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Fractal fragmentation of rocks within sturzstroms: insight derived from physical experiments within the ETH Geotechnical Drum Centrifuge


An investigation of the behaviour and energy budget of sturzstroms has been carried out using physical, analytical and numerical modelling techniques. Sturzstroms are rock slides of very large volume and extreme run out, which display intensive fragmentation of blocks of rock due to inter-particle collisions within a collisional flow. Results from centrifugal model experiments provide strong arguments to allow the micro-mechanics and energy budget of sturzstroms to be described quantitatively by a fractal comminution model. A numerical experiment using a distinct element method (DEM) indicates rock mass and boundary conditions, which allow an alternating fragmenting and dilating dispersive regime to evolve and to sustain for long enough to replicate the spreading and run out of sturzstroms without needing to resort to peculiar mechanism. The fragmenting spreading model supported here is able to explain the run out of a fluid-absent granular flow beyond the travel distance predicted by a Coulomb frictional sliding model. This, and its strong relation to internal fragmentation, suggests that a sturzstrom constitutes a landslide category of its own. This study provides a novel framework for the understanding the physics of such sturzstroms.


Imre, Bernd and Laue, Jan and Springman, Sarah M.

Index Terms:

SoilGroup; sturzstrom; centrifuge modelling; fractal fragmentation; rock avalanches; drum centrifuge; Imre, Bernd; Laue, Jan; Springman, Sarah M.

Further Information:

Date published: 2010