The effect of clay water content in the Jet Erosion Test

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The understanding of the onset of breaching induced by surface erosion is fundamental to enable definition of the level of protection afforded by embankments and provision of standards for the design of new structures and the upgrading of existing ones. Compacted embankment materials are generally partially saturated due to seasonal variation in the water content. At the onset of the overflow process embankments undergo to a wetting process due to the changes at the outer surface boundary conditions (i.e. overflow). Erosion behaviour is known to be a counterbalance between gravity forces and shear erosion forces. However, as the particle size decreases (i.e. clayey soils), gravitational forces become negligible and electrochemical interaction between particles play a dominant role. Clay microstructure (e.g. particle configuration and inter-particle forces) changes with the hydro-mechanical stresses history. Thus, it is necessary to consider the microstructural changes in particle configuration to understand the influence of microstructure on the macroscopic behaviour of clay during erosion. Upon wetting, clay have a swelling/collapse behaviour. This research presents experimental results on erosion of clay samples compacted at the same initial dry density but with different compaction water content. The influence of different wetting times on erosion is also investigated. We show that for a given as-compacted water content, the longer the wetting stage, and hence the higher the sample water content, the more erodible the samples. Additionally, for samples compacted at the same dry density, the ones compacted on the dry side of optimum are more erodible than samples compacted at the optimum water content, despite the lower water content at formation. We hypothesise that this may be due to the formation of a different initial microstructure in sample on the dry side of optimum (i.e. bi-modal pore size distribution). Our results contribute to the fundamental understanding of time-dependent mechanisms that influence erosion of clay embankments during overflow and, hence, to embankment failure. In addition, these tests show how basic concepts of unsaturated soil mechanics can serve as a guide to ‘design’ the compaction conditions of embankment material.
Original languageEnglish
Article number02016
Number of pages6
JournalE3S Web of Conferences
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019
Event7th International Symposium on Deformation Characteristics of Geomaterials - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201928 Jun 2019


  • JET
  • suction
  • clay
  • microstructure
  • aggregates
  • erosion
  • water content


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