AbstractA soil’s elastic modulus is a fundamental property defining the soil’s reversible stress-strain relation under mechanical and environmental loadings. It has been observed that a soil’s elastic modulus can increase up to several orders of magnitude from fully saturated to dry conditions due to two distinct soil water retention mechanisms: adsorption and capillarity. Adsorption affects interparticle stress through van der Waals and electrostatic attraction and interparticle friction coefficient through water film retained by soil sorptive potential. Capillarity governs interparticle stress through capillary pressure and surface tension. The onset and scaling laws of the two mechanisms depend on the soil properties of specific surface area, pore-size distribution, cation exchange capacity, and soil mineralogy. These mechanisms are unified by a proposed elastic modulus characteristic curve (EMCC) equation. It is demonstrated that the proposed EMCC equation can well describe the moisture-dependent elastic modulus of a wide array of soils. Further, an interrelation among the EMCC equation, suction stress and soil shrinkage curves is established, which can greatly facilitate predicting suction stress from soil shrinkage curves and vice versa, further validating the EMCC equation in capturing soil’s hydromechanical behavior. The practical importance of the EMCC equation is demonstrated through prediction of ground heave of various soils due to a hypothetical flooding event.

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