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Shaking table tests and stability analysis of steep

nailed slopes
Yung-Shan Hong, Rong-Her Chen, Cho-Sen Wu, and Jian-Ren Chen

Abstract: Shaking table tests were performed on five model slopes to examine the effects of the angle and length of
the nails and the frequency of excitation on the seismic resistance and failure mechanism of the slopes. Seismic excita-
tion was also applied to slopes at various angles. Experimental results showed that nails markedly improved the seis-
mic resistance of all model steep slopes. Additionally, nailed slopes exhibit characteristics of ductility under strong
excitation. The angle of the nails influences the deformation of the slope but only slightly affects seismic resistance.
An increase in the length of the nails increased the seismic resistance of the slope and reduced the displacement of the
facing only when subjected to strong excitation. The slope at an angle of 90 to the horizontal has a markedly lower
seismic resistance than that at 80. The rocking of the model slope was strong for the slope with inclined nails and the
slope at 90 to the horizontal. The failure surface of the soil mass is approximately a bilinear surface; the pullout of
nails from the lower rows of nails caused total slope failure. The seismic resistance of a nailed slope is categorized
viz. response of the models by three stages: stable, seismic resistance, and incipient collapse phases. Critical seismic
acceleration coefficients of all models are evaluated and compared with values predicted by a developed pseudo-static,
limit-equilibrium-based slope stability approach, which postulates a two-wedge failure mechanism.
Key words: shaking table test, steep nailed slope, seismic resistance, pseudo-static approach.

Rsum : Des essais la table vibrante ont t raliss sur cinq modles de talus pour examiner les effets de langle
et de la longueur des clous, et de la frquence de la sollicitation sur la rsistance sismique et sur le mcanisme de rup-
ture des talus. La sollicitation sismique a aussi t applique des talus divers angles. Les rsultats exprimentaux
ont montr que les clous amlioraient de faon marque la rsistance sismique de tous les modles de talus escarps.
De plus, les talus clous montrent des caractristiques de ductilit sous forte sollicitation. Langle des clous influence
la dformation du talus mais naffecte que lgrement la rsistance sismique. Une augmentation de la longueur des
clous a augment la rsistance sismique du talus, et rduit le dplacement de la face seulement lorsque soumis une
forte sollicitation. Le talus un angle de 90 par rapport lhorizontale a une rsistance sismique apprciablement plus
faible qu un angle de 80. Lamplitude de la sollicitation du modle de talus tait forte pour le talus avec des clous
inclins et une pente 90 par rapport lhorizontale. La surface de rupture du massif de sol est approximativement
une surface bilinaire; larrachement des clous des ranges infrieures de clous a produit la rupture totale du talus. La
rsistance sismique dun talus clou est classe par catgorie, cest- dire une rponse des modles en trois stades : les
phases : stable, sismique, et deffondrement imminent. On value les coefficients dacclration sismique critique de
tous les modles et on les compare avec les valeurs prdites par une analyse de stabilit labore pseudo-statique base
sur lapproche de stabilit de talus lquilibre limite, qui postule un mcanisme de rupture de deux coins.
Mots cls : essai la table vibrante, talus clou escarp, rsistance sismique, approche pseudo-statique.

[Traduit par la Rdaction] Hong et al. 1279

Introduction or by vegetating the crib wall. Secondary damage may oc-

cur, however, if a strong earthquake occurs again, because
The 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake in Taiwan severely dam- superficial stabilization is ineffective in stabilizing an entire
aged many steep slopes. Assessments of the stability of slope. Soil nailing confines the soil and improves the stabil-
highway slopes following the earthquake revealed that 68% ity of slopes and has been proven to reinforce slopes effec-
of more than 500 failed slopes were steep (60 from the hor- tively under static conditions. Therefore, the seismic
izontal). Such slopes could be altered by removing superfi- resistance and failure mechanism of nailed slopes are worthy
cial detritus and spreading shotcrete on the top of a mesh net of investigation with a view to finding a method of stabiliz-

Received 15 October 2003. Accepted 14 June 2005. Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at on
14 September 2005.
Y.-S. Hong1 and C.-S. Wu. Department of Civil Engineering, Tamkang University, Tamsui, Taipei 25137, Taiwan.
R.-H. Chen. Department of Civil Engineering, Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan.
J.-R. Chen. Geotechnical Division, Sino Geotechnology Inc., Taipei 105, Taiwan.
Corresponding author (e-mail:

Can. Geotech. J. 42: 12641279 (2005) doi: 10.1139/T05-055 2005 NRC Canada
Hong et al. 1265

ing steep slopes subject to seismic loading. An extensive de- Table 1. Scaling factors for model to prototype scaling.
scription of the soil nailing technology and design methods Scaling factor
is reported by Hussin et al. (1997); however, there are few Characteristic (prototype/model)
studies of the earthquake resistance and corresponding fail-
ure mechanisms of nailed slopes. Length, x
Density, 1
Most of the literature on nailed structures emphasizes the
Strain, 0.5
mechanism of reinforcement and the design of the structures
under a static load. Some studies have addressed geosyn- Time, t 0.75
thetic retaining walls, considering the seismic behavior of Stress,
reinforced structures (Sakaguchi 1996; Koseki et al. 1998; Modulus, E 0.5
Matsuo et al. 1998). Tufenkjian and Vucetic (2000) per- Displacement, u 1.5
formed a series of centrifuge tests on excavated model walls Acceleration, a 1
to examine the effects of the length, axial rigidity, and flex- Longitudinal rigidity of nail, Enail Anail 2.5
ural rigidity of the nails on the mechanism of failure due to Tensile strength of nail, Fy 3
seismic excitation. The failure mechanisms for slopes under Pullout resistance, maxDa 2
static loading have typically been extended to stability anal- a
D, outer diameter of the nail.
ysis of slopes under seismic loading, using a pseudo-static
approach (Okabe 1924; Mononobe and Matsuo 1929), but
the effects of seismic excitation on the type of slope failure [1] Ip = Sf Im
have been neglected. Bathurst and Alfaro (1997) provided
extensive reviews of seismic design, analysis, and perfor- where Ip and Im are physical quantities that pertain to the
mance of geosynthetic-reinforced walls, slopes, and em- prototype and the model, respectively; and Sf is a scaling
bankments. factor.
The quantities that affect the behavior of a nailed structure
Model testing provides performance features of a rein-
in sandy soil must satisfy the following:
forced soil structure under dynamic loading. The nonlinear
behavior of the soilstructure interaction and the stress [2] f (, g, E, , , H, , , L, Enail, Inail, sh, sv,
strain properties may vary with confining pressure, however.
i, max, Fy) = 0
Problems of similitude between reduced-scale model and
equivalent field-scale prototype impose the uncertainty on where is the soil density; g is the acceleration due to grav-
the representative failure mechanism observed in the ity; E is the elastic modulus of soil; is Poissons ratio of
reduced-scale model to be typical of the field-scale proto- the soil; is the internal frictional angle of soil; H is the
type. Gassler (1988) noted a two-part wedge failure mecha- height of the nailed structure; is the angle of slope of the
nism for the static field-scale test and reduced-scale model backfill soil; is the angle of facing; L is the length of the
test for nearly vertical nailed walls of sandy soil. Using the- nail; Enail is the elastic modulus of the nail; Inail is the area
oretical analysis based on the method of kinematics of rigid moment of inertia of the nail; sh and sv are the horizontal
bodies, Gassler illustrated that translation of two rigid bodies and vertical distances between the nails, respectively; i is the
is the most critical mechanism for nearly vertical nailed angle of inclination of the nails; max is the frictional resis-
walls. tance at the soilnail interface; and Fy is the tensile strength
A series of shaking table tests was conducted on model of the nails.
nailed slopes, in which the nails were arranged with differ- A similitude derived for the shaking table tests in a 1g
ent geometries. The effects of the inclination and length of gravitational field derived by Iai (1989) is adopted in deter-
the nails and the frequency of excitation on the seismic re- mining the characteristics of the materials involved in the
sistance of the slopes were examined. Pseudo-static, limit- model tests. The scaling factors are listed in Table 1 for the
equilibrium-based stability analysis, assuming a two-wedge model and prototype having the same soil density. Deter-
failure surface, was applied to analyze the stability of nailed mining all the characteristics of the materials involved in a
slopes under seismic excitation. Predictions made using the model test, as required to meet the similitude requirements,
proposed approach were compared with the results of tests is difficult; therefore, three of the most important character-
on the models. istics, namely Fy, Enail Anail, and maxD (where Anail is the
cross-sectional area of the steel bar, and D is the outer diam-
eter of the nail), relevant to the tensile strength and tensile
Testing program and procedure strain of the nail, as well as pullout resistance, were used in
the similarity analysis to find a suitable material and suitable
A testing program was implemented to evaluate the ef- dimensions of the nails. A PMMA tube (vinyl polymer made
fects of various nail and slope arrangements on the seismic by free radical vinyl polymerization from the monomer
resistance of prototype nailed slopes using reduced-scale model methyl methacrylate) with an outer diameter of 8 mm and an
tests. The characteristics of the model materials that affect inner diameter of 5 mm meets the requirements of the simi-
the behavior of the structure are analyzed by similarity anal- larity analysis of a 0.7 m high model slope, which represents
ysis to ensure comparable behavior between the prototype- a prototype slope with a height of 6 m. The tube has an elas-
scale slopes and the model-scale slopes (Baker et al. 1991). tic modulus of 3.27 GPa and tensile strength of 58.8 MPa.
The physical characteristics of the model and prototype sat- Sand particles were glued to the surface of the nail to gener-
isfy the following relationship: ate surface roughness; the peak frictional resistance at the

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Table 2. Characteristic values used for model to prototype scaling. Fig. 1. Schematic diagram (a) and photograph (b) of the model
slope, showing the instrumentation setup (30 nail angle). All di-
Scaling factor mensions are in millimetres.
Characteristic Prototype Model model
Fy (kN) 38~1862a 1.8 1 133
Enail Anail (kN) 18 600 ~ 310 400 100 21 501
maxD (kN/m) 2.25~29b 0.05 3.7
In general practice, the cross-sectional area of steel bars inside a
5~10 cm diameter predrilled hole is typically between 1.27 cm2 (one num-
ber 4 bar) and 15.52 cm2 (one number 14 bar).
According to Schlosser and Buhan (1991), the frictional resistance at
the soilnail interface ranges from 0.045 to 0.290 MPa.

soilnail interface under a pressure of 3.5 kPa is 6.3 kPa.

Table 2 presents the values of the three characteristics rele-
vant to the reduced-scale models and the prototype-scale
slopes; the values obtained for the models are consistent
with those of typical prototype-scale slopes. The ratio of the
prototype slope height to the model slope height () is 8.57
for 0.7 m high slopes to simulate slopes 6 m high.
Five 0.7 m high model slopes with different slope angles,
nail angles, and nail lengths were constructed inside a
1.1 m 0.345 m 1 m (length width height) sand box.
The box includes two 12 mm thick glass sidewalls to enable
observation of the deformation of the slope. Steel bars af-
fixed to the side glass prevent excess lateral deformation of
the box. Additionally, the facing was made of a 3 mm thick
PMMA plate; the stiffness of this facing was sufficiently
high that the displacements across the width of the facing at
a given height do not vary.
Five rows of nails were placed in the soil, with horizontal
and vertical distances between each pair of 115 mm and
140 mm, respectively. The apparatus included four strain
gauges on each of the nails in four of the five rows to record
the tensions at various points in the nails; one accelerometer
on the platform and two accelerometers on the sand box
monitored input acceleration, and two accelerometers in the
soil at the mid-width recorded acceleration of the soil mass;
and five displacement transducers at heights of 40, 180, 320,
460, and 600 mm above the bottom of the slope measured
the displacements of the facing. Figure 1 schematically de-
picts a model and photograph, with transducers mounted on
the facing. Cu = 1.68, coefficient of curvature Cc = 1.11, specific grav-
The five models were built to enable investigation of the ity Gs = 2.64, maximum dry unit weight d(max) =
effects of four important characteristics on the behavior of 16.3 kN/m3, and minimum dry unit weight d(min) =
the nailed structure. In the control model, 0.4 m long nails 13.8 kN/m3. According to the Unified Soil Classification
were placed horizontally in the slope that was 80 to the hor- System, the soil was classified as SP. Figure 2 is a plot of
izontal. Table 3 presents details of the five models and the the particle-size distribution. The sand was pluviated into
frequency amplification factor, peak amplitude of accelera- the sand box through a screen hopper with a sieve with
tion during each excitation, critical amplitude of accelera- 2.4 mm opening; the fixed 105 cm falling height maintained
tion, and angles of the bilinear failure surface. No model the relative density of the soil at 61.8%. Six or seven dyed
slopes can stand as arranged without reinforcement by the sand layers, 2 cm thick and separated by a vertical spacing
nails. As shown in Table 3, two nail angles (0 and 30), two of 125 mm, facilitated visual observation of the deformation
nail lengths (0.4 m and 0.5 m), and two frequency amplifica- of the slopes.
tion factors (3.5 and 5.0) were considered to determine the The results of triaxial tests showed that the peak friction
effects of these factors on the behavior of the nailed slope. angle of the sand increased with an increase in the relative
Slopes with different angles (80 and 90 from the horizon- density and decreased with an increase in the confining pres-
tal) were also tested. sure. The relationship between friction angle of sand (), rel-
Uniform silica sand, with subangular particles, was used ative density (Dr), and confining pressure (3) is given as a
as the backfill. The properties of the sand were as follows: functional relation. The functional relation for tested sand
median grain size D50 = 0.31 mm, uniformity coefficient with 40%, 60%, and 80% relative density while subject to

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Hong et al. 1267

Table 3. Summary of model test arrangements and test results.

Angle of bilinear
failure surface
Slope Nail Nail Frequency Input peak Critical Ratio of average
Model angle length inclination amplification amplitude of amplitude of facing displacement
No. () (m) () factor acceleration (g) acceleration (g) to slope height R () B ()
1 80 0.4 0 5.0 0.087, 0.198, 0.445, 0.795 0.024 23 46
0.598, 0.738,
0.910, 0.987
2 80 0.4 30 5.0 0.287, 0.519, 0.818, 0.805 0.023 15 40
0.901, 0.984
3 80 0.5 0 5.0 0.097, 0.188, 0.437, 0.856 0.041 20 42
0.586, 0.862,
0.993, 0.997
4 80 0.4 0 3.5 0.118, 0.238, 0.464, 0.642 0.040 32 43
0.652, 0.805
5 90 0.4 0 5.0 0.098, 0.221, 0.474, 0.530 0.042 37 51

Fig. 2. Particle-size distribution of test sand. Fig. 3. History of acceleration in an eastwest direction at obser-
vatory station TCU074 during the Chi-Chi earthquake. apeak,
peak acceleration.

confining pressures ranging from 10 to 500 kPa can be ex- of 1 Hz while subject to confining pressures ranging from 50
pressed as to 200 kPa. These soil parameters are given by
[3] = 30.81 + 13.38Dr 4.15Dr log(3/Pa) [5] Ed = 32 + 20.25Dr + 20.59(3/Pa)
where Pa is the atmospheric pressure. Lade and Lee (1976) + 18.8Dr(3/Pa)
suggested that the friction angle of sand under plane strain and
conditions, ps, be modified from a triaxial test using the fol-
lowing equation: [6] = 7.15 1.09(3 /Pa)

[4] ps = 1.5tx 17 (for tx > 34) where Ed is the elastic modulus of the sand under dynamic
loading (in MPa), and is the damping ratio. The elastic
where tx is the friction angle of sand under triaxial test con- modulus of the sand and the damping ratio obtained from
ditions. the tenth hysteresis loop are Ed = 50120 MPa and = 4%
The results of a cyclic triaxial test indicated that the elas- 7%, respectively. At the mid-height of the 0.7 m high model
tic modulus of the sand under dynamic loading was a func- slope (vertical stress v = 5.34 kPa, horizontal stress h =
tion of the confining pressure and relative density and that 1.65 kPa), the peak internal frictional angle, elastic modulus
the damping ratio was a function of the confining pressure under dynamic loading, and damping ratio are = 43.7,
and was independent of relative density. The cyclic triaxial Ed = 45.04 MPa, and = 7.1%. At the mid-height of a 6 m
tests were carried out for sand with 40%, 60%, and 80% rel- high prototype slope (v = 45.75 kPa, h = 15.68 kPa), the
ative density, with a sinusoidal loading having a frequency peak internal frictional angle, elastic modulus under dynamic

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Fig. 4. Fourier spectrum of acceleration in an eastwest direction Fig. 5. Typical history of input acceleration (a) and the corre-
at observatory station TCU074 during the Chi-Chi earthquake. sponding facing displacements (model 1) at 40, 320, and
600 mm above the toe (b).

loading, and damping ratio are = 41.1, Ed = 49.50 MPa,

and = 7%.
Figure 3 is a plot of the time history of the acceleration in
the eastwest direction at observatory station TCU074 at the
time of the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake. These data were used
in the unidirectional (horizontal) shaking table test. The peak
ground acceleration (PGA) measured 0.588g over a period
of 90 s during the earthquake. Figure 4 is a plot of the Fou-
rier amplitude of the earthquake in the frequency domain,
and the predominant frequency is 1.07 Hz. To ensure similar
dynamic responses between the reduced-scale model and the
prototype-scale structure, Kagawa (1978) claimed that the
frequencies of the model and the prototype followed the re-
[7] m / p = 0.75
where is the ratio of prototype slope height to model slope
height; and m and p are the excitation frequencies of the
model and prototype, respectively. The durations of the
earthquake applied to all models, except model 4, were com-
pressed by a frequency amplification factor of five (to 18 s),
so a model frequency of 5.35 Hz corresponded to a fre-
quency of 1.07 Hz for a 6 m high prototype. A series of con-
secutive excitations of the same seismic history was applied Figure 5b is a typical displacementtime curve. Measure-
to each model, and these excitations were referred to as seis- ments of peak acceleration from an accelerometer located on
mic sequences by Tufenkjian and Vucetic (2000); the ampli- the platform and two embedded in soil at 70 mm and
tude of acceleration was increased between consecutive 500 mm below the crest showed that accelerations were not
seismic sequences until significant soil movement was ob- uniform throughout the soil mass. Regression from all tests
served. The measuring devices were observed and adjusted reveals that the acceleration amplifications are 1.24 and 1.28
at the end of each seismic sequence. A few minutes sepa- at the two embedded accelerometer locations (Fig. 6). The
rated each excitation sequence. seismic accelerations used in the following discussion are
those measured from the platform. Figure 7 shows the nor-
Test results malized accumulated displacements of the facing with
height of the slope at every measured level during each se-
Figure 5 is a plot of the relationship between the input quence. The displacement of the facing at every measured
acceleration time history and the displacement responses level generally increases as the model is subject to increased
of the facing at heights of 40, 320, and 600 mm above the acceleration. The outward movement of the toe shows trans-
toe of model 1 during the fourth seismic sequence. This plot lation of the entire slope mass; the upper soil mass exhibits
is representative of the seismic response of all slope models. greater outward displacement than the lower soil mass, indi-
The period of an apparent outward displacement is consis- cating rocking of the slopes. All model slopes rock in re-
tent with the dominant period of excitation, between 7 and sponse to the early loading sequences. During the later
10 s measured from the beginning of a seismic sequence. sequences, model 1 predominantly exhibits translation with

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Hong et al. 1269

Fig. 6. Response peak acceleration in the soil mass versus input (2) Seismic resistance phase All nailed slopes undergo
peak acceleration. considerable deformation in this phase, in which the
nailed slopes are subjected to an excitation, with peak
amplitude of acceleration from 0.3g to the critical value.
(3) Incipient collapse phase When the peak amplitude of
acceleration exceeds the critical value, any further in-
crease in the amplitude of acceleration greatly displaces
the slope. In this phase, all models exhibit substantial
deformation and clear signs of slip. Nailed slopes exhib-
ited no immediate collapse, however, even when sub-
jected to strong acceleration, revealing the ductile
character of the resistance of the nailed structure.
Table 3 lists the critical amplitudes of acceleration and
corresponding ratios of average facing displacement to slope
height for each model. The critical amplitude of acceleration
can be used as an indicator of the seismic resistance of a
nailed slope.
Excess slope deformation was common among all models
during the seismic sequences in the incipient collapse phase.
No broken nails or facing were detected, however, implying
that the pullout of nails causes final collapse for all models.
The failure patterns of all models are such that a bilinear
surface is used to delineate the failure surface. Figure 9
a little rocking, and the other models exhibit a combination shows photographs of the slopes after all seismic sequences
of translation and rocking. Some models exhibit a greater have been applied and sketches of the initial and final con-
horizontal displacement in the middle part of the facing than figurations of all models. The dashed lines in Fig. 9 repre-
in other parts; models 2, 4, and 5 exhibited a significant ten- sent the boundary of the displaced slope, and the dashdot
dency to outward convex displacement. The results of finite lines delineate slip surfaces. In each case, the slip surface
element modeling (Segrestin and Bastick 1988; Cai and propagates from the toe into the soil mass, following a shal-
Bathurst 1995) have shown that the seismic response of re- low slope, and intercepts the lowest one or two rows of
inforced soil walls is a function of peak ground acceleration, nails. The soil mass enclosed by the lower slip surface line
peak velocity, duration of the ground motion, frequency and the line that connects the ends of the upper rows of
content, distance from the source, and other factors. There- nails, as shown in Fig. 9, is defined as the reinforced wedge.
fore, other base excitation records could generate other fail- From the point of intersection, the slip surface propagates
ure mechanisms; as currently presented, only one site farther into the soil mass, at a steeper slope. The soil mass
characteristic (i.e., peak horizontal ground acceleration) is behind the reinforced wedge and above the steeper slip line
considered. is defined as the nonreinforced wedge. The observed failure
mechanism is similar to that observed in reinforced walls by
Behavior of model nailed slopes Nagel (1985) but differs from that associated with the arch
For all slopes, the average displacement of the facing in- shape observed by Tufenkjian and Vucetic (2000) in a test of
creased with an increase in the amplitude of the base accel- a nailed wall in a centrifuge. Table 3 shows the slip surface
eration; the facing displacement of nailed models subjected angles R and B at the base of the reinforced and
to a small acceleration was moderate, whereas that of nailed unreinforced wedges, respectively.
models subjected to a critically large amplitude of accelera-
tion was dramatic. Figure 8 shows plots of an exponential Effect of nail inclination
relationship between the input amplitude of acceleration and The critical amplitudes of acceleration for models 1 and 2
the corresponding average facing displacement at the end of are 0.795g and 0.805g, respectively, showing that nail angle
each seismic sequence. The amplitude of acceleration, given only weakly affects the seismic resistance of a nailed slope.
by the point of intersection between two straight lines ex- The magnitude and type of movement of the slope facing
trapolated from the two extremes of the exponential curve, is vary with the angle of inclination of the nails, however. The
defined as the critical amplitude of acceleration. Therefore, accumulated facing displacements at each of five monitored
the behavior of the slope is categorized by three stages, iden- locations in model 1 vary only a little, indicating the pre-
tified by the average displacement of facing at the various dominant displacement mechanism was translation, and the
amplitudes of acceleration. outward convex tendency displayed by model 2 is evidence
(1) Stable phase In all five models, the average facing of a combination of translation and rocking motion. Fig-
displacements are less than 0.5% of the slope height ures 7a and 7b indicate that, at around the same amplitude
when the peak amplitude of acceleration is less than of acceleration, the accumulated facing displacement at
0.3g. No slope can stand without the reinforcement of 40 mm above the toe declines as the angle of inclination of
the nails, so the results show that nailing the soil sup- the nail changes from 0 to 30. Both angles R and B of
presses slope deformation when the nailed slope is sub- the failure plane decline as the angle of inclination of the
jected to a moderate earthquake. nails is increased from 0 to 30.

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Fig. 7. Normalized accumulated displacements of the facing at the end of each seismic sequence: (a) model 1; (b) model 2; (c) model
3; (d) model 4; (e) model 5.

Effect of length of nails both models are similar, when the peak amplitude of
The length of the nails in models 1 and 3 was 0.4 m and acceleration is around 0.59g, and the average lateral dis-
0.5 m, respectively, corresponding to ratios of length of nails placements of the facings of both models are less than 1% of
to height of slope of 0.57 and 0.71, which are within the the height of the slope. Reinforcement of the slope by longer
range used in practice (length ratio = 0.51.0). Figure 10 nails did not significantly reduce the displacement of the
shows plots of facing displacements for both models in re- facing under moderate excitation. The average facing dis-
sponse to three seismic sequences. The slope movements for placements were 3.1% and 5.2% of the slope heights for the

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Hong et al. 1271

Fig. 8. Average facing displacement at the end of each seismic sequence: (a) model 1; (b) model 2; (c) model 3; (d) model 4; (e)
model 5.

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Fig. 9. Photographs of final model slopes and sketches of initial and final soil mass configurations: (a) model 1; (b) model 2;
(c) model 3; (d) model 4; (e) model 5.

two models, however, when the amplitude of acceleration the facing during strong excitation. Figure 10 indicates that
increased to approximately 0.99g, implying that increasing at an approximately fixed amplitude of acceleration, the fac-
the length of nails significantly reduces the displacement of ing displacement at 40 mm above the toe decreases as the

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Hong et al. 1273

Fig. 9 (concluded).

Fig. 10. Facing displacement for models 1 and 3 due to three length of the nails increases; a longer nail more tightly
seismic sequences. constrains the motion of the slope toe under strong seismic
excitation. The critical amplitude of acceleration increases
with an increase in the length of the nails. The angles R and
B decrease as the length of the nails increases.

Effect of frequency amplification factor

Figure 11 is a plot of the relationship between the ampli-
tude of acceleration and the facing displacements at 10 cm
below the crest and 4 cm above the toe of the slope for mod-
els 1 and 4, in which the frequency amplification factors
were 5.0 and 3.5, respectively, corresponding to 18.0 and
25.7 s of excitation. These findings show that the nailed
slope under an excitation with smaller frequency amplifica-
tion factor results in a greater horizontal displacement and a
significant reduction in the critical amplitude of acceleration.
A smaller frequency amplification factor of a nailed slope
subjected to excitation corresponds to a significantly larger
angle R and a reduced seismic resistance. It should be

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1274 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 42, 2005

Fig. 11. Peak amplitude of acceleration in the seismic sequence 50 Hz. A search for the natural frequency is also carried out
versus the corresponding facing displacement for various fre- by comparing the facing displacement while the elastic
quency amplification factors: (a) 100 mm below the crest; model is subject to different cyclic frequencies. The greatest
(b) 40 mm above the toe. displacement occurs when the cyclic frequency is 59 Hz.
Both predicted natural frequencies are in the range sug-
gested by Richardson and Lee (1975), who reported that the
period of the reinforced wall ranges between 0.020H and
0.033H, i.e., natural frequency in the range of 4371 Hz for
a 0.7 m high wall.

Effect of slope angle

Results of tests on models 1 and 5 show that a steep
nailed slope has less seismic resistance; the critical ampli-
tudes of acceleration are 0.795g and 0.530g for models 1
and 5, respectively. The models exhibited significantly dif-
ferent facing movement patterns (Figs. 7a, 7e); a nailed
slope at 80 to the horizontal (model 1) exhibited predomi-
nantly translation, whereas a slope at a 90 angle exhibited a
combination of translation and rocking (model 5). At about
the same amplitude of acceleration, the facing displacement
of model 5 was greater than that of model 1. The much
higher R angle for model 5 than for model 1 shows that the
failure mechanism varies from translation to overturning as
the angle of the slope increases from 80 (model 1) to 90
(model 5).

Pseudo-static analysis approach

The pseudo-static analysis extended from limit force equi-
librium analyses is commonly used to design earthquake-
resistant retaining structures. A number of investigators have
assumed that a bilinear surface delineates the failure surface
(Stocker et al. 1979, the German method; CALTRANS
1991, the Snail program; Byrne 1991, the Goldnail program;
and Schlosser 1984, the TALREN program). A pseudo-static
approach, considering the failure wedge pattern observed in
laboratory model tests, is presented to evaluate the earth-
quake resistance of slopes reinforced by nails of various
lengths and at different angles. The results are compared
with those obtained by Schlosser (1984) and with the experi-
mental data in this investigation.
The method of Schlosser (1984) includes two mechanisms
of soil-inclusion interaction (i.e., the soil-inclusion friction
and passive normal soil reaction on the nail). The solution
allows for several definitions of the failure criteria. The
multicriteria analysis is proposed to evaluate the stability of
the nailed slope with respect to four potential failure modes:
shear failure of the soil along the potential failure surface,
pullout failure of the nail, nail breakage by either excessive
bending or the combined effect of tension and shear forces,
noted, however, that a smaller frequency amplification fac- and creep of the soil from lateral pressure on the nail. The
tor corresponds to a longer duration of shaking, and part of computer program TALREN is derived from the method of
the foregoing results may be referred to excitation duration. slices and taking into account the multicriteria. TALREN
Numerical analysis by Bathurst and Hatami (1998) indicated recommends a safety factor of 1.0 for tensile strength of the
that the predominant frequency significantly affects the de- inclusion, 1.5 for soil shear strength, 1.5 for soil-inclusion
formation of a reinforced retaining wall under dynamic load- friction, and 2.0 for lateral earth pressure on the inclusion.
ing. Wall deformation and reinforcement tension increase The safety factor of 1.0 for soil shear strength is chosen
rapidly when the applied excitation frequency approaches when the result from the method of Schlosser is compared
the natural frequency of a reinforced wall. Using the numeri- with that obtained from the proposed method.
cal analysis method proposed by Kirzhner and Rosenhouse The slip surface developed in model tests was observed,
(2000), the natural frequency of the models is determined as and the failure surfaces of nailed slopes were outlined using

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Hong et al. 1275

Fig. 12. Nailed slope at failure. Fig. 13. Free body diagrams of the two wedges.

a bilinear boundary (Fig. 12). The soil mass above the

bilinear line is divided into reinforced and unreinforced (2) The friction angle at the interface of the two wedges
wedges. Close nail spacing in the reinforced wedge leads to equals the friction angle of the soil (BR = ps).
coherence and a shallower failure surface slope beneath the (3) The friction angles at the interfaces of the reinforced
wedge. An active zone developed behind the reinforced zone and unreinforced wedges and the intact soil mass equal
with a steeper failure surface slope and is defined as the the friction angle of the soil (R = ps, B = ps).
unreinforced soil wedge. The proposed approach involves a Figure 13 depicts the free body diagram for both wedges;
simplification of the traditional two-wedge method in which subscripts R and B represent the reinforced and unreinforced
only forces are balanced, and the analysis is based on the wedges, respectively. The resultant force at the base of the
following three assumptions: unreinforced wedge, RB, and that between two wedges, PBR,
(1) The slip line beneath the reinforced zone develops from can be determined from the force equilibrium of the
the toe and meets two slip lines at point C (see Fig. 12); unreinforced wedge in the horizontal and vertical directions:
one is the slip line beneath the unreinforced zone and
the other is the linear surface that connects the buried C B cos B + PBR cos BR + khWB
ends of all nails. This slip line may intercept lower rows [8] RB =
of nails. sin( B B)

WB sin( B B) + khWB cos ( B B) C B cos B

[9] PBR =

cos BR + B + B

where RB is the resultant force at the base of the unreinforced wedge, CB is the cohesive force at the base of the unreinforced
wedge, PBR is the resultant force at the boundary between the two wedges, BR is the friction angle at the boundary between
the two wedges, B is the angle of the resultant force RB with respect to the base of the unreinforced wedge, is the slope an-
gle, kh is the horizontal seismic coefficient (= a/g, where a is the acceleration), WB is the weight of soil in the unreinforced
wedge, and B is the slip surface angle under the unreinforced wedge.
Similarly, the resultant force at the base of the reinforced wedge, RR, and the friction force at the soilnail interface re-
quired to maintain the equilibrium of the reinforced wedge, Treq, can be obtained from force equilibrium:

Treq cos i + C R cos R khWR PBR cos BR +
[10] RR =
sin( R R )

WR sin( R R ) + PBR cos BR + R + R C R cos R + khWR cos( R R )
[11] Treq =
cos(i + R R )

where RR is the resultant force at the base of the reinforced wedge, Treq is the friction force at the soilnail interface required
to maintain equilibrium of the reinforced wedge, i is the angle of inclination of the nails, CR is the cohesive force at the base
of the reinforced wedge, R is the angle of the resultant force RR with respect to the base of the reinforced wedge, WR is the
weight of soil in the reinforced wedge, and R is the slip surface angle under the reinforced wedge.

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1276 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 42, 2005

Table 4. Comparison of the critical seismic coefficients obtained from model tests with analytical predicted values.
Critical seismic Angle of bilinear failure surface
coefficient using proposed approach
Slope Nail Nail Critical amplitude of
Model angle length inclination acceleration from Proposed Schlossers
No. () (m) () model test (g) approach method R () B ()
1 80 0.4 0 0.795 0.426 0.480 26 50
2 80 0.4 30 0.805 0.579 0.630 29 43
3 80 0.5 0 0.856 0.519 0.590 21 46
4 80 0.4 0 0.642 0.426a 0.480a 26a 50a
5 90 0.4 0 0.530 0.361 0.425 28 58
Using the analytical results of model 1.

Fig. 14. Safety factor versus horizontal seismic coefficient for the model tests that pertain to the arrangements of nails are
various arrangements of nails and slope angles. presented as follows.
Figure 14 is a plot of the safety factor against the horizon-
tal seismic coefficient for all models. The safety factor of
both nailed slopes with nail angles of 0 (model 1) and 30
(model 2) exceeds 2 when the horizontal seismic coefficient
is less than 0.2. For a given horizontal seismic coefficient,
model 2 has a larger safety factor than model 1, indicating
that inclining the nails increases the stability of the slope.
The critical horizontal seismic coefficients are 0.426 and
0.579, respectively, at these two angles of inclination of the
nails, implying that the seismic resistance increases with an
increase in the angle of inclination of the nails.
The safety factor increases considerably as the length of
the nail increases from 0.57H (model 1) to 0.71H (model 3).
The critical horizontal seismic coefficient increases from
0.426 for a slope with nails of length 0.57H to 0.519 for a
slope with nails of length 0.71H. Analytical results also indi-
cate that, during strong excitation, a slope reinforced by
The safety factor is defined as the minimum value of shorter inclined nails will have a greater safety factor than
(i) the ratio of the resistance of the nails to pullout in the re- one reinforced by longer horizontal nails.
sistant zone to the friction force at the soilnail interface re- Clearly, the safety factor decreases as the angle of the
quired to maintain the equilibrium of reinforced wedge, and slope increases. The critical horizontal seismic coefficient
(ii) the ratio of the tensile strength of the nails to the friction decreases from 0.426 at a slope angle of 80 (model 1) to
force at the soilnail interface required to maintain the equi- 0.361 at a slope angle of 90 (model 5).
librium of reinforced wedge: Table 4 compares the experimentally determined critical
seismic coefficient with the coefficients determined using
Tpullout Fy
[12] FS = min , the proposed approach and the method of Schlosser (1984).
Treq Treq The trends obtained using both analytical methods are simi-
lar; however, the predictions of the proposed approach are
where Tpullout is the pullout resistance of a nail in the resis- more conservative than those obtained using the method of
tant zone. Schlosser. For all slopes at an angle of 80 (models 1, 2, and
Assuming that a nailed slope has a slip surface angle R 3), the two angles of the bilinear failure surface, R and B,
with a known arrangement of nails and horizontal seismic obtained using the proposed approach, exceed those ob-
coefficient, the maximum resultant force PBR,max can be ob- tained in the model tests. For the slope at an angle of 90
tained by substituting trial B angles into eq. [9]. The fric- (model 5), R according to the proposed approach is lower
tion force at the soilnail interface required to maintain the than the experimental value, whereas B is higher. Notably,
equilibrium of the reinforced wedge Treq can be determined no effect of the frequency amplification factor on the safety
by substituting PBR,max into eq. [11]. The minimum safety factor and on the critical seismic coefficient is evident when
factor can be derived using eq. [12] by substituting trial R the analytical method is used (models 1 and 4). Figure 15
values. The critical horizontal seismic coefficient is defined presents the experimentally observed and predicted slip sur-
as the horizontal seismic coefficient that corresponds to a faces using both analytical methods.
safety factor of 1.0. In practical design by pseudo-static analysis, the input
The properties of the soil and nail materials and the con- seismic force is typically determined by reducing by some
figuration of the model slopes were input into the proposed factor the peak seismic acceleration to be resisted during the
pseudo-static analysis for validation. Numerical results of lifetime of the slope. Figure 16 is a plot of a regression of

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Hong et al. 1277

Fig. 15. Observed and predicted failure surfaces on model slopes: (a) model 1; (b) model 2; (c) model 3; (d) model 5.

Fig. 16. Comparison of predicted and experimentally obtained coefficient to the critical seismic amplitude is 0.63, which is
critical seismic coefficients. different from the value (0.5) suggested by the US Federal
Highway Administration (Byrne et al. 1998) for designing a
nailed structure to resist external sliding.

The effects of the angle and length of nails and the fre-
quency amplification factor on the seismic resistance and
failure mechanism of steep nailed slopes, and the responses
of slopes at various angles, were investigated by conducting
shaking table tests of five model nailed slopes corresponding
to a 6 m high prototype. A pseudo-static stability analysis,
based on the limit equilibrium approach and the assumption
of a two-wedge failure mechanism, was presented to analyze
the seismic resistance of a nailed slope. For all models, the
average facing displacements are less than 0.5% of the slope
height when the peak amplitude of acceleration is less than
0.3g, indicating that soil nailing suppresses the deformation
of a slope in a moderate earthquake. A slope is dramatically
deformed when the peak amplitude of acceleration exceeds
the critical amplitude of acceleration. Nailed slopes did not
collapse immediately, however, even when subjected to
strong acceleration, revealing the ductile character of the re-
sistance of the nailed structure. The important conclusions
drawn from the model tests and the analytical predictions are
the critical seismic amplitudes obtained in the model tests as follows.
with the critical seismic coefficients obtained by the pro- (1) The nail angle only weakly affects the seismic resis-
posed two-wedge approach. The ratio of the critical seismic tance of a nailed slope. The magnitude and type of fac-

2005 NRC Canada

1278 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 42, 2005

ing displacement vary with variations in the inclination 82, Federal Highway Administration, US Department of Trans-
angle of the nails, however; a slope reinforced with hor- portation, Washington, DC.
izontal nails exhibits predominantly translational mo- Byrne, R.J., Cotton, D., Porterfield, J., Wolschlag, C., and
tion, and a slope with inclined nails exhibits combined Ueblacker, G. 1998. Manual for design and construction moni-
translation and rocking. toring of soil nail walls. Federal Highway Administration, US
(2) Increasing the length of nails increased the seismic re- Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, Technical Re-
sistance of the slope. Lengthening the reinforcing nails port FHWA-SA-96-069R.
Cai, Z., and Bathurst, R.J. 1995. Seismic response analysis of
does not reduce the deformation of the slope subjected
geosynthetic reinforced soil segmental retaining walls by finite
to a moderate excitation but does reduce the deforma-
element method. Computers and Geotechnics, 17(4): 523546.
tion when the slope is subjected to a strong excitation.
CALTRANS. 1991. A users manual for the SNAIL program. Cali-
(3) Experimental results show that a nailed slope subjected fornia Department of Transportation (CALTRANS), Division of
to an excitation with a smaller frequency amplification New Technology, Material & Research, Office of Geotechnical
factor exhibits a greater horizontal displacement and Engineering, Sacramento, Calif.
lower seismic resistance. An excitation with a smaller Gassler, G. 1988. Soil-nailing theoretical basis and practical de-
frequency amplification factor corresponds to a longer sign. In Proceedings of the International Geotechnical Sympo-
excitation of lower frequency, however; the effects on sium on Theory and Practice of Earth Reinforcement, Fukuoka,
facing displacement and the seismic resistance may fol- Kyushu, Japan, October 1988. Edited by N. Miura, H. Ochiai,
low from changes in the frequency and (or) duration of and T. Yamanouchi. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, The Nether-
excitation. lands. pp.283288.
(4) The results of tests of models 1 and 5 show that a nailed Hussin, J.D., Abramson, L.W., Addison, M.B., Baez, J., Bruce, D.,
slope with a steeper angle has a lower seismic resis- Burke, G.K. et al. 1997. Ground reinforcement. In Ground im-
tance, which declines drastically as the angle of the provement, ground reinforcement, and ground treatment:
slope is increased from 80 to 90. developments 19871997. Edited by V.R. Schaefer, L.W.
(5) Predictions of the seismic resistance made using the Abramson, J.C. Drumheller, J.D. Hussin, and K.D. Sharp.
proposed approach are more conservative than those of American Society of Civil Engineers, Geotechnical Special Pub-
Schlosser (1984). A regression analysis, involving the lication 69, pp. 72305.
results of model tests and the proposed two-wedge ap- Iai, S. 1989. Similitude for shaking table tests on soilstructure
proach, indicates that the ratio of the critical seismic co- fluid model in 1g gravitational field. Soils and Foundations,
efficient to the critical seismic amplitude of 0.63 is 29(1): 105118.
different from the value suggested by the US Federal Kagawa, T. 1978. On the similitude in model vibration tests of
earth-structures. Proceedings of the Japanese Society of Civil
Highway Administration (Byrne et al. 1998) in design-
Engineers, 275: 6977. [In Japanese.]
ing a nailed structure to resist external sliding.
Kirzhner, F., and Rosenhouse, G. 2000. Numerical analysis of tun-
nel dynamic response to earth motions. Tunnelling and Under-
Acknowledgements ground Space Technology, 15(3): 249258.
Koseki, J., Munaf, Y., Tatsuoka, F., Tateyama, M., Kojima, K., and
The authors would like to thank the National Science Sato, T. 1998. Shaking and tilt table tests of geosynthetic-
Council of the Republic of China for financially supporting reinforced soil and conventional-type retaining walls.
this research under Contract NSC90-2211-E-032-027. Tests Geosynthetics International, 5(12): 7396.
were carried out at the National Center for Research on Lade, P.V., and Lee, K.L. 1976. Engineering properties of soils.
Earthquake Engineering, Taiwan. The opportunity to con- University of California, Los Angeles, Calif., Report UCLA-
duct these tests is gratefully acknowledged. ENG-7652.
Matsuo, O., Tsutsumi, T., Yokoyama, K., and Saito, Y. 1998.
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