The state of stress at a point within a soil mass
A major problem in geotechnical analysis is the estimation of the state of stress at a point at a particular depth in a soil mass.
A load acting on a soil mass, whether internal, due to its self weight, or external, due to a load applied at the boundary, creates stresses within the soil. If we consider an elemental cube of soil at the point considered then a solution by elastic theory is possible. Each plane of the cube is subjected to a stress, a, acting normal to the plane, together with a shear stress, r, acting parallel to the plane. There are therefore a total of six stress components acting on the cube (see Fig. 4.2a). Once the values of these components are determined then they can be compounded to give the magnitudes and directions of the principal stresses acting at the point considered (see Timoshenko and Goodier, 1951).
Many geotechnical structures operate in a state of plane strain, i.e. one dimension of the structure is large enough for end effects to be ignored and o
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