Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2017, Vol. 9 ›› Issue (4): 392-397.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2017.00392

• ARTICLES • Previous Articles    

Cracking in an expansive soil under freeze–thaw cycles

Yang Lu, SiHong Liu   

  1. College of Water Conservancy and Hydropower, Hohai University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210098, China
  • Received:2017-03-21 Revised:2017-04-21 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: SiHong Liu, College of Water Conservancy and Hydropower, Hohai University. No. 1, Xikang Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210098, China. Tel: +86-25-83786727; E-mail:;;
  • Supported by:
    This paper was supported by "the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities" (Grant No. 2015B25014) and "the Practical Innovation Program for Postgraduate Students of Jiangsu Province, China" (Grant No. SJZZ15_0058). The study was also a part of work in the project funded by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD) (Grant No. 3014–SYS1401). It is also gratefully appreciated to the organizing committee of "XI International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering (Magadan, Russia, Sept. 5-8, 2017)" for giving the opportunity to exchange this study.

Abstract: Expansive soils located in cold regions can easily endure the action of frost heaving and cyclic freezing–thawing. Cracking can also occur in expansive clayey soils under freeze–thaw cycles, of which little attention has been paid on this issue. In this study, laboratory experiment and cracking analysis were performed on an expansive soil. Crack patterns were quantitatively analyzed using the fractal concept. The relationships among crack pattern, water loss, number of freeze–thaw cycles, and fractal dimension were discussed. It was found that crack patterns on the surface exhibit a hierarchical network structure that is fractal at a statistical level. Cracks induced by freeze–thaw cycles are shorter, more irregularly oriented, and slowly evolves from an irregularly rectilinear pattern towards a polygonal or quasi–hexagonal one; water loss, closely related to specimen thickness, plays a significant role in the process of soil cracking; crack development under freeze-thaw cycles are not only attributed to capillary effect, but also to expansion and absorption effects.

Key words: expansive soils, cracks, freeze–thaw cycles, fractals, capillary, expansion, absorption

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