Effective Depth of Soil Compaction in Relation to Applied Compactive Energy
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Effective Depth of Soil Compaction in Relation to Applied Compactive Energy

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    The determination of appropriate lift thickness used in the embankment construction has important economic and engineering implications in the design, construction, and performance of transportation systems. Department of Transportations (DOTs) across the United States require lift thicknesses ranging from 0.2 to 0.3 m (8 to 12 in.) depending on soil types, regardless of compaction equipment used. However, modern earthmoving and compaction equipment with much larger footprints and weight could potentially compact thicker soil layers without sacrificing the mechanical performance of embankments while reducing construction costs. This research program presents a series of field monitoring, testing, and numerical studies used to evaluate the response of coarse and fine-grained soils during compaction operations at various soil depths under the action of the smooth-drum vibratory roller, rubber-tired roller, pad foot roller, and scraper. Different soil property profiles were used to assess the effectiveness of different compaction methods, including shear-induced displacement and rotation monitoring, dynamic cone penetrometer (DCP), soil stiffness gauge (SSG), pressure plate, sand cone, nuclear density gauge (NDG), and P-wave propagation. Numerical modeling using a hardening soil model was used to expand the results of the compaction effectiveness in depth. The experimental and numerical results provided ranges to evaluate the compaction effectiveness of increasing lift thickness for different compactive energies. The results provide a better understanding of the compaction effectiveness as a function of depth and showed an evidence of the potential for an increase in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)’s lift thickness specification. The results indicate that 0.3-m (12-in) loose lifts for coarse-grained and fine-grained soils could be implemented when using Quality Management Program (QMP). If standard compaction is used, 0.2-m (8-in) loose lifts for coarse-grained and fine-grained soils should remain the state of practice for WisDOT. These recommendations should be further studied by WisDOT officials before they are implemented in embankment construction projects.
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