Research Activities: 2010

Development of a Quantitative Model for the Mechanism of Raveling Failure in Highway Rock Slopes and Cuts



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Sequential Number


Identification Number


Matching Research Agency

 UM Research Board


Principal Investigator

Norbert Maerz, Associate Professor
Missouri University of Science and Technology
1006 Kingshighway, Rolla MO 65409
p 573-341-6714
f 573-341-4368

Student Involvement

Two part time graduate students and one or more undergraduate students.


Project Objective

Pilot project, proof of concept to compete for major NSF funding


Project Abstract

Rock falls along highways constitute a significant geological hazard, causing financial loss, damage to vehicles and infrastructure, and even injury and occasional loss of life. There is no way to model them or protect their progress or severity. Even the mechanisms are poorly understood. In Missouri rock falls or continuous issue for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

A new technology called lidar [light detection and ranging] can make precise measurements of rock slopes and cuts, detecting minute differences over time and the profile of the rock face. Multiple scans over time can reveal the timing and sequence of material falling off the face and accumulating on the ground below up to and including the fall of very small individual blocks. Rock fall events can be precisely correlated with it external stimuli such as rainfall, freeze/thaw, and seismic activity.  From data obtained in this manner a model of rattling will be developed particle flow code [PFC 2-D] modeling will be used to develop a predictive capability.

This proposal seeks funding to do a pilot study of raveling in the field under various conditions in several different types of rock that are necessary to begin the study of the raveling process under natural conditions, and to model the rattling with PFC.


Anticipated Benefits

Safer highways; predictive capability on rock fall hazards.



Project Start Date: 01/01/2011
Project End Date:



Project Deliverables

Preliminary numerical model of rock raveling process along with field data on the raveling process.


Technology Transfer Activities

We will present results at conferences and in publications.  We will work with MODOT on this project and get them involved.


Transportation Research Board Keywords

Nondestructive testing, rock disintegration, rock falls, rock slides, rock mechanics, weathered rock, computer models