Water-vapor sorption experiments were conducted to quantify bulk volume change of compacted expansive clay specimens resulting from interlayer hydration and dehydration in the crystalline swelling regime. Effects of interlayer cation type and pore fabric are examined by comparing results for natural Na+-smectite and Ca2+-smectite specimens compacted over a range of initial bulk densities. Transitions in interlayer hydration states are reflected in the general shape of the sorption isotherms and corresponding relationships between humidity and volume change. Hysteresis is observed in both the sorption and volume-change response. Volume change for Ca2+-smectite specimens is significantly greater than for Na+-smectite over the entire range of packing densities considered. Loosely compacted specimens result in less volume change for both clays. Results are interpreted in light of a conceptual framework based on previous SEM and TEM observations of particle and pore fabric for Na+ and Ca2+ smectite at high suctions. A pore-scale microstructural model is developed to quantitatively assess changes in interlayer and interparticle void volume during hydration. Modeling suggests that the relatively small volume changes observed for Na+-smectite are attributable to a reduction of interparticle void volume as expanding quasicrystals encroach into surrounding larger-scale pores. Volume change hysteresis is attributed to unrecovered alterations in interparticle fabric required to accommodate the swelling process. The results provide new insight to address volume change upscaling, hysteresis, and the general evolution of bi-modal pore fabric during crystalline swelling.

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