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Massinas, S. A. & Sakellariou, M. G. (2010). Géotechnique 60, No. 7, 569–571 [doi: 10.1680/geot.8.D.



Closed-form solution for plastic zone formation around a circular tunnel

in half-space obeying Mohr–Coulomb criterion
S . A . M A S S I NA S a n d M . G . S A K E L L A R I O U ( 2 0 0 9 ) . G é o t e c h n i q u e 5 9 , N o . 8 , 6 9 1 – 7 0 1 .

S. Chen and Y. N. Abousleiman, PoroMechanics Institute, normal stress  at the elastic–plastic interface can be
University of Oklahoma, USA expressed as a function of Pc , c , Æc and , say
The authors present a closed-form solution for determin-   (Æc , ) ¼ F(Pc , c , Æc , ). By combining this with the
ing the plastic zone around a circular tunnel in an elasto- yield criterion equation (24), one obtains
plastic halfspace obeying the Mohr–Coulomb criterion. The 8 sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi 9
<  2 ffi=
elastic stress field is first derived in the bipolar coordinate Pc þF(Pc , c , Æc , ) Pc F(Pc , c , Æc , )
system, and the problem then reduced to find the elastic– º: þ þ2c ;
2 2
plastic interface by imposing the continuity of stresses be-
8 sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi 9
tween the elastic and plastic zones. However, we have a <   2 ffi=
number of comments on the theoretical analysis used in the Pc þF(Pc , c , Æc , ) Pc F(Pc , c , Æc , )
paper. :  þ2c ;¼Y
2 2
First the authors claim that at the elastic–plastic interface
the normal stress in the Æ direction can be expressed by (26)
equation (14b), which is of the same form as equation (13),
with ri and di replaced by rc and dc, respectively. This This is the desired equation governing the normal and shear
statement is not correct because equation (13) is derived stresses along the elastic–plastic interface that should be
from the fact that the shear stress Æ ¼ 0 at the tunnel used to replace the incorrect one, equation (14b), in the
periphery Æ ¼ Æi and hence, the Mohr–Coulomb yield cri- paper.
terion at this point is satisfied by the two principal stresses The second point is the derivation of the stress compo-
Æ and  as shown in equation (11). At the elastic–plastic nents in the plastic zone. In the paper the authors present
interface Æc , where Æc ¼ f () is a function of  to be two simple expressions for Æ and  , equations (15a) and
determined, however, there is no guarantee that the shear (15b), which contain only one unknown A, but they have not
stress will also vanish. In this case the Mohr–Coulomb given the general differential equation of equilibrium in the
criterion should be written as bipolar coordinate system. According to the formula for
8 sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi9 the tensor divergence in orthogonal curvilinear coordinates
<   =
Æ þ  Æ   2 (Malvern, 1969), the equilibrium equations in the plastic
º: þ þ 2Æ ; zone can be written as follows
2 2  
8 9 (24) @ Æ @Æ
 2 = (cosh Æ  cos ) þ
Æ þ  Æ   @Æ @ (27)
:  þ 2Æ ; ¼ Y
2 2 ( Æ sinh Æ þ 2Æ sin     sinh Æ) ¼ 0
@Æ @ 
(cosh Æ  cos ) þ
For the same reason, the stress in the elastic region can no @Æ @ (28)
longer be obtained from equations (9) and (10) by simply (  sin  þ 2Æ sinh Æ   Æ sin ) ¼ 0
replacing Æi and Pi with Æc and Pc respectively. Actually, the
coefficients of the stress function for the elastic zone, after These equations, together with the yield criterion (24), are in
taking the shear stress into account, become principle sufficient to determine Æ ,  and Æ in the plastic
k[c cot  þ (Pc  P0 )(coth Æc  cos = sinh Æc )] zone. Unfortunately, they will be very difficult, if not
A1 ¼ impossible, to solve mathematically. One certainly could not
2 sinh Æc (cos   cosh Æc ) expect that the solutions for the plastic stresses take the
(25a) particularly simple form like equations (15a) and (15b). Note
B1 ¼ kP0  A1 (25b) that equations (24), (27) and (28) constitute a system of
first-order partial differential equations; the general solutions
kfc csc (1  cosh 2Æc ) þ 2[(Pc  P0 )(cos  of Æ ,  and Æ thus should include at least two arbitrary
 cosh Æc ) þ c cot  sinh Æc ] sinh 2Æc g constants.
C1 ¼
8(sinh Æc )4 (cos   cosh Æc ) Third, the authors assert that their closed-form solution
(25c) should be confirmed by way of comparison with the analy-
tical solution for the limiting case of a very deep tunnel. It
B0 ¼ 2C1 (25d) is true that the plastic zone and plastic stress distribution
around the tunnel calculated using the authors’ method will
Obviously A1 , B1 , C1 and B0 are relevant to both the reduce to the well-known formula corresponding to a circu-
pressure Pc (Æc , ) (Pc (Æc , ) ¼ Æ (Æc , )) and the shear lar tunnel in an infinite space, when the parameters k and d
stress c (Æc , ) (c (Æc , ) ¼ Æ (Æc , )) along the elastic– approach infinite values. However, such accordance occurs
plastic interface. Now substituting equations (25a)–(25d) just by chance and may not have a deeper physical cause.
back into the expression for the stress function /J, the As is evident, as k, d ! 1, the bipolar coordinate system


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(Æ, ) actually reduces to the conventional polar coordinate The scope of our work was to compare the derived
system (r, Ł). Whereas in this special case, the shear stress solution with finite difference examples, as well as to
Æ ¼  rŁ will always be equal to zero owing to the symme- examine the overburden-effect problem in the plastic zone
try of the problem. It is thus not surprising that the general shape according to Bray’s approach. In both cases the results
solution proposed by the authors comprises the case of a proved to be efficient. The hypothesis that was made about
very deep tunnel. However, as discussed above, the whole the principal stresses’ trajectories is supported by the results
solution procedure in the paper must be incorrect as the of numerical analyses.
authors have completely missed the shear stress Æ in both The fact that in the deep tunnel case, Æ and  circles of
the elastic and plastic regions. the bipolar coordinate system tend to be concentric circles
Finally, we think that the last term (A1 cosh 2Æþ C1 sinh 2Æ) (Æ) and straight radial lines (), is due to our solution
(1  2 sinh Æ cos ) given for k in equation (10) should be procedure and assumptions, and not by chance as the authors
A1 cosh2Æþ C1 sinh2Æ2(A1 sinh2Æþ C1 cosh2Æ)sinhÆcos: of the discussion article claim. The implementation of
logical assumptions and hypotheses does not lead to random
mathematical solutions. The best way to validate such solu-
REFERENCE tions is either through experimental or computational meth-
Malvern, L. E. (1969). Introduction to the mechanics of a contin- ods (e.g. finite difference examples), which proved to be
uous medium. Prentice Hall. efficient.
In light of the above, it is clear that our solution is
M. El Tani, Lombardi SA, Minusio, Switzerland correct, and as such also valid for the deep tunnel case. In
On the ahead-of-print web page of Géotechnique, a paper this case, where the bipolar coordinate system tends to be
by Massinas & Sakalleriou retained my interest. The polar, the trajectories of the principal stresses inside the
authors have found an analytic solution for an excavated plastic zone tend to be perpendicular and tangential to the
circular tunnel in an elastoplastic material using the Mohr– concentric circles of the polar system. Therefore the shear
Coulomb law. They use the Mohr–Coulomb law without stress  a (Æ-concentric circles, -straight radial lines) inside
verifying that the stresses should be principal stresses, the plastic zone is equal to zero, a conclusion also reached
which is incorrect. I have found that the shear stress is not by Kachanov (1971) and Hill (1950).
zero and is In summary, it is evident from our analyses results that
the existence of a straight boundary on the half-space seems
ð Pi  P0 Þ sinhðÆ  Æi Þ ðcosh Æ  cos Þ
¼ to affect the direction of the principal stresses inside the
sinh2 Æi plastic zone.
We refer Chen & Abousleiman to the differential equation
This means that the stresses they are using are not the of equilibrium that we used in order to derive the plastic
principal stresses. It is possible that I have missed some- stresses. Please note that this differential equation is the
thing, but I cannot find in the paper any indication that the presented equation (27) in the discussion article and for the
authors are using the principal stresses. Unless I am wrong case of Æ ¼ 0 takes the following form
in this respect, their paper has no value. @ a
(cosh a  cos )  ( a    ) sinh a ¼ 0 (29)
Authors’ reply @Æ
The authors are grateful to Chen & Abousleiman and to El By combining this with the yield condition (11) and after
Tani for their comments, which we respond to as follows. In solving, equations (15a) and (15b) are derived that give the
order to derive a closed-form solution for determining the plastic stresses  Æpl and   pl respectively. Please find below
plastic zone around a circular tunnel in an elastoplastic half- the solution procedure
space obeying the Mohr–Coulomb criterion, a bipolar co-
@ Æ sinh a
ordinate system (Æ, ) was adopted and the differential ¼ ½(º  1) Æ  
equations of equilibrium were derived in the Æ and  @Æ cosh a  cos 
directions. In order to derive a solution for the specific ð ð
@ Æ sinh a
geometric problem of the half-space we made the assump- ) ¼ @Æ
tion that the trajectories of the principal stresses coincided (º  1) Æ   cosh a  cos 
with the bipolar coordinate system inside the plastic region, 1
and thus the shear stress Æ was taken to be equal to zero. ) ln ½(º  1) a   ¼ ln ðcosh a  cos Þ
In order to satisfy the continuity of stress components at the
elastic–plastic interface the shear stress Æ must also be ) (º  1) a   ¼ Aðcosh a  cos Þ(º1)
taken as zero.
The discussion article by Chen & Abousleiman has given 
)  Æ,pl ¼ þ Aðcosh a  cos Þ(º1)
us the opportunity to restate our hypothesis and, therefore to º1
avoid any misconceptions about the validity of our solution.
Others have previously used a bipolar coordinate system, We therefore cannot agree with Chen & Abousleiman’s
and assumed that the principal stresses’ trajectories and the comments on our theoretical analysis. The results, for the
bipolar coordinate system coincide inside the plastic regions case where the trajectories of the principal stresses coincide
(e.g. Grigoriev, 1968) in order to derive closed-form solu- with the bipolar coordinate system inside the plastic region,
tions for plasticity problems in a half-space. The existence are proved to be efficient. Thus our initial hypothesis is
of the straight boundary on the half-space seems to be logical.
responsible for the co-identity of the principal stresses’ Please note that the last term
trajectories and the bipolar coordinate system. Using this
assumption we have been able to derive a solution that gives (A1 cosh 2a þ C1 sinh 2a)(1  2 sinh a cos )
very good results in comparison with the results from in equation (10) is incorrect in the paper. The correct term
numerical analysis using the finite difference method (see is the following
finite difference examples that are shown in the original
paper). A1 cosh 2a þ C1 sinh 2a  2 sinh a cos (A1 sinh 2a þ C1 cosh 2a)

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Turning now to the discussion by El Tani, we note that he (Pc  P0 ) sinh Æ (cosh Æ  cos )
Æ ¼
has omitted the term after the fraction in equation (30). sinh2 Æc (31)
Before the initial yielding, the shear stress in the half-space
is derived by differentiating equation (7) according to equa- 3 2 sin  (coth Æc sinh Æ  cosh Æ)
tion (6c), which gives the following expression (and not the
equation that is presented by El Tani) where Pc is given by equation (14b) and is the critical value
(Pi  P0 )  sinh Æ  (cosh Æ  cos ) that limits further extension of the plastic zone. At the
Æ ¼ elasic–plastic interface the above equation (31) gives
sinh2 Æi (30)  a ¼ 0, satisfying in that way our assumption about the
 2 sin   (coth Æi  sinh Æ  cosh Æ) principal stresses’ trajectories inside the plastic zone.
where for Æ ¼ Æi (at the tunnel’s periphery) the shear stress
is equal to zero and the stresses are principal. Furthermore,
after initial yielding, where a plastic zone Æc is formed, by REFERENCES
Kachanov, L. M. (1971). Foundations of the theory of plasticity.
adopting our hypothesis of coincidence of the principal
Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing.
stresses’ trajectories and the bipolar coordinate system, the Grigoriev, O. D. (1968). On plastic equilibrium of an inhomoge-
shear stress  Æ inside the plastic region is taken to neous half-plane when a smooth flat punch is pressed into it.
be equal to zero. As a result of this, at the elastic part of Prikladnaya Mekhanika 4, No. 1, 126–128.
the half-space the shear stress is given by the following Hill, R. (1950). The mathematical theory of plasticity, pp. 252–253.
equation Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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