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Failure of Slopes


Burridge, Paul Brian (1987) Failure of Slopes. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/2C4G-6R71.


The dynamic mechanism of slope failure is studied both experimentally and analytically to establish the spatial and temporal process of failure initiation and propagation during collapse of a natural or man-made slope.

Model slopes, constructed of a brittle cemented sand material, are tested to collapse in a geotechnical centrifuge and the dynamics of failure recorded by motion picture film and mechanical detectors within the slope specimen. Shear failure is observed to initiate at the toe and propagate rapidly to the crest in the presence of crest tension cracking.

A finite difference approach is taken to numerically solve the plane strain slope stability problem under gravity, based on unstable material behavior. Using a Lagrangian differencing scheme in space and explicit integration in time with dynamic relaxation, the numerical method finds the equilibrium state of the slope as the large-time limit of a dynamic problem with artificial parameters. The solution predicts localized shear failure zones which initiate at the slope toe and propagate to the slope crest in the manner and geometry observed in the centrifuge tests. In so doing, the finite difference algorithm also demonstrates an apparent ability to predict shear failure mechanisms in solid continua in general.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Civil Engineering; Geophysics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Civil Engineering
Minor Option:Geophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Scott, Ronald F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Scott, Ronald F. (chair)
  • Jennings, Paul C.
  • Knowles, James K.
  • Hall, John F.
  • Sieh, Kerry E.
Defense Date:13 March 1987
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-03012008-132659
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:825
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:13 Mar 2008
Last Modified:20 Dec 2019 19:48

Thesis Files

PDF (Burridge_pb_1987.pdf) - Final Version
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