Ultrasonic investigation of granular materials subjected to compression and crushing

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Ultrasonic wave propagation measurement has been used as a suitable technique for studying the granular materials and investigating the soil fabric structure, the grain contact stiffness, frictional strength, and inter-particle contact area. Previous studies have focused on the variations of shear and compressional wave velocities with effective stress and void ratio, and lesser effort has been made in understanding the variation of amplitude and dominant frequency of transmitted compressional waves with deformation of soil packing. In this study, continuous compressional wave transmission measurements during compaction of unconsolidated quartz sand are used to investigate the impact of soil layer deformation on ultrasonic wave properties. The test setup consisted of a loading machine to apply constant loading rate to a sand layer (granular quartz) of 6 mm thickness compressed between two forcing blocks, and an ultrasonic wave measurement system to continuously monitor the soil layer during compression up to 48 MPa normal stress. The variations in compressional wave attributes such as wave velocity, transmitted amplitude, and dominant frequency were studied as a function of the applied normal stress and the measured normal strain as well as void ratio and particle size. An increasing trend was observed for P-wave velocity, transmitted amplitude and dominant frequency with normal stress. In specimen with the largest particle size (D50 = 0.32 mm), the wave velocity, amplitude and dominant frequency were found to increase about 230%, 4700% and 320% as the normal stress reached the value of 48 MPa. The absolute values of transmitted wave amplitude and dominant frequency were greater for specimens with smaller particle sizes while the normalized values indicate an opposite trend. The changes in the transmitted amplitude were linked to the changes in the true contact area between the particles with a transitional point in the slope of normalized amplitude, coinciding with the yield stress of the granular soil layer. The amount of grain crushing as a result of increase in the normal stress was experimentally measured and a linear correlation was found between the degree of grain crushing and the changes in the normalized dominant frequency of compressional waves.HighlightsDeveloping a novel one-dimensional compression device equipped with ultrasonic transducers.Finding a general consistency between ultrasonic amplitude and mechanical behavior.Defining a new term, seismic yield stress, corresponding to mechanical yield stress.Finding a relationship between dominant frequency and inter-particle voids.Finding a linear relationship between normalized dominant frequency and amount of crushed particles.

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