Kinematics of soil arching in piled embankments

Louis King, Abdelmalek Bouazza, Stephen Dubsky, R. Kerry Rowe, Joel Gniel, Ha H. Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The transfer of embankment stresses towards pile heads in piled embankments is attributed to the mechanism known as soil arching. Three-dimensional physical models of piled embankments were built to simulate this mechanism. The progressive settlement of subsoil beneath an embankment was modelled and paused at increments of displacements to allow synchrotron X-ray computed tomography to be performed on the models. Image correlation techniques were then applied to the reconstructed volumes to obtain evolving three-dimensional displacement and strain fields. The strain fields show localised (shear bands) and diffuse failure modes occurring above pile heads within the embankment fill. These failure surfaces are seen to progressively develop as the subsoil undergoes settlement. The displacement fields also show the formation of a plane of equal settlement developing at a height above the pile heads, known as the critical height. The critical height is dependent on the height at which the failure surfaces propagate into the embankment fill, and a method is proposed to calculate the maximum height of failure surfaces based on the observed kinematics. The full-field kinematics provide fundamental insight into the soil arching mechanism that develops within piled embankments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-958
Number of pages18
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Embankments
  • Model tests

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