AbstractThe drying phenomenon in clays is a multiphysical process accompanied by alterations in the thermal, hydraulic, and mechanical states of the multiphase system. Reversible and irreversible characteristics of shrinkage deformation have been observed experimentally in clayey soils for different ranges of moisture contents. The kinematics of drying due to evaporation and drying-induced shrinkage can be studied by utilizing a coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) model. An accurate evaluation of drying-induced shrinkage is needed to investigate the thermal cracking and damage of geomaterials. In this study, we developed a thermoporoelastoplastic constitutive framework assuming a non-associative plastic flow rule that can accurately model the transversely isotropic behavior of stiff natural clays in unsaturated conditions. All material parameters used in the non-associative transversely isotropic constitutive model were calibrated based on experimental observations of Boom clay. Then, the capability of the model was assessed by analyzing the convective drying experiment on natural Boom clay. The comparison of the numerical and experimental results confirms the plausibility of the hypotheses made in this study. The results show that the first stage of evaporation ends rapidly and the falling rate period (second stage of evaporation) is the dominant evaporation mechanism due to the intrinsic hydraulic properties of Boom clay and the high evaporative demand of the environment. The developed model reasonably captures the anisotropic elastic and plastic deformations of the clayey soil during the transient drying process. Numerical results demonstrate that drying shrinkage induces a 30% reduction in porosity in which approximately 82% of the total volumetric deformation in drying-induced shrinkage is irrecoverable (i.e., plastic). Moreover, the results indicate that most of the plastic deformation occurs in the first couple of hours of the drying process, when the soil’s unsaturated condition is in a funicular state (i.e., where capillary pressure is dominant). Finally, the last section of this paper is devoted to a sensitivity analysis of the THM behavior of Boom clay with respect to its elastic and plastic strength. The parametric study shows approximately 10% more reduction in the final surface shrinkage when the difference between the slopes of the drying-induced compression line and the swelling line (i.e., λ−κ) is doubled.

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