Discrete modeling of rock joints with a smooth-joint contact model

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Structural defects such as joints or faults are inherent to almost any rock mass. In many situations those defects have a major impact on slope stability as they can control the possible failure mechanisms. Having a good estimate of their strength then becomes crucial. The roughness of a structure is a major contributor to its strength through two different aspects, i.e. the morphology of the surface (or the shape) and the strength of the asperities (related to the strength of the rock). In the current state of practice, roughness is assessed through idealized descriptions (Patton strength criterion) or through empirical parameters (Barton JRC). In both cases, the multi-dimensionality of the roughness is ignored. In this study, we propose to take advantage of the latest developments in numerical techniques. With 3D photogrammetry and/or laser mapping, practitioners have access to the real morphology of an exposed structure. The derived triangulated surface was introduced into the DEM (discrete element method) code PFC3D to create a synthetic rock joint. The interaction between particles on either side of the discontinuity was described by a smooth-joint model (SJM), hence suppressing the artificial roughness introduced by the particle discretization. Shear tests were then performed on the synthetic rock joint. A good correspondence between strengths predicted by the model and strengths derived from well-established techniques was obtained for the first time. Amongst the benefits of the methodology is the possibility offered by the model to be used in a quantitative way for shear strength estimates, to reproduce the progressive degradation of the asperities upon shearing and to analyze structures of different scales without introducing any empirical relation. © 2013 Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.




Lambert, C., & Coll, C. (2014). Discrete modeling of rock joints with a smooth-joint contact model. Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 6(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrmge.2013.12.003

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