# Shear Strength (soil)

Shear Strength (soil)

Shear strength is a term used in soil mechanics to describe the magnitude of the shear stress that a soil can sustain. The shear resistance of soil is a result of friction and interlocking of particles, and possibly cementation or bonding at particle contacts. Due to interlocking, particulate material may expand or contract in volume as it is subject to shear strains. If soil expands its volume, the density of particles will decrease and the strength will decrease; in this case, the peak strength would be followed by a reduction of shear stress. The stress-strain relationship levels off when the material stops expanding or contracting, and when interparticle bonds are broken. The theoretical state at which the shear stress and density remain constant while the shear strain increases may be called the critical state, steady state, or residual strength.

The volume change behavior and interparticle friction depend on the density of the particles, the intergranular contact forces, and to a somewhat lesser extent, other factors such as the rate of shearing and the direction of the shear stress. The average normal intergranular contact force per unit area is called the effective stress.

If water is not allowed to flow in or out of the soil, the stress path is called an undrained stress path. During undrained shear, if the particles are surrounded by a nearly incompressible fluid such as water, then the density of the particles cannot change without drainage, but the water pressure and effective stress will change. On the other hand, if the fluids are allowed to freely drain out of the pores, then the pore pressures will remain constant and the test path is called a drained stress path. The soil is free to dilate or contract during shear if the soil is drained. In reality, soil is partially drained, somewhere between the perfectly undrained and drained idealized conditions.

The shear strength of soil depends on the effective stress, the drainage conditions, the density of the particles, the rate of strain, and the direction of the strain.

For undrained, constant volume shearing, the Tresca theory may be used to predict the shear strength, but for drained conditions, the Mohrâ€“Coulomb theory may be used.

Two important theories of soil shear are the critical state theory and the steady state theory. There are key differences between the critical state condition and the steady state condition and the resulting theory corresponding to each of these conditions.

Read more about Shear Strength (soil):  Factors Controlling Shear Strength of Soils, Undrained Strength, Drained Shear Strength, Critical State Theory, Steady State (dynamical Systems Based Soil Shear), See Also