Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 1629–1645 | Cite as

Debris flow impact on flexible barrier: effects of debris-barrier stiffness and flow aspect ratio

  • Dong-ri Song
  • Gordon G. D. ZhouEmail author
  • Clarence Edward Choi
  • Yun Zheng


Conventionally, flexible barriers are rated based on their ability to resist a free-falling boulder with a particular input energy. However, there is still no well-accepted approach for evaluating performance of flexible barrier under debris flow impact. In this study, a large-nonlinear finite-element model was used to back-analyze centrifuge tests to discern the effects of impact material type, barrier stiffness, and flow aspect ratio (flow height to flow length) on the reaction force between the impacting medium and flexible barrier. Results show that, in contrast to flexible barriers for resisting rockfall, the normal impact force induced by the highly frictional and viscous debris is insensitive to barrier stiffness. This is because the elongated distributions of kinetic energy are mainly dissipated by the internal and boundary shearing, and only a small portion is forwarded to the barrier. Furthermore, a new stiffness number is proposed to characterize the equivalent stiffness between a debris flow or a boulder, and a flexible barrier. Under the circumstance of an extremely elongated debris flow event, i.e., low aspect ratio, the load on a barrier is dominated by the static component and thus not sensitive to the barrier stiffness.


Debris flow Flexible barrier Impact Stiffness Flow aspect ratio 


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The authors acknowledge the support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51809261, 11672318, and 51709052). The authors would also like to acknowledge the financial support from the Theme-based Research Grant T22-603/15N and the General Research Fund 16209717 provided by the Research Grants Council of the Government of Hong Kong SAR, China. Finally, the authors are grateful for the financial support by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute (HKJCDPRI18EG01).

Supplementary material

11629_2018_5314_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (165 kb)
Debris flow impact on flexible barrier: effects of debris-barrier stiffness and flow aspect ratio


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Mountain Hazards and Earth Surface Process/Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringHong Kong University of Science and TechnologyKowloon, Hong Kong SARChina
  4. 4.The HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced StudyKowloon, Hong Kong SARChina
  5. 5.State Key Laboratory of Geomechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Institute of Rock and Soil MechanicsChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina

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