Effect of soil permeability on centrifuge modeling of pile response to lateral spreading

Lenart González, Tarek Abdoun, Ricardo Dobry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents experimental results and analysis of six model centrifuge experiments conducted on the 150g-ton Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute centrifuge to investigate the effect of soil permeability on the response of end-bearing single piles and pile groups subjected to lateral spreading. The models were tested in a laminar box and simulate a mild infinite slope with a liquefiable sand layer on top of a nonliquefiable layer. Three fine sand models consisting of a single pile, a 3×1 pile group, and a 2×2 pile group were tested, first using water as pore fluid, and then repeated using a viscous pore fluid, hence simulating two sands of different permeability in the field. The results were dramatically different, with the three tests simulating a low permeability soil developing 3-6 times larger pile head displacements and bending moments at the end of shaking. Deformation observations of colored sand strips, as well as measurements of sustained negative excess pore pressures near the foundations in the "viscous fluid" experiments, indicated that an approximately inverted conical zone of nonliquefied soil had formed in these tests at shallow depths around the foundation, which forced the liquefied soil in the free field to apply its lateral pressure against a much larger effective foundation area. Additional p-y and limit equilibrium back-analyses support the hypothesis that the greatly increased foundation bending response observed when the soil is less pervious is due to the formation of such inverted conical volume of nonliquefied sand. This study provides evidence of the importance of soil permeability on pile foundations response during lateral spreading for cases when the liquefied deposit reaches the ground surface, and suggests that bending response may be greater in silty sands than in clean sands in the field. Moreover, the observations in this study may serve as basis for realistic practical engineering methods to evaluate pile foundations subjected to lateral spreading and pressure of liquefied soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Bending moments
  • Centrifuge
  • Earthquakes
  • Limit equilibrium
  • Liquefaction
  • Pile foundations
  • Soil permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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