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Bray, M.T., 2008

The influence of soil cryostructure on the creep and long-term strength properties of frozen soils

Bibliographic Reference

Bray, M.T., 2008, The influence of soil cryostructure on the creep and long-term strength properties of frozen soils: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 232 p., illust., maps.


The time-dependent mechanical properties of ice-rich frozen soils were studied in relation to their cryostructure. The CRREL permafrost tunnel was the primary source of the studied ice-rich soils. Mapping of the permafrost geology of the main adit of the CRREL permafrost tunnel was performed and reinterpreted in the context of a cryofacial approach. The cryofacial approach in based on the concept that cryostructure is dependent on how a soil was deposited and subsequently frozen. Three main soil cryostructures were determined to represent the main aspects of the permafrost geology. Soils with micro-lenticular cryostructure represent the original ice-rich syngenetic permafrost formed during the Pleistocene. Reworked sediment due to fluvial-thermal erosion resulted in soils with massive cryostructure and soils with reticulate-chaotic cryostructure. Ice bodies in the tunnel include syngenetic wedge ice and secondary thermokarst cave ice deposits. A testing program for determining the time-dependent mechanical properties, including the creep and long-term strength characteristics of permafrost in relation to soil cryostructure, was performed. Undisturbed frozen soils include silty soil containing micro-lenticular, reticulate-chaotic, and massive cryostructure. Remolded silt from the tunnel was used to create artificial samples with massive cryostructure for comparison to the undisturbed frozen soils. In addition to frozen silt, undisturbed ice facies were tested. These included syngenetic wedge ice, Matanuska basal glacial ice, and Matanuska glacial ice. Testing methods include uniaxial constant stress creep (CSC) tests and uniaxial relaxation tests. It was shown that soil cryostructure and ice facies influence the creep and long-term strength properties of frozen soils. It was shown that remolded soils provide non-conservative creep and long-term strength estimates when extrapolated to undisturbed frozen soils. Minimum strain rate flow laws show that at low stresses, undisturbed soils creep at a faster rate than remolded soils. At high stresses, frozen soils creep at a faster rate than ice. It was also shown that the unfrozen water content influences the mechanical properties of frozen soils and that the unfrozen water content is influenced by soil cryostructure. Through cryostructure, the permafrost geology is related to the time-dependent mechanical properties of frozen soils.

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