Microstructure observations in compacted clays subjected to thermal loading

Roba Houhou, Melis Sutman, Salah Sadek, Lyesse Laloui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


The response of clayey materials to thermal variation has been the subject of extensive studies, given the wide range of engineering applications which involve subjecting soils to substantial temperature fluctuations. A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the volumetric changes induced in the clays as a result of temperature variations. Most associate the observed volumetric changes to re-orientation as well as changes in the clay microstructure, with no microstructural experimental evidences to date. The work presented in this note is a first attempt at studying the evolution of the internal structure of two types of clays, an Illite and a Kaolin, compacted dry of optimum, submerged until saturation, reconsolidated to various vertical effective stresses and then subjected to thermal loading. A series of thermal oedometer, mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) and tomography tests were conducted in order to induce, detect, and quantify microstructural alterations within the clay as a consequence of temperature changes. Results of heating and cooling tests on Illite showed a thermal contraction which could be attributed to the deformation/collapse of macro-pores in its dual-porosity structure assemblage. The magnitude of the observed contraction varied with the level of pre-imposed effective vertical stresses. Higher effective vertical stresses resulted in larger shear stresses at the contacts of clay-assemblages, and thus in easier deformation of the macro-pores. The Kaolin samples which presented a unimodal pore size distribution, with a relatively small dominant pore size (0.25 μm), did not exhibit changes in the microstructure which could be captured by the MIP.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105928
JournalEngineering Geology
Early online date28 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2021


  • Clays
  • Deformation
  • Microstructure
  • Structure of soils
  • Temperature effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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