Visualization of the formation and features of soil arching within a piled embankment by discrete element method simulation
Piled embankments are widely used in highway and railway engineering due to their economy and efficiency in overcoming several issues encountered in constructing embankments over weak soils. Soil arching, caused by the pile-subsoil relative displacement (Δs), plays an important role in reducing the embankment load falling on weak soil, however, the fundamental characteristics (e.g., formation and features) of soil arching remain poorly understood.
In this study, a series of discrete element method (DEM) modellings are performed to study the formation and features of soil arching with the variation of Δs in piled embankments with or without geosynthetic reinforcement. Firstly, calibration for the modelling parameters is carried out by comparing the DEM results with the experimental data obtained from the existing literature. Secondly, the analysis of the macroand micro-behaviours is performed in detail.
Finally, a parametric study is conducted in an effort to identify the influences of three key factors on soil arching: the friction coefficient of the embankment fill (f), the embankment height (h), and the pile clear spacing (s−a). Numerical results indicate that Δs is a key factor governing the formation and features of soil arching in embankments. To be specific, soil arching gradually evolves from two inclined shear planes at a small Δs to a hemispherical arch at a relatively large Δs. Then, with a continuous increase in Δs, the soil arching height gradually increases and finally approaches a constant value of 0.8(s−a) (i.e., the maximum soil arching height). For a given case, the higher the soil arching height, the greater the degree of soil arching effect.
The parametric study shows that the friction coefficient of the embankment fill has a negligible influence on the formation and features of soil arching. However, embankment height is a key factor governing the formation and features of soil arching. In addition, pile clear spacing has a significant effect on the formation of soil arching, but not on its features.
Key words: piled embankment, numerical simulation, soil arching, formation features.