Yap, Fook Liong
The application of the discrete element method to integral bridge backfill.
University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment,
Expansion joints and bearings of conventional bridges are easily damaged and this commonly incurs high maintenance costs. The concept of the integral bridge was to reduce the maintenance costs by removing those joints. However, the thermally induced expansion-contraction of the bridge superstructure is transferred through the integral bridge’s abutments due to lack of expansion joints. Seasonal thermal cyclic displacement of the integral abutment cyclically loads the bridge backfill material. It has been observed that the lateral earth pressure behind an integral abutment increases as a result of the cyclic loading. Previous studies attribute this increase in lateral pressure to the densification of the backfill material. Granular flow was suggested to have occurred displacing the particles to form a denser and therefore stiffer matrix. An alternative suggestion was that the particles reoriented to form a stiffer matrix that wasn’t necessarily denser. The objective of this research is to explore the behaviour of integral abutment backfill at a micromechanical level by utilising the discrete element method (DEM) and possibly verify these suggested causes of earth pressure build-up behind an integral abutment. DEM models of four granular materials consisting of different particle shapes were tested with 100 cycles of strain. The results indicate that densification occurred for all samples, but the build-up of horizontal pressure did not occur for the more rounded samples. It was further suggested that the particle shape in combination with the change in coordination number closely replicate the behaviour of the sample’s horizontal stress. Particle reorientation and displacements were observed to be small for samples of non-circular particles. Particle activity is concentrated in the smallest particles within the material. It is concluded that the build-up of horizontal stress is caused by the increase in particle contacts due to particle reorientation and not densification.
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