Mechanisms of compression in well-graded saprolitic soils

Irene Rocchi, M. R. Coop

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Soils originating from weathering processes present considerable heterogeneity in their composition, which can make it difficult to analyse their behaviour in a systematic way. For the granitic saprolites discussed in this paper, based on a trend between soil density and weathering degree, there appears to be two different domains of behaviour, a granular domain and a clay matrix one, according to the degree of weathering reached. Recognition of these domains can reduce the apparent scatter of data for the engineering behaviour of weathered soils. A number of one-dimensional compression tests are presented for saprolitic soils from Hong Kong having different weathering degrees. In addition, isotropic and one-dimensional compression tests from the literature on other saprolites from Hong Kong and around the world were reanalysed and used to identify possible trends in the mechanisms of compression for these two domains. From practical considerations, the trends considered were between compressibility and common engineering grading descriptors. An attempt was also made to provide the physical explanations behind the behaviour observed, and the particle breakage was investigated in detail, both from a quantitative and qualitative point of view. It was found that the values of relative breakage (Hardin in ASCE J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 111(10):1177–1192, 1985), for a same stress level, might be very similar for soils having different compressibility values and different initial gradings. When studying particle breakage in further detail, it can be observed that it is linked to the amount of large particles and their characteristics. The maximum particle size, rather than the amount of fines in a mixture, may be a better predictor for differences in compressibility and breakage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1727–1739
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Weathering
  • Well-graded soil
  • Saprolite
  • Compression
  • Breakage


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