A numerical approach for simulation of stress-controlled cyclic shear loading in a soil column considering partial drainage

Waleed El-Sekelly, Ricardo Dobry, Tarek Abdoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liquefaction strength curves (LSCs) are commonly generated based on undrained stress-controlled cyclic testing to define the liquefaction potential of sands. However, these LSCs do not consider the effect of partial drainage on liquefaction potential. This is mainly because there are very limited experimental techniques to run stress-controlled tests for partially drained sands. This manuscript proposes a procedure to numerically simulate a saturated sand column with a free drainage boundary at the top (or top and bottom), accelerated horizontally at the bottom with constant acceleration cycles of duration designed to generate constant cyclic shear stress histories in the column. This is done for columns subjected to low and high overburden pressures. The paper starts with numerical simulations of a typical undrained cyclic direct simple shear, CDSS tests by applying a stepped velocity wave to a single soil element, an already established approach. This approach only works for a single element in undrained condition which is fixed at the base. Then, the proposed procedure is implemented by applying stepped acceleration time histories at the base of soil columns having one or two drainage boundaries. In these stepped acceleration runs, the durations of the acceleration cycles are controlled to achieve a partially drained stress-controlled CDSS kind-of-loading at specific elevations within the soil columns. The technique is used to show the effect of partial drainage on sand liquefaction behavior at both low and high overburden pressures. The results show that the effect of drainage is much more significant at higher overburden. The existence of both top and bottom drainage boundaries resulted in less liquefaction vulnerability, as compared to having only one drainage boundary at the top of the sand column. The results show that liquefiable sand layers in the field may be less prone to liquefaction under high overburden pressure than predicted by the current state-of-practice, which relies mainly on undrained small-scale cyclic tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108191
JournalSoil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Constitutive modeling
  • Partial drainage
  • Sand liquefaction
  • Undrained

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science


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