In situ TBM penetration tests and rock mass boreability analysis in hard rock tunnels

Q. M. Gong, J. Zhao, Y. S. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Boreability is popularly adopted to express the ease or difficulty with which a rock mass can be penetrated by a tunnel boring machine. Because the boreability is related to the rock mass properties, TBM specifications and TBM operation parameters, an accurately definable quantity has not been obtained so far. In order to analyze and compare rock mass boreability, a series of TBM shield friction tests were conducted in a TBM tunneling site. Two sets of TBM penetration tests were performed in different rock mass conditions during tunneling in rock. In each step of the penetration test, the rock muck was collected to perform the muck sieve analyses and the shape of large chips was surveyed in order to analyze the TBM chipping efficiency under different cutter thrusts. The results showed that a critical point exists in the penetration curves. The penetration per revolution increases rapidly with increasing thrust per cutter when it is higher than the critical value. The muck sieve analysis results verified that with increasing thrust force, the muck size increases and the rock breakage efficiency also increases. When the thrust is greater than the critical value, the muck becomes well-graded. The muck shape analysis results also showed with the increase of the thrust, the chip shape changes from flat to elongated and flat. The boreability index at the critical point of penetration of 1 mm/rev. defined as the specific rock mass boreability index is proposed to evaluate rock mass boreability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-316
Number of pages14
JournalTunnelling and Underground Space Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Muck sieve analysis
  • Penetration test
  • Rock mass boreability
  • Shield friction test
  • TBM

Cite this