain 共b兲 time histo-
ries at z = 0.14 m during 200 mm LWD testing on profile C/C/C; and
共c兲 resulting vertical stress–strain response

induced stress response was proportional 共␴ ¯ z共peak兲 / Fpeak ⬇ 12.7 for

all three loadings兲, the strain response was found to be dispropor-
tional to applied loading and stress 共␴ ¯ z共peak兲 / ¯␧z共peak兲 / 1000
= 130– 3 , 000兲. The nature of disproportional strain response is
revealed in the ¯␴z-␧
¯ z behavior 关Fig. 9共c兲兴. The Fpeak = 4.1 kN load-
ing resulted in linear elastic ¯␴z-␧¯ z behavior, whereas the Fpeak
= 6.5 and 8.8 kN loadings resulted in strain softening response.
LWD tests were performed in increasing order of Fpeak; therefore,
the yielding response during Fpeak = 6.5 kN loading is likely re-
sponsible for the higher yield stress observed during Fpeak
= 8.8 kN loading.
The ¯␴z-␧
¯ z behavior observed at z = 0.14 m in profile S / C due
to 300 mm diameter LWD loading is shown in Fig. 10. Here, the
progression of tests went from Fpeak = 8.8 kN to Fpeak = 6.5 kN.
The ¯␴z-␧
¯ z behavior in sand 共Fig. 10兲 was much different than that
Fig. 8. In situ measured vertical strain time histories at z = 0.13 m in observed in clay 共Fig. 9兲. At higher stresses, the sand exhibited
profiles S/C and C/C/C due to 200 and 300 mm LWD loading strain hardening behavior. The lower hardening strain level for


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

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Fig. 10. Measured vertical stress–strain response at z = 0.14 m during

300 mm LWD test on profile S/C

Fpeak = 6.5 kN might be explained by the strain hardening that Fig. 11. Measured and theoretical peak vertical strains during
occurred during the earlier Fpeak = 8.8 kN loading. 200 mm LWD loading for 共a兲 soil profile S/C; 共b兲 soil profile C/C/C.
A comparison of measured ¯␧z共peak兲 values with those predicted Modulus values required to match theoretical and measured strains at
by homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic theory provides an as- z = 0.13 m are shown.
sessment of the appropriateness of Eq. 共2兲 for LWD analysis. The
theoretical ¯␧z response due to surface loading is a function of
Young’s modulus E and Poisson’s ratio ␯. The theoretical ¯␧z be-
neath the center of a circular surface traction q共r兲 are determined elastic theory. Values of measured ¯␧z共peak兲 were on the order of
by the well-known equations 共4兲 and 共5兲 共Timoshenko and 10−5 or less 共associated error of 5 ⫻ 10−6兲. Though soil is often
Goodier 1951兲, where ␴r and ␴␪⫽radial and tangential stresses approximated as a homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic material,
and the remaining variables are as defined earlier. Eqs. 共4兲 and 共5兲 it is well known that soil modulus increases with mean normal
assume axisymmetric conditions and homogeneous, isotropic, lin- effective stress and decreases with shear stress. In a coupled way,
ear elasticity modulus increases with decreasing levels of shear strain 共e.g.,
Ishihara 1996兲. As an additional factor in compacted soils, vibra-
1 tory soil compaction can produce compaction-induced residual
␧z = 关␴z − ␯共␴r + ␴␪兲兴 共4兲
E horizontal stresses 共Duncan and Seed 1986; D’Appolonia et al.
1969兲. The results of Fig. 11 suggest these factors are significant,

␴r共r=0兲 = ␴␪共r=0兲 = 冕冕

0 0
2 5/2 −
4␲ 共r + z 兲
z共1 − 2␯兲

共r2 + z2兲3/2
and indicate that homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic theory
关and Eq. 共2兲兴 does not properly model soil behavior during LWD
共5兲 To better capture the stress-dependent nature of soil modulus
yet remain within an elasticity framework, nonlinear E共z兲 forms
Consistent with measured values, theoretical ¯␧z reflect an av-
were explored. Here, the form of the well-documented resilient
erage over the 100 mm vertical gauge length. Fig. 11 presents the
modulus equation 共e.g., Andrei et al. 2004兲 was employed to char-
measured and theoretical ¯␧z共peak兲 values resulting from 200 mm acterize the confining and deviator stress dependence of E 共Fig.
LWD loading on profiles C / C / C and S / C. Fpeak = 4.1 kN loading 12兲. Researchers have also employed an exponentially increasing
was not performed on both C / C / C and S / C profiles and are thus E共z兲 profile 共Wang et al. 2006兲. Fig. 12 compares experimental
not included. Also note that measure ¯␧z共peak兲 values at z = 0.42 m ¯␧z共peak兲 data from the 200 mm diameter plate loading with those
due to Fpeak = 6.5 kN loading were on the order of the error 共5 predicted using nonhomogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic theory
⫻ 10−6兲 and are thus not shown. The theoretical ¯␧z共peak兲 values 关utilizing three E共z兲 profiles兴. Second-order effects of modulus
were determined by using the appropriate contact stress distribu- variation on ␴r and ␴␪ were considered negligible.
tions deduced earlier, i.e., uniform for profile S / C and inverse The exponentially increasing E共z兲 provides the best fit to the
parabolic for profile C / C / C. For consistency with the analysis experimental strain data by presumably accounting for the in-
throughout, ␯ = 0.3 was used. Various E values were chosen to crease in confinement and the decrease in shear stress with depth.
evaluate the measured versus theoretical strain relationship. First, It should be noted that the value of the exponent is greater than
E = ELWD 共Table 2兲 was employed. E was then adjusted until the that assumed 共albeit arbitrarily兲 by previous researchers 共e.g.,
theoretical matched the measured ¯␧z共peak兲 at z = 0.14 m. Wang et al. 2006兲. The strain profile resulting from the confining
As illustrated in Fig. 11共a兲, E = ELWD = 90 MPa 共Table 2兲 and deviator stress dependent E共z兲 matches the experimental data
yielded a very good match between theoretical and measured more closely than the strain profile using a constant E. The values
¯␧z共peak兲 for both Fpeak values at z = 0.14 m in profile S / C. For pro- used for the constants of the confining and deviator stress depen-
file C / C / C, E = ELWD = 35 MPa overestimated ¯␧z共peak兲 values at z dent E共z兲 are within the bounds of those used in previous research
= 0.14 m. To match measured ¯␧z共peak兲 values at z = 0.14 m, values 共e.g., Nazarian et al. 2003兲. Fig. 12 illustrates that a more repre-
of E = 130 and 280 MPa were required for Fpeak = 8.8 and 6.5 kN sentative theoretical in situ strain profile can be calculated by
loadings, respectively. employing a nonhomogeneous E共z兲 function. However, it is noted
The measured ¯␧z共peak兲 values at z = 0.42 m were considerably that the theoretical treatment of this problem here is cursory. A
lower than those predicted by homogeneous, isotropic, linear thorough theoretical analysis of the nonhomogeneous, aniso-


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

100% area at z = 10D兲, the measurement depth for the 300 and
200 mm LWDs per stress data is 0.58 m 共2.0D兲 and 0.39 m
共2.0D兲, respectively, on clay soil assuming an inverse parabolic
contact stress distribution. For LWD testing on sand assuming
parabolic contact stress distribution, the measurement depth for
the 300 and 200 mm LWD tests is 0.36 m 共1.2D兲 and 0.24 m
共1.2D兲, respectively. The use of different Fpeak values does not
influence the stress-based measurement depth.
A similar approach evaluating measured and theoretically
matched ¯␧z共peak兲 data 共exponentially increasing elastic modulus兲
yields a shallower estimate of measurement depth. Using the 80%
area criteria, the 200 mm LWD exhibits a measurement depth of
0.12 m 共0.6D兲 and 0.10 m 共0.5D兲 for the C / C / C and S / C pro-
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files, respectively. The strain-based calculation was only per-

formed for the 200 mm diameter plate due to the limited strain
Fig. 12. Measured and theoretical peak vertical strains during data for the 300 mm diameter plate. Increasing the criterion to
200 mm LWD loading for 共a兲 soil profile S/C; 共b兲 soil profile C/C/C. 95% area yields measurement depths of 0.21 m 共1.1D兲 and
Theoretical strains reflect average over 100 mm vertical gauge 0.18 m 共0.9D兲 for the 200 mm LWD on C / C / C and S / C profiles,
length, and were developed with three different functions of modulus. respectively. In summary, depths of influence estimated per strain-
based assessment are one-half the magnitude of measurement
depths based on stresses. Because the LWD analysis yields a de-
tropic, and inelastic response to LWD loading 共including appro- formation modulus, it is reasonable to assume that strain-based
priate contact stress distributions兲 is beyond the scope of this estimation of the measurement depth is more appropriate.
paper. The determined measurement depths agree with reported val-
ues of 1.0D 共e.g., Fleming 2000; Siekmeier et al. 2000兲 but are
less than other reported values ranging from 1.25 to 2.0D 共Nazzal
Discussion et al. 2004; Brandl et al. 2003兲. Nazzal et al. 共2004兲 evaluated
measurement depth by constructing a test setup in which a stiff
In current practice, ELWD determination is based on the theoretical material was place over a softer layer and vice versa. LWD tests
analysis of a rigid plate load on a homogeneous, isotropic linear were performed as the thickness of the upper layer was increased
elastic half-space. The measurement of ¯␴z here suggests that the until the lower layer no longer had an effect on the ELWD value.
contact stress distribution during LWD testing on clay is inverse From Nazzal’s study, the measurement depth of a 200 mm diam-
parabolic 共similar to rigid plate theory兲 but parabolic during LWD eter LWD was estimated to be 1.2D – 1.4D. The difficulty in com-
testing on sand. These findings, consistent with Terzaghi 共1948兲 pacting the first lifts of the upper layer atop a much softer
and previous foundation contact stress studies 共Paikowsky 2000兲, underlying soil may lead to an overestimation of measurement
call into question the sole use of one stress distribution 共mostly depth.
inverse parabolic兲 for LWD analysis. Though limited, the results ELWD values determined from 200 mm diameter LWD test re-
here suggest that a parabolic stress distribution should be consid- sults were consistently higher than those determined from
ered when analyzing LWD tests performed on sand. ELWD values 300 mm diameter LWD test results. These findings are in agree-
derived using different contact stress distributions 共see Table 2兲 ment with previous research 共Fleming 2000; Lin et al. 2006兲,
are quite varied. It should be noted that the ELWD values in Table though contrary to intuition 共e.g. the higher ¯␴z and ¯␧z caused by
2 and determined via Eq. 共2兲 prescribe a functional form for q共r兲 the smaller plate would further yield the material, thus leading to
but not for displacement w共r兲. This is likely inconsistent with a lower ELWD value兲.
LWD rigid plate loading where w共r兲 is presumably constant. A Given the LWD’s premise as an in situ modulus measurement
more appropriate mixed boundary value analysis wherein both device, the analysis here elicits some useful comparisons between
q共r兲 and w共r兲 are prescribed is a logical next step. LWD and laboratory resilient modulus test conditions. Resilient
More important, the comparison of measured vertical strain modulus testing of subgrade and base course soils involves the
with those predicted by homogeneous, isotropic, linear elastic repeated axial loading of soil when subjected to constant confin-
theory calls into question the appropriateness of Eq. 共2兲 as a pre- ing stress 共AASHTO T307兲. The recommended axial load pulse
dictor of constitutive soil modulus during LWD analysis. Mea- during resilient modulus testing is haversine in shape and 100 ms
sured ¯␧z共peak兲 values did not correspond closely with those in duration. Applied deviator stresses range from 15 to 70 kPa for
determined through a theoretical analysis of a homogeneous, iso- subgrade soils and from 20 to 280 kPa for base course materials.
tropic, linear elastic half-space, particularly at z = 0.4 m. The The resilient modulus is calculated as the average secant modulus
analysis suggests the stress dependent nature of E plays a major of five unloading cycles and uses only the recoverable strain.
role in the significantly reduced ¯␧z levels measured during LWD Conversely, LWD testing involves three to four repeated impulse
testing. loading cycles with 15– 20 ms duration. Due to confinement, the
The measured and computed levels of ¯␴z共peak兲 and ¯␧z共peak兲 shed soil experiences simultaneous vertical and horizontal load pulses.
light on the LWD depth of influence 共measurement depth兲. The This difference in stress path has a significant influence on result-
theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 distribution that matched measured values can ing modulus 共e.g., Tutumluer and Seyhan 1999兲. Applied axial
be used to assess depth of influence. By evaluating the area under stresses at z / D = 0.5 range from 50 to 130 kPa depending on Fpeak
the theoretical ¯␴z共peak兲 response and 共arbitrarily兲 assigning a cut- and plate diameter. ELWD is determined by marrying the secant
off depth, the measurement depth can be estimated. For example, stiffness at Fpeak and wpeak with elastic theory, and uses the total
using 80% area as the measurement depth criteria 共and assuming plate deflection. The notable differences in pulse time, confining


J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208

stress, stress path, and modulus determination method suggests Notation
only a phenomenological and soil-specific relationship can be
drawn between LWD modulus and laboratory-determined resil- The following symbols are used in the paper:
ient modulus. D ⫽ LWD plate diameter 共mm兲;
E ⫽ Young’s modulus 共MN/ m2兲;
ELWD ⫽ LWD modulus 共MN/ m2兲;
Conclusions E共z兲 ⫽ Young’s modulus function 共MN/ m2兲;
Fpeak ⫽ peak applied force 共kN兲;
q共r兲 ⫽ contact stress distribution;
An experimental investigation was conducted to investigate in-
r ⫽ radial dimension 共mm兲;
ground stress–strain behavior during LWD testing, evaluate the
r0 ⫽ LWD plate radius 共mm兲;
appropriateness of the current approach used to extract soil modu- wpeak ⫽ peak vertical plate deflection 共mm兲;
lus ELWD from LWD data, and explore the measurement depth of w共t兲 ⫽ vertical LWD deflection time history 共mm兲;
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the LWD. The following conclusions can be drawn from the ¯␧z ⫽ vertical strain averaged over 100 mm vertical
analysis presented: gauge length 共mm/mm兲;
1. Measured peak vertical stresses ¯␴z共peak兲 in the clay profile ¯␧z共peak兲 ⫽ peak vertical strain averaged over 100 mm
共C / C / C兲 matched well with ¯␴z共peak兲 values determined via vertical gauge length 共mm/mm兲
theoretical analysis of an inverse parabolic surface traction ␯ ⫽ Poisson’s ratio;
acting on a homogeneous, isotropic linear elastic half-space. ¯␴z ⫽ peak vertical stress averaged over 100 mm
The inverse parabolic surface traction is consistent with the diameter transducer dimension 共kN/ m2兲;
classical rigid plate contact stress. Conversely, measured and
¯␴z共peak兲 values in the primarily sand profile 共S / S / C兲 con- ¯␴z共peak兲 ⫽ peak vertical stress averaged over 100 mm
formed more closely with a theoretical solution that used diameter transducer dimension 共kN/ m2兲.
parabolic surface traction. These experimental results con-
firm Terzaghi’s theory on contact stress for cohesive and co-
hesionless soils 共Terzaghi 1943兲. References
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J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2009, 135(2): 199-208