, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 2321–2334 | Cite as

Load-attenuation mechanisms of flexible barrier subjected to bouldery debris flow impact

  • D. Song
  • C. E. Choi
  • C. W. W. Ng
  • Gordon G. D. ZhouEmail author
  • J. S. H. Kwan
  • H. Y. Sze
  • Y. Zheng
Original Paper


The impulse load of boulders at the front of debris flows is critical to the design of structural defense measures, which are commonly constructed on hillsides to mitigate landslide risk. Field evidences have demonstrated the capability of some steel flexible barriers in intercepting debris flows with bouldery inclusions. However, there is still a lack of fundamental understanding of the load-attenuation mechanisms of flexible barriers, especially under bouldery debris flow impact. In this study, systematic tests of mono-disperse and bi-disperse bouldery flows impacting an instrumented flexible barrier were conducted using a geotechnical centrifuge. The impact kinematics and barrier responses, such as mobilized structural forces and elongation of cables, were recorded synchronously. The results reveal that the load-attenuation mechanism of flexible barriers for the frontal impact originates from the barrier deflections and extended interaction duration. Only 30% of the frontal momentum is transferred to the flexible barrier. The performance of the flexible barrier is compared with that of a rigid barrier model under identical testing conditions. It is found that the boulder impulse loads on flexible barrier are significantly attenuated, resulting in a “plateau” pattern of the impact time history. The practical implication is that the design of flexible barriers may not demand separate considerations of the bulk debris and individual boulder impact loads. Detailed examination of the state of debris deposited behind the flexible barrier indicates that the static dry debris is close to the active failure state due to the large barrier deflection.


Debris flow Boulder Flexible barrier Load-attenuation mechanism Impact load 


Funding information

This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 51809261, 11672318, and 51709052), by a research grant (T22-603/15-N) provided by the Research Grants Council of the Government of Hong Kong SAR, China. This paper is published with the permission of the Head of the Geotechnical Engineering Office and the Director of Civil Engineering and Development, the Government of the Hong Kong SAR, China. The support by the Geotechnical Engineering Office is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© 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 TechnologyKowloonHong Kong
  4. 4.The HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced StudyKowloonHong Kong
  5. 5.Geotechnical Engineering OfficeCivil Engineering and Development Department, Government of the HKSARHong KongChina
  6. 6.State Key Laboratory of Geomechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Institute of Rock and Soil MechanicsChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina

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