Advances in Water Resources, Volume 154

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Elsevier BV
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Coupled model for water, vapour, heat, stress and strain fields in variably saturated freezing soils
Xiang Huang | David L. Rudolph

• Coupled modelling of water flow, heat transfer, water-ice phase change and ice lens formation in deformable, variably saturated freezing soils. • Moisture, vapour, temperature and stress-strain fields significantly interact with each other and should be fully accounted for within the modeling platform. • The large increases in effective stress ahead of the freezing front causes substantial compaction in the unfrozen zone. Although many frost heave and freezing soil models have been developed in the past decades, saturated conditions are commonly assumed and/or the behavior of pore ice rather than ice lenses are conventionally predicted. This study presents a fully coupled thermal-hydraulic-mechanical (THM) model for variably saturated freezing soil, which examines a number of processes. These include heat conduction and convection, phase change, water (moisture) movement through cryosuction, and the development of independent ice lenses. Instead of directly solving for the pore pressure distributions, the void ratio is considered as a dependent variable related to the degree of water saturation. Both the stress-deformation and ice lens segregation are inextricably linked to the evolution of the void ratio as well. The coupled mechanism and performance of the model is first verified by comparison with laboratory freezing experiment observations obtained from literature and then is further evaluated by a series of parametric analyses. The results show that the calculated profiles of temperature, water content and frost heave are in good agreement with literature experimental data, demonstrating that the proposed THM coupling model appropriately represents the mechanisms of heat-moisture-deformation in variably saturated freezing soil. In addition, the sensitivity analysis illustrates that in the test cases considered, thermally-induced cryosuction due to phase change is the main driving force for water migrating towards the freezing front. Also, ahead of the freezing front, a significant increase in effective stress developed due to the elevated negative pore pressure and expansion of ice lenses causing substantial consolidation and reduction in porosity in the unfrozen zone. As the freezing front penetrated with time, the temperature, moisture, vapour and stress-strain fields interact with each other. The distribution of water vapour was mainly controlled by the temperature gradient and location of the freezing front. Both the initial degree of saturation and hydraulic conductivity affected the distribution of pore pressure and displacements. Higher compression moduli and lower overburden load led to greater frost heave but exerted little influence on the temperature field. Finally, the two-sided freezing scenario for soils underlain by permafrost made the middle ice-poor zone highly compacted with ice lenses accumulating near both freezing boundaries.