An analytical model for predicting the shear strength of unsaturated soils

Tuan A. Pham*, Melis Sutman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


The prediction of shear strength of unsaturated soils remains a significant challenge due to their complex multi-phase nature. In this paper, a review of prior experimental studies is first presented in order to outline important pieces of evidence, limitations and some design considerations. Then, an overview of existing shear strength equations is summarised, with a brief discussion. A micromechanical model with stress equilibrium conditions and multi-phase interaction considerations is presented to provide a new equation for predicting the shear strength of unsaturated soils. The validity of the proposed model is examined using published shear strength data for different soil types. The shear strength predicted by the analytical model was found to be in good agreement with the experimental data and to provide high performance in comparison with existing models. Evaluation of the results using two criteria – the average relative error and the normalised sum of squared error – proved the effectiveness and validity of the proposed equation. Using the proposed model, a non-linear relationship between shear strength, saturation degree, volumetric water content and matric suction was observed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-387
Number of pages19
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Geotechnical Engineering
Issue number4
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • effective stress
  • experimental comparison
  • geotechnical engineering
  • micromechanical model
  • partial saturation
  • shear strength
  • soil suction
  • solid mechanics
  • statistical analysis
  • strength & testing of materials
  • stress analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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