Geotechnical and Geological Engineering

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1369–1375 | Cite as

Determination of the Small-Strain Stiffness of Hard Soils by Means of Bender Elements and Accelerometers

  • Cristiana Ferreira
  • João P. Martins
  • António Gomes Correia
Original paper


Direct determination of seismic wave velocities in the laboratory is becoming common practice worldwide, given its great potential in the definition of the stiffness at very small strains. One of the techniques for seismic wave measurement makes use of piezoelectric transducers, such as bender elements (BE). However, some limitations remain to the applicability of this technique, namely for stiff geomaterials, such as compacted soils, naturally or artificially cemented soils and soft or weak rocks. To overcome this issue, two accelerometers have been used in conjunction with BE. In the present paper, this combined test setup implemented on a stress-path triaxial chamber will be detailed. An application study will be presented for a hard soil, prepared by laboratory compaction and tested in triaxial compression at different isotropic stress levels. The equipments, procedures and interpretation analyses will also be described. The advantages of this setup are twofold: (1) the interpretation of the acceleration measurements is straightforward, since the signals are of the same nature; (2) these measurements can be used to verify the BE signals, and thus minimize the subjectivity of the interpretation of BE results. Additionally, the accelerometers can be used autonomously wherever the interpretation of BE becomes too complex. The results of this research enabled to validate the interpretation methods used for BE testing. Moreover, this combined setup of transducers provided a simple yet powerful tool for eliminating the subjectivity inherent to BE testing, enabling reliable measurements of small-strain stiffness for a wide range of materials.


Small-strain stiffness Seismic wave velocities Hard soils Bender elements Accelerometers 



This work was developed under the research activities of C-TAC from University of Minho, with the financial support provided by FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) in the form of the research project WaveSoil—PTDC/ECM/122751/2010 and the strategic project PEst-OE/ECI/UI4047/2011. The second author acknowledges the support of FCT in the form of the PhD scholarship SFRH/BD/32571/2006.


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Copyright information

© The authors and IOS Press, All rights reserved.* 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristiana Ferreira
    • 1
  • João P. Martins
    • 2
  • António Gomes Correia
    • 2
  1. 1.CEC—Centre for Construction Studies, Faculdade de EngenhariaUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.C-TAC—Centre of Territory, Environment and ConstructionUniversity of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal

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