DEM modelling of geocell-stabilised sub-ballast under cyclic loading
Upon repeated train loading, sub-ballast aggregates, placed underneath a ballast layer in rail track, become degraded and fouled by the progressive accumulation of external fine particles such as mud-pumping of soft subgrade, seriously decreasing the shear strength and drainage capacity of the track. This paper presents a study of the load-deformation response of geocell-reinforced sub-ballast under cyclic loads using laboratory tests and discrete element method (DEM). A series of large-scale cubical triaxial tests with and without geocell inclusions are conducted in the laboratory and simulated in DEM to investigate the beneficial effect of the geocells in decreasing the lateral and vertical deformations of railway subballast. Irregularly-shaped particles of sub-ballast are modelled by connecting and bonding of many circular balls together at appropriate sizes and positions. The geogcell was simulated by bonding many small spheres together to build a desired geometry and structure. The load-deformation behaviour of the geocell-stabilised sub-ballast specimen at varied load cycles predicted from the DEM modelling agrees well with those measured experimentally, showing that the proposed DEM model in this study is able to capture the deformation behaviour of the sub-ballast stabilised by the geocell. Additionally, the DEM modelling also provides insight into the distribution of contact forces, average contact normal and shear forces, which cannot be determined experimentally. These observations clearly prove the reinforcement effect of the geocell in eliminating the deformation of sub-ballast from a micromechanical perspective.