Main content area

Desiccation and cracking behaviour of clay layer from slurry state under wetting–drying cycles

Tang, Chao-Sheng, Cui, Yu-Jun, Shi, Bin, Tang, Anh-Minh, Liu, Chun
Geoderma 2011 v.166 no.1 pp. 111-118
clay, cracking, evaporation, image analysis, laboratory techniques, porosity, shrinkage, slurries, water content
Laboratory tests were conducted to investigate the effect of wetting–drying (W–D) cycles on the initiation and evolution of cracks in clay layer. Four identical slurry specimens were prepared and subjected to five subsequent W–D cycles. The water evaporation, surface cracks evolution and structure evolution during the W–D cycles were monitored. The effect of W–D cycles on the geometric characteristics of crack patterns was analyzed by image processing. The results show that the desiccation and cracking behaviour was significantly affected by the applied W–D cycles: the measured cracking water content θc, surface crack ratio Rₛc and final thickness hf of the specimen increased significantly in the first three W–D cycles and then tended to reach equilibrium; the formed crack patterns after the second W–D cycle were more irregular than that after the first W–D cycle; the increase of surface cracks was accompanied by the decrease of pore volume shrinkage during drying. In addition, it was found that the applied W–D cycles resulted in significant rearrangement of specimen structure: the initially homogeneous and non-aggregated structure was converted to a clear aggregated-structure with obvious inter-aggregate pores after the second W–D cycle; the specimen volume generally increased with increasing cycles due to the aggregation and increased porosity. The image analysis results show that the geometric characteristics of crack pattern were significantly influenced by the W–D cycles, but this influence was reduced after the third cycle. This is consistent with the observations over the experiment, and indicates that the image processing can be used for quantitatively analyzing the W–D cycle dependence of clay desiccation cracking behaviour.