A challenge when using CPT data for liquefaction evaluation is that the CPT data are collected at very close intervals, typically ever 5cm (2 inches), whereas all existing CPT-based liquefaction methodologies are based on average CPT results (typically averaged over several feet). Although it is possible to evaluate liquefaction potential using average CPT data, this would loose much of the stratigraphic detail contained in the full CPT profile and would introduce uncertainties regarding the appropriate averaging interval. Hence, most engineers use the near continuous CPT profile to evaluate liquefaction.
During penetration the cone tip senses ahead and behind due to the essentially spherical zone of influence. Hence, when pushing a cone through a sand layer, the cone tip will sense a softer clay layer before the cone actually reaches the clay and likewise when pushing in a clay layer the cone will sense a stiffer sand layer before reaching the sand layer. The distance over which the cone senses an interface between different soil types is a function of soil stiffness, with stiffer soils having a larger zone of influence. What appears on the CPT profile is a rapid variation of measured tip stress (qt) through these transition zones (i.e. either sand to clay or visa-versa). The CPT data collected through these transition zones is not truly representative of the soil, since the data are ‘in transition’ from either a stiff to soft layer or visa-versa. When the CPT data in these transition zones are processed through the liquefaction algorithms, the output is not representative of the actual soil. This often results in a miss-classification of ‘liquefaction’ with a resultant volumetric strain and larger cumulative post-earthquake settlement. When a thin sand layer is located within a softer clay deposit the cone data are influenced by the two transition zones (i.e. the top and bottom interface boundaries), resulting in the ‘thin layer’ effect.
I have recently assisted on the development of a new software program, called CLiq (http://www.geologismiki.gr/) that attempts to remove the CPT data in these transition zones so that a better more correct liquefaction evaluation is obtained. The algorithm to remove the data in these transition zones is based on the rate of change of the Soil Behavior Type Index, Ic. When the rate of change is rapid and the Ic values are in the range that represents the transition between sands and clays (i.e. approximately 2.0 < Ic < 3.0), the CPT data are most likely within a transition zone between sand and clay. CLiq allows the user to adjust the two main variables (the rate of change of Ic, i.e. delta Ic and the range of Ic) to provide optimum removal of data. The program also shows the user what sections have been removed to allow the user optimum use of their judgment based on the profile and the project requirements (i.e. how conservative you wish to be).
To read more, download the PDF below.