Current assessments of slope stability rely on point sensors, the results of which are often difficult to interpret, have relatively high costs and do not provide large-area coverage. A new system is under development, based on integrated geophysical–geotechnical sensors to monitor groundwater conditions via electrical resistivity tomography. So that this system can provide end users with reliable information, it is essential that the relationships between resistivity, shear strength, suction and water content are fully resolved, particularly where soils undergo significant cycles of drying and wetting, with associated soil fabric changes. This paper presents a study to establish these relationships for a remoulded clay taken from a test site in Northumberland, UK. A rigorous testing programme has been undertaken, integrating the results of multi-scalar laboratory and field experiments, comparing two-point and four-point resistivity testing methods. Shear strength and water content were investigated using standard methods, whilst a soil water retention curve was derived using a WP4 dewpoint potentiometer. To simulate seasonal effects, drying and wetting cycles were imposed on prepared soil specimens. Results indicated an inverse power relationship between resistivity and water content with limited hysteresis between drying and wetting cycles. Soil resistivity at lower water contents was, however, observed to increase with ongoing seasonal cycling. Linear hysteretic relationships were established between undrained shear strength and water content, principally affected by two mechanisms: soil fabric deterioration and soil suction loss between drying and wetting events. These trends were supported by images obtained from scanning electron microscopy.
- Electrical resistivity tomography
- Soil cracking
- Soil water retention
- Undrained shear strength