Explosive compaction technology for loess embankment settlement control: numerical simulation and field implementation

  • Haichao Li
  • Junliang TaoEmail author
  • Lianyu Wei
  • Yanzhu Liu
Research Paper


Loess covers about one-tenth of the world’s land area. While it is often used as embankment fill, loess is not an ideal construction material due to its wet collapsible nature, as it may cause significant embankment settlement and other related problems. Although explosive compaction (EC) technology has been used for many years, the challenges in experimental testing and theoretical analysis hinder its wider application. This paper contributes to the development of a design construction scheme of EC technology for loess embankment improvement through an integrated approach that involves finite element modeling, small-scale experiments, full-scale simulation and field implementation. In this study, a reliable finite element model is developed and validated through a small-scale experiment. The model is developed based on the software ANSYS/LS-DYNA®14.5 and takes into account the coupling between different materials (including soil, explosives, air and pavement). Critical performance factors such as the volume of the explosion cavity, the density of the compacted soil and the soil pressure can be obtained directly from the model. The model is then extended to simulate full-scale embankments. A sensitivity study is conducted to establish the correlations between the design parameters and the abovementioned performance factors. The relationships served as design guidelines for the successful implementation of the EC technique in an embankment section on the Cheng-Chao highway in China. The results demonstrated the feasibility of the EC technique as a ground improvement method for loess embankments, and it illustrated the effectiveness of the numerical method as a tool in design.


Embankment Explosive compaction (EC) Loess Numerical simulation Strengthening 

List of symbols

a, k

Constants of soil

\(a_{0}\), \(a_{1}\), \(a_{2}\)

User-defined constants in yield function of soil


Cohesive strength


The length of its minor axis of the approximate spheroid


The length of its major axis of the approximate spheroid


Void ratio


Diameter of the blasting-influenced zone


Radius of exploration cavity


Equivalent radius of explosive bar


Lateral radius of compacted zone by EC


Deviatoric stress of soil element


Water content


Linear coefficients in the JWL equation

\(C_{0}\), \(C_{1}\), \(C_{2}\), \(C_{3}\), \(C_{4}\), \(C_{5}\) and \(C_{6}\)

User-defined constants in the linear polynomial equation of state


Depth of drill hole


Actual hole depth measured before blasting


Design depth of drill hole


Relative density of soil


Internal detonation energy per unit volume for explosive, internal energy per initial volume for air, Young’s modulus for pavement structure


Initial modulus for explosive, initial internal energy per volume for air


Relative error

\(E_{\tau }\)

Tangent modulus


Shear modulus


Specific gravity of soil


Height of explosive bar


Bottom depth of compacted zone by EC


Height of the bottom cone of explosion cavity


Height of the middle cylinder of explosion cavity


Bottom depth of effectively compacted zone by EC


Height of safety zone between pavement and compacted topmost point


Top height of compacted zone by EC


Height of the top cone of explosion cavity


Plasticity index


Bulk modulus


Pressure on air element


Pressure of detonation products


Pressure on soil element


Equivalence weight of explosive


Radius of soil in model

\(R_{1}\), \(R_{2}\), \(\omega\)

Nonlinear coefficients in the JWL equation




Initial relative volume for air


Actual volume of explosion cavity


Volume of exploration cavity


Relative volume, ratio of detonation products volume to undetonated high explosive volume for explosive, ratio of the changed volume to the initial one for air


Liquid limit


Plastic limit


Weight of explosive bar


Preliminarily designed explosive weight


Adjusted explosive weight


Hardening parameter of pavement structure


Ratio of specific heats in the linear polynomial equation of state


Variable in the linear polynomial equation of state, Poisson’s ratio of pavement structure


Density, natural density for soil

\(\rho {}_{\text{d}}\)

Dry density of soil


Yield strength of pavement structure


Internal friction angle of soil


Yield function of soil



The research team would like to acknowledge the support and assistance from the Chengde Municipal Bureau of Transportation. The writing of the paper is supported by the China Scholarship Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academy of TransportationTianjinChina
  2. 2.School of Civil and Transportation EngineeringHebei University of TechnologyTianjinChina
  3. 3.School of Sustainable Engineering and Built EnvironmentArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Road Maintenance and Management Center of TianjinTianjinChina

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