Effects of soil structure on the shear behaviour of an unsaturated loess at different suctions and temperatures

Charles Wang Wai Ng, Q. Y. Mu, C. Zhou

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies of shear behaviour at different suctions and temperatures focused mainly on recompacted soils. Limited attention has been paid to intact soil. In this paper, the shear behaviour of intact and recompacted loess was studied using a suction- and temperature-controlled direct shear apparatus. A scanning electron microscope and mercury intrusion porosimeter were used to evaluate the microstructure of both intact and recompacted loess. For a given suction and temperature, intact specimens exhibit a higher shear stiffness and larger dilatancy than recompacted specimens. This is mainly because clay particles in intact specimens accumulate near grain contacts and stick to the grain surfaces, as revealed in scanning electron microscopy and mercury intrusion porosimetry tests. This type of clay particle distribution in intact specimens results in a more resistant structure and higher yield stress. At suctions of 0 and 200 kPa, the shear stiffness and dilatancy of recompacted specimens increase with temperature. The shear stiffness and maximum dilatancy increase by as much as 47% and 63% at suctions of 0 and 200 kPa, respectively. These increases in shear stiffness and dilatancy are attributed mainly to the continuous plastic volumetric contraction during heating, which induced strain-hardening effects. On the contrary, thermal effects on the stress–strain behaviour of intact specimens are negligible at zero suction. At a suction of 200 kPa, as soil temperature rises from 20 to 60 °C, the shear stiffness and maximum dilatancy of intact specimens decrease by 35% and 68%, respectively. It is evident that intact specimens and recompacted specimens experience opposite thermal effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-279
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Shear behaviour
  • Soil structure
  • Suction
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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