Modeling 3-D desiccation soil crack networks using a mesh fragmentation technique
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The problem of desiccation cracks in soils has received increasing attention in the last few years, in both experimental investigations and modeling. Experimental research has been mainly focused on the behavior of slurries subjected to drying in plates of different shapes, sizes and thickness. The main objectives of these studies were to learn about the process of crack formation under controlled environmental conditions, and also to understand better the impact of different factors (e.g. soil type, boundary conditions, soil thickness) on the morphology of the crack network. As for the numerical modeling, different approaches have been proposed to describe the behavior of drying cracks in soils. One aspect that it is still difficult to simulate properly is the 3-D crack pattern typically observed in desiccated soils. In this work we present a numerical technique to model the behavior of drying soils. The proposed approach inserts high aspect ratio elements in-between standard elements of a finite element mesh. This mesh fragmentation technique can be easily adapted to standard finite element programs. We used this technique to analyze multiple case studies related to soil desiccation cracks developed under laboratory and field conditions. We focused our attention in some key factors that control the 3-D morphology of the drying cracks network in soils. We show that the proposed technique is able to simulate very satisfactorily the main patterns typically observed in cracked soils. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.