Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
03 Dec 2009
 | 03 Dec 2009

Half-scale experimental study of rockfall impacts on sandy slopes

V. Labiouse and B. Heidenreich

Abstract. In the framework of rockfall trajectory modelling, the bouncing phenomenon occurring when a rock block impacts with the slope surface is the most difficult to predict, owing to its complexity and its very limited understanding. To date, the rebound is commonly quantified by means of two coefficients of restitution estimated from a rough description of the ground material. To acquire a better knowledge of the bouncing phenomenon and to investigate the influence of various impact parameters, a comprehensive experimental study was undertaken at the LMR-EPFL (Rock Mechanics Laboratory – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne).

After a summary of the main conclusions drawn from a small-scale study, the paper focuses on half-scale experiments, describing first the testing device and the data processing and analysing then the influence of several impact parameters. It is observed that the rebound and the commonly-used coefficients of restitution expressed for the mass centre of the block depend not only on slope material characteristics, but also on factors related to the kinematics (slope inclination and impact velocity) and to the block (weight, size and shape). As many trajectory computer codes consider constant coefficients of restitution only function of the outcropping material, the trajectory results should be interpreted with caution and always checked against field observations.