A series of cyclic triaxial tests of unsaturated soils was conducted to get a better understanding of the general liquefaction state of unsaturated soils. In the tests, cyclic shear strain was applied to fine clean sand with the same dry density but different initial suction states under the undrained condition. During cyclic shear, the volume change of the soil particle skeleton, the pore air pressure and the pore water pressure were measured continuously. Having used the effective stress defined by Bishop (Bishop et al., 1963), where the net stress and suction contribute to the effective stress, our test results showed that unsaturated sand specimens with quite a low degree of saturation lose their effective stress due to cyclic shear. At a zero effective stress state, unsaturated specimens behaved similarly to liquids in much the same way as saturated specimens. From experimental and theoretical considerations, the zero effective stress state (i.e., liquefaction) for unsaturated sand was found to have been established when both the pore air and water pressures build up to the point where it is equal to the initial total pressure. A volume change of pore air under the undrained condition, if a volume change of pore water is negligible, is equal to that of the soil particle skeleton. Therefore, it can be concluded that the liquefaction of unsaturated soil generally depends on the volume compressibility of the soil particle skeleton and the degree of saturation. On the other hand, according to the ideal gas equation of Boyle-Charles law, the volume change required to bring about a zero effective stress state can be calculated from the initial pore air pressure (usually the atmospheric pressure) and the final pore air pressure (the initial confining pressure). Therefore, the liquefaction of unsaturated soils also depends on the initial confining pressure. Based on this concept, the liquefaction potential of unsaturated soil can be evaluated by comparing the volume compressibility of the soil particle skeleton and the volume change of the pore air required to bring about a zero effective stress state.
2008 The Japanese Geotechnical Society