# Determining the Degree of Consolidation

This is the last (hopefully) post in a series on consolidation settlement. We need to start by a brief summary of what has gone before. Note: the material for this derivation and those that preceded it have come from Tsytovich with some assistance from Verruijt.

## Review

In the post From Elasticity to Consolidation Settlement: Resolving the Issue of Jean-Louis Briaud’s “Pet Peeve”, we discussed the issue of how much soils (especially cohesive ones) settle through the rearrangement of particles. We were able to start with the theory of elasticity and, considering the effects of lateral confinement, define the coefficient of volume compression $m_v$ by $m_v = \frac{\beta}{E}$ (1)

where E is the modulus of elasticity and $\beta$ is a factor based on Poisson’s Ratio and includes the effects of confinement, be that in an odeometer or in a semi-infinite soil mass. We also showed that, for a homogeneous layer, $\delta_p = m_v H_o \sigma_x$ (2)

where $\delta_p$ is the settlement of the layer, $H_o$ is the thickness of the layer and $\sigma_x$ is the uniaxial stress on the layer. The problem is that $m_v$ is not constant, and the settlement more accurately obeys the law $\delta_p = \frac{C_c H_o}{1+e_o} \log{\frac{\Delta p + \sigma_o}{\sigma_o}}$ (3)

where $C_c$ is the compression index, $e_o$ is the initial void ratio of the layer, $\Delta p$ is the change in pressure induced from the surface, and $\sigma_o$ is the average effective stress in the layer.

Turning to the post Deriving and Solving the Equations of Consolidation, we first determined that the change in porosity $\Delta n$ could, for small deflections, be equated to the change in strain $\epsilon$. From this we could say that $\Delta n = m_v \Delta \sigma_x$ (4)

The change in porosity, for a saturated soil whose voids are filled with an incompressible fluid (hopefully water) induces water flow, ${\frac {\partial }{\partial x}}q(x,t)=-{\frac {\partial }{\partial t}} {\it n}(x,t)$ (5)

where $q(x,t)$ is the flow of water out of the pores and $n(x,t)$ is the porosity as a function of position and time. The flow of water is regulated by the overall permeability of the soil, and all of this can be combined to yield ${\frac {k{\frac {\partial ^{2}}{\partial {x}^{2}}}u(x,t)}{{\it \gamma_w }}}=m_{{v}}{\frac {\partial }{\partial t}}\sigma_{{x}}(x,t)$ (6)

where $k$ is the permeability of the soil and $\gamma_w$ is the unit weight of water. Defining $c_v = \frac{k}{m_v \gamma_w}$ (7)

and making some assumptions about the physics, we can determine the equation for consolidation as $c_{{v}}{\frac {\partial ^{2}}{\partial {x}^{2}}}u(x,t)={\frac {\partial }{\partial t}}u(x,t)$ (8)

where \$latex u(x,t) is the pore water pressure. If we invoke the effective stress equation and solve this for the boundary and initial conditions described, we have a solution $\sigma_{x}(x,t)=p\left(1-\frac{4}{\pi}\left(\sin(1/2\,{\frac{\pi\,x}{h}}){e^{-1/4\,{\frac{{\it c_v}\,{\pi}^{2}t}{{h}^{2}}}}}+1/3\,\sin(3/2\,{\frac{\pi\,x}{h}}){e^{-9/4\,{\frac{{\it c_v}\,{\pi}^{2}t}{{h}^{2}}}}}+1/5\,\sin(5/2\,{\frac{\pi\,x}{h}}){e^{-{\frac{25}{4}}\,{\frac{{\it c_v}\,{\pi}^{2}t}{{h}^{2}}}}}\cdots\right)\right)$ (9)

## The Degree of Consolidation

One thing that our theory presentation demonstrated was the interrelationship between pore pressure, stress and deflection. We know what the ultimate deflection will be based on Equation (3) above (or more complicated equations when preconsolidation is taken into consideration.) But how does the settlement progress in time?

We start by defining the degree of consolidation thus: $U = \frac{\delta(t)}{\delta_p}$ (10)

where $\delta(t)$ is the settlement at any time before complete settlement. For the specific case (governing equations, initial equations and boundary conditions) at hand, the degree of consolidation–the ratio of settlement at a given point in time to total settlement–can be determined as follows: $U_{o}=\intop_{0}^{h}\frac{\sigma_{x}(x,t)}{ph}dx$ (11)

In this case the result is divided by the uniform pressure p and the height h. Let us further define the dimensionless time constant $T_{v}=\frac{c_{v}t}{h^{2}}$ (12)

That being the case, if we integration Equation (9) with Equation (11), we obtain $U_{o}=1-\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}4\,{\frac {{e^{-1/4\,{\it Tv}\,{n}^{2}{\pi }^{2}}}\left (\cos(n\pi )\cos(1/2\,n\pi )-\cos(n\pi )-\cos(1/2\,n\pi )+1\right )}{{n}^{2}{\pi }^{2}}}$ (13)

otherwise put $U_{o}=1-8\,{\frac {{e^{-1/4\,{\it Tv}\,{\pi }^{2}}}}{{\pi }^{2}}}-{\frac {8}{9}}\,{\frac {{e^{-9/4\,{\it Tv}\,{\pi }^{2}}}}{{\pi }^{2}}}-{\frac {8}{25}}\,{e^{-{\frac {25}{4}}\,{\it Tv}\,{\pi }^{2}}}{\pi }^{-2}\cdots$ (14)

As was the case with Equation (9), only the odd values of n are considered; the even ones result in zero terms.

It is regrettable that, in defining $T_v$, the value $\frac{\pi^2}{4}$ was not included, as using Equation (14) would be much simpler. For certain cases, it is possible to use the first two or three terms. In any case the usual method for determining $T_v$–and by extension the degree of consolidation–is generally done either using a graph or a table, as is shown in the graph at the start of the post (repeated below:)

The notation is a little different. We use the variable $U_o$ to emphasise that we are dealing with the “standard” case. The above graph also gives approximating equations; it is easy to see that, for $T_v > 0.2$, the equation given is simply the first two terms of Equation (14). The distinction between the drainage length h ( $H_{dr}$ in the graph above) and the layer thickness H is clear.

## Conclusion

We have covered the basic, classic case of consolidation settlement in this post and its predecessors From Elasticity to Consolidation Settlement: Resolving the Issue of Jean-Louis Briaud’s “Pet Peeve” and Deriving and Solving the Equations of Consolidation. We trust that this presentation has been enlightening and informative. 