Laboratory modelling of shear behaviour of soft joints under constant normal stiffness conditions

B. Indraratna, A. Haque, N. Aziz

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Shear behaviour of regular sawtooth rock joints produced from casting plaster are investigated under constant normal stiffness (CNS) conditions. Test results obtained in this investigation are also compared with the constant normal load (CNL) tests. It is observed that the peak shear stress obtained under CNL conditions always underestimates the peak shear stress corresponding to the CNS condition. Plots of shear stress against normal stress show that a nonlinear (curved) strength envelope is acceptable for soft rock joints subjected to a CNS condition, in comparison with the linear or bilinear envelopes often proposed for a CNL condition. Models proposed by Patton (1966) and Barton (1973) have also been considered for the predictions of peak shear stress of soft joints under CNS conditions. Although Patton's model is appropriate for low asperity angles, it overestimates the shear strength in the low to medium normal stress range at higher asperity angles. In contrast, while Barton's model is realistic for the CNL condition, it seems to be inappropriate for modelling the shear behaviour of soft joints under CNS conditions. The effect of infill material on the shear behaviour of the model joints is also investigated, and it is found that a small thickness of bentonite infill reduces the peak stress significantly. The peak shear stress almost approached that of the shear strength of infill when the infill thickness to asperity height ratio (t/a) reached 1.40. This paper also introduces an original, empirical shear strength envelope to account for the change in normal stress and surface degradation during CNS shearing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-44
Number of pages28
JournalGeotechnical and Geological Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Joints
  • Laboratory tests
  • Models
  • Shear strength
  • Testing methods

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