Rock and Soil Mechanics ›› 2023, Vol. 44 ›› Issue (2): 442-450.doi: 10.16285/j.rsm.2022.5316

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Evolution characteristics of meso-cracks in expansive soil under desiccating conditions

GAO Hao-dong1, 2, AN Ran1, 2, KONG Ling-wei2, ZHANG Xian-wei2, LEI Xue-wen1   

  1. 1. School of Urban Construction, Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei 430065, China 2. State Key Laboratory of Geomechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, Hubei 430071, China
  • Online:2023-02-23 Published:2023-04-13
  • Contact: AN Ran, male, born in 1992, Reader, research interests: environmental special soil engineering characteristics and geotechnical engineering. E-mail:
  • About author:GAO Hao-dong, male, born in 1999, Master candidate, focusing on soil mechanics of special soil.
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China (12102312,41372314) and the Open Research Fund of State Key Laboratory of Geomechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (SKLGME021018).

Abstract: Desiccation is the key factor causing the initiation and expansion of cracks in expansive soil. The evolution of cracks has a significant influence on the integrity of soil structure and the long-term stability and safety of the foundation. In order to investigate the evolution characteristics of dry-shrinkage cracks in expansive soil, micro-CT scanning tests were carried out on undisturbed soil samples. The 2D/3D images and characteristic parameters of soil mesocracks were obtained by using image processing technology, and the evolution of dry-shrinkage cracks was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. The results showed that the volumetric shrinkage characteristics of expansive soil in the drying process were restored by the 3D reconstructed digital model, which was in good agreement with the measured volume of samples. The quantitative indexes of mesocracks, such as crack ratio, crack number, crack volume, and crack structure characteristic parameters, can be extracted from micro-CT images. With the water content decreasing from 24.0% to 12.0%, the crack ratio and crack volume of expansive soil increased, while the number of cracks tended to decrease. Based on the volume and geometric characteristics of cracks, cracks can be divided into connected cracks and independent cracks. During the drying process, the volume proportion of connected cracks increased significantly, while the number of independent cracks decreased continuously. The ’ball-and-stick model’ effectively simulated the geometric characteristics of the cracks in expansive soil. The equivalent pore radius, throat radius, throat length, and pore-throat coordination number all tended to increase during the drying process, and the connectivity of cracks was significantly enhanced. The SEM images showed that the connectivity of mesocracks was closely related to the arrangement of clay particles and the development of the pores between particles.

Key words: expansive soil, desiccation, cracks, micro-CT test