Graduation of Ines Ben M’hamed: The Strength of Clay in a Test Rig

Ines Ben M’hamed defending her graduation thesis
Ines Ben M’hamed defending her graduation thesis

Last week, Ines Ben M’hamed graduated with good grades on her bachelor thesis. She did a project with us at the Research Department of Damen Dredging Equipment in Nijkerk. The topic was to investigate the strengthening of clay when it is subjected to shear. This deformation is a common phenomenon when cutting clay and as such a contribution to my own PhD project1 and consequently improving our products for these applications. A common problem with clay is clogging up the cutter head, but it is also not completely understood why the clay is behaving as it does and how much power is involved for the various regimes.

Fully covered cutter head in sticky clay

The effects of deformation on the behaviour of clay are much more pronounced than e.g. sand or rock. Rock does not deform, it just breaks. Sand deforms, but as it basically only involves hydraulic and mechanical forces, it is much better understood. Clay particles have wider range of interactions. Next to the hydraulic and mechanical forces, they may experience: adhesion and cohesion, molecular forces, electrostatic charges and chemical bonding in the higher temperature ranges. The general effect is that as the particles in the original situation may have a weak structure, the external disturbance causes the particles to get jostled around and all the mentioned interaction get a chance to hook on to each other.

Shear strengthening due to organising particles
Shear strengthening due to organising particles

The result is, that the particles get oriented and therewith a better opportunity to bond. The effect is a strengthening of the shear stress. As this strengthening is dependent on the strain rate, it is this strain rate, that is of interest for the prediction of the cutting forces. There are many publications available on what the consequences are of the strain rate on the Specific Cutting Energy. A well known model is by Sape Miedema2.

Strain Rate Effect on the Specific Cutting Energy (Credit: SA Miedema)
Strain Rate Effect on the Specific Cutting Energy (Credit: SA Miedema)

The trick with this model is, it depends on this strain rate effect. The sole experimental data available is by Hatamura and Chijiwa3 in 1975. They tested one type of clay on the three governing parameters: static shear strength, dynamic shear strength and the strain rate. There hasn’t been hardly any further experimental investigation into this problem. And as we regularly receive samples and soil reports that we can not test on these properties, it is also hard to predict the performance of our cutter heads. So, we decided to build our own cutting test rig.

Design of Ines’ cutting test rig
Design of Ines’ cutting test rig

This cutting test rig resembles the specifications to the original test rig of Hatamura. This will allow us to verify the parameters in the model ourselves. We also prepared the design with various option to enable us to allow assessment of clay samples that we receive from clients and service engineers. We hope to provide our customers with additional service in this problem. Currently, the parts of the test rig arrived very late and Ines was not able to include the build in her project. Respect for the good grade she received for her thesis. However, the parts are there and provide and excellent opportunity for the next graduation student to do their project with our company. Who dares?

Available parts for the cutting test rig
Available parts for the cutting test rig

References

  1. Personal Announcement: Going Back To School To Cut Some Clay, Discover Dredging
  2. The Delft Sand Clay & Rock Cutting Model, SA Miedema
  3. Analysis Of the Mechanism of Soil : 1st Report. Cutting Patterns of Soils, Hatamura & Chijiwa

See also