Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 291–303 | Cite as

Approaches to determine the constriction size distribution for understanding filtration phenomena in granular materials

  • E. Vincens
  • K. J. Witt
  • U. Homberg
Review Paper


Granular filters in hydraulically loaded earth structures constitute the ultimate barrier for the blockage of small particles moving through the structure regularly or along concentrated leaks. If filters are inefficient to block small particles several types of internal erosion may be initiated. A corresponding phenomenon appears during suffusion in a wide graded hydraulically loaded fill, when fine particles, embedded in the pore structure of a soil skeleton, are washed out. The cumulative constriction size distribution (CSD) is physically the key property that qualifies the soils retention capability as like a spatial acting sieve. Constrictions are defined as the narrowest sections of channels between larger volumes (pores) within the pore network of granular material, and they are the main obstacles for a small particle to overcome when flowing along pathways. At least three different approaches are available to determine and compute the CSD, i.e., experimental, numerical and analytical methods. The purpose of this review is to present and discuss these methods pointing out their limits, advantages and significance related to internal erosion phenomena.


Granular filter Internal erosion Probability Pore size distribution Porosity Porous media Soil structure Suffusion Tomography 



The first author wants to acknowledge the French Agency of Research (ANR) and the French Network for Civil Engineering and Urbanization (RGCU) for the financial support provided to the national research project ERINOH “internal erosion in hydraulic structures” from which many results presented herein were obtained. The second author wishes to acknowledge the German Research Foundation (DFG) for supporting the research project “Conditions of suffusive erosion phenomena in soils”. Special thanks to Mrs. D. Böttge, Fraunhofergesellschaft ITKS, Dresden, for the photographs of ceramic structures, Fig. 2.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LTDS, UMR CNRS 5513, Ecole Centrale de LyonUniversité de LyonEcully CedexFrance
  2. 2.Faculty of Civil EngineeringBauhaus-Universität WeimarWeimarGermany
  3. 3.Department Visualization and Data AnalysisZuse Institute BerlinBerlin-DahlemGermany

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