Accounting for evolving pore size distribution in water retention models for compacted clays
Water retention in compacted clays is dominated by multi-modal pore size distribution which evolves during hydro-mechanical paths depending on water content and stress history. A description of the evolutionary fabric has been recently introduced in models for water retention, but mostly on a heuristic base. Here, a possible systematic approach to account for evolving pore size distribution is presented, and its implications in models for water retention are discussed. The approach relies on quantitative information derived from mercury intrusion porosimetry data. The information is exploited to introduce physically based evolution laws for the parameters of water retention models. These laws allow tracking simultaneously the evolution of the aggregated fabric and the consequent hydraulic state of compacted clays. The influence of clay micro- structure, mechanical constraints and water content changes on the water retention properties is highlighted and quantified from experimental data on different compacted soils with different activity of the clayey fraction. The framework is discussed with reference to a widespread water retention model and validated against experimental data on a Sicilian scaly clay compacted to different dry densities and subjected to a number of hydro-mechanical paths.