Volume 36, N. 2, May-August 2013 | PDF(1 downloads)
The evolution of numerical modelling in rock mechanics has made possible a more realistic representation of the behaviour of rock masses, and a more reliable prediction of the response of rock engineering structures. Discontinuum modelling techniques, namely the discrete element method, based on the explicit representation of the rock mass discontinuous structure, have progressively acquired a broader role. In this lecture, the essential concepts and main features of these numerical techniques are discussed, with reference to their historical development. The use of these idealizations is exemplified by two areas in which they proved very effective. On one hand, the analysis of practical rock engineering problems, intended, for example, for safety assessment or monitoring interpretation. This type of application is illustrated herein by dam foundation analyses based on deformable block models. A second level of discontinuum modelling involves research aimed at the understanding of the fundamental behaviour of rock and rock masses. An example of this approach is the analysis of fracture phenomena with particle models, primarily of laboratory specimens, but being extended to larger scales. Critical issues identified in the effective application of these modelling tools are examined, as well as some foreseeable evolution trends.