Microscopic Study of Mechanisms in Soils

by Tamotsu Matsui, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Osaka Univ., Suita, Osaka, Japan,
Nobuharu Abe, Research Assoc.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Osaka Univ., Suita, Osaka, Japan,
James K. Mitchell, (F.ASCE), Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of California, Berkeley, Calif.,
Tomio Ito, Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Osaka Univ., Suita, Osaka, Japan,

Serial Information: Journal of the Geotechnical Engineering Division, 1980, Vol. 106, Issue 2, Pg. 137-152

Document Type: Journal Paper


A general microscopic mechanism has been clarified using both rate process theory and the adhesion theory of friction. Physical evidence for the existence of solid-to-solid contact between clay particles in the form of microphotographs from the scanning electron microscope and acoustic emissions is presented. A generalized concept for the normal force acting at contact points between particles and intergranular stress during shear is also developed. Theoretical considerations for a microscopic model of shear resistance and the microscopic meaning of soil strength parameters are developed based on these generalized concepts. As a result the proportionality coefficient which relates the shear resistance of soils to normal forces acting at the contact points between particles is given a physical basis on the microscopic scale, and the meanings of the true angle of friction and conventional strength parameters in effective stress representations are clarified.

Subject Headings: Shear resistance | Shear strength | Soil strength | Particles | Shear stress | Friction | Shear forces | Load and resistance factor design

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