Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
07 Dec 2010
 | 07 Dec 2010

Experimental study on the rheological behaviour of debris flow

A. Scotto di Santolo, A. M. Pellegrino, and A. Evangelista

Abstract. A model able to describe all the processes involved in a debris flow can be very complex owing to the sudden changing of the material that turns from solid into liquid state. The two phases of the phenomenon are analysed separately referring to soil mechanics procedures with regard to the trigger phase, and to an equivalent fluid for the post-failure phase. The present paper is devoted to show the experimental results carried out to evaluate the behaviour assumed by a pyroclastic-derived soil during the flow. A traditional fluid tool has been utilized: a standard rotational rheometer equipped with two different geometries. The soils tested belong to deposits that cover the slopes of the Campania region, Italy, often affected by debris flows. The influence of solid concentration Cv and grain size distribution was tested: the soils were destructurated, sieved and mixed with water starting from the in situ porosity. All material mixtures showed a non-Newtonian fluid behaviour with a yield stress τy that increases with a solid volumetric concentration and decreases for an increase of sand fraction. The experimental data were fitted with standard model for fluids. A simple relation between Cv and τy was obtained. The yield stress seems to be a key parameter for describing and predicting the post-failure behaviour of debris flows. These results suggest that in the field a small change in solid fraction, due to rainfall, will cause a slight decrease of the static yield stress, readily inducing a rapid flow which will stop only when the dynamic yield stress is reached, namely on a much smoother slope. This can explain the in situ observed post-failure behaviour of debris flows, which are able to flow over very long distances even on smooth slopes.