X-ray micro-computed tomography for 3D characterization of particle kinematics representing water-induced loess micro-fabric collapse

B. Yu, W. Fan, J.H. Fan, T.A. Dijkstra, Y.N. Wei, T.T. Wei - School of Geology Engineering and Geomatics, Chang’an University, Shaanxi, China; Key Laboratory of Western China’s Mineral Resources and Geological Engineering, Shaanxi, China; School of Architecture, Loughborough University, UK

3D characterisation of the particle kinematics during loess collapse is performed based on X-ray micro-computed tomography.

Particle displacements and rotations associated with the collapse are determined.

The volumetric strain is shown to be significantly heterogeneous at single-particle scale.

The evolution of particle-to-particle contacts is found to be much more complex than previously stated.


An apparatus is specially designed to perform collapse tests on loess specimens of several millimeters in size and to capture, using X-ray tomography, particle-scale microfabric features of the sample in initial, loaded and flooded (i.e. collapsed) states. (…) Individual particles within the specimen in the initial and deformed configurations are identified and tracked through an iterative segmentation technique and the particle tracking method ‘ID-track’. This allowed determination of particle displacement and rotation. The displacement field within the collapsed sample is found to be less uniform compared to that within the unwetted sample under loading. Coefficient of heterogeneity is defined to quantify the level of non-uniformity of the particle displacements within the deformed sample, revealing higher heterogeneity in the deformation of the collapsed sample compared to that of the unwetted
sample under loading. (…) The influence of porosity on the collapse process is quantified significant heterogeneous volumetric strains are observed at the single particle scale. It is also shown that the evolution of particle-to-particle contacts is much more complex than previously stated.

The micron-scale investigations of individual particle kinematics following loading and wetting offer exciting new avenues for visualization and an enhanced capability for quantification of loess collapse processes.