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# Dynamic Analysis with FLAC

by Peter Cundall

Itasca Consulting Group, Inc.

Sudbury, October 2003
Why use FLAC or FLAC3D?
FLAC(3D) simulates the full, nonlinear response of a
system (soil, rock, structures, fluid) to excitation from
an external (e.g., seismic) source or internal (e.g.
vibration or blasting) sources.

Therefore it can reproduce the evolution of permanent
movements due to yield and the progressive
development of pore pressures (and their effect on
yield).

Equivalent-linear methods (as used in many
earthquake analyses) cannot do this directly.

Topics
1. Review of equivalent linear method
2. Review of dynamic wave propagation
3. Boundary conditions
4. Damping
The equivalent-linear method is common in earthquake engineering
for modeling wave transmission.

In this method (Seed and Idriss, 1969), multiple linear analyses are
performed (iterations), with average damping ratios and shear moduli in
each element determined from the elements maximum cyclic shear
strain in the previous iteration.

Laboratory-derived curves relate damping ratio and secant modulus to
amplitude of cycling shear strain. (See next slide).
Equivalent-Linear Method vs
Fully Nonlinear Method
Seed and Idriss (1969), Influence of Soil Conditions on Ground Motion
During Earthquakes, J. Soil Mech. Found., Div. ASCE, 95, 99-137

0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1
S h e a r S t r a i n A m p l i t u d e ( % )
0
10
20
30
40
50
D
a
m
p
i
n
g

R
a
t
i
o

(
%
)

0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1
S h e a r S t r a i n A m p l i t u d e ( % )
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
N
o
r
m
a
l
i
z
e
d

S
h
e
a
r

M
o
d
u
l
u
s
,

G
/
G
m
a
x

Mid-Range Sand Curve
(Seed & Idriss, 1970)
Sand Fill Inland:
Friction =32, hr=0.47, Go=440
Sand Fill under Rock Dike:
Friction=30, hr=0.43, Go=440
Only one run is done with a fully nonlinear method since non linearity is
followed directly by each element as the solution marches on in time.
The dependence of damping and apparent modulus on strain level are
automatically modeled, provided that an appropriate nonlinear law is
used.
Characteristics of the
Equivalent-Linear Method
1. Linear properties remain constant throughout the history of shaking.
During quiet periods in the excitation history, elements will be over-
damped and too soft; during strong shaking, elements will be under-
damped and too stiff. However, there is a spatial variation in properties
that corresponds to different levels of motion at different locations.

2. The interference and mixing phenomena that occur between different
frequency components in a nonlinear material are missing from an
equivalent-linear analysis.

3. The method does not directly provide information on irreversible
displacements and the permanent changes that accompany
liquefaction. These effects may be estimated empirically, however.

Characteristics of the
Equivalent-Linear Method (Cont.)
4. Plastic yielding, therefore, is modeled inappropriately no proper flow
rule.

5. The stress-strain curve is in the shape of an ellipse cannot be
changed.
Characteristics of the
Fully Nonlinear Method
1. The method follows any prescribed nonlinear constitutive relation, and
the damping and tangent modulus are appropriate to the level of
excitation at each point in time and space.

2. Using a nonlinear material law, interference and mixing of different
frequency components occur naturally.

3. Irreversible displacements and other permanent changes are modeled
automatically.

Characteristics of the
Fully Nonlinear Method (Cont.)
4. A proper plasticity formulation is used in all the built-in models,
whereby plastic strain increments are related to stresses.

5. The effects of using different constitutive models may be studied
easily.
Boundary Conditions
Thus far, all the examples have been for dynamic input at a
rigid base, and for zero damping (no energy absorption within
the material). We now introduce a quiet boundary that absorbs
incident waves.
In a plane wave, stress is related to particle velocity:
n P n
C v o =
S s
C v t =
P-waves:
S-waves:
The coefficients are the acoustic impedances. If we apply these
impedances as boundary conditions, then incident waves that
approach in a normal direction will be perfectly absorbed.
Quiet boundaries
The uniform-layer example is repeated, replacing the free surface with
a quiet boundary (not particularly useful, but it illustrates the effect).
Wave input
Quiet
boundary
Note: no
Amplitude-
doubling
Minimal
reflections
Internal dynamic source
A more useful case is that of an internal source (pressure
tunnel
free surface
What about static conditions? A quiet boundary acts like
a dashpot, providing no resistance to long-term, static
Initial static state
conf dyn ext=5
grid 200 50
model elas
gen circ 100 25 5
prop dens 1000 sh 1e7 bulk 2e7
model null reg 100 26
set grav 10 dyn off
fix x i=1
fix x i=201
fix y j=1
ini syy -5e5 var 0 5e5 sxx -2.5e5 var 0 2.5e5
solve
set dyn on
apply xquiet yquiet long from 1,51 to 201,51
FLACs quiet command automatically applies existing reaction
forces in reverse at boundaries that are made quiet.
FLAC data file for the tunnel-problem
setup, and installation of quiet boundaries
Now in equilibrium, with quiet
boundaries in place
(vertical stress contours)
Dynamic tunnel response
0.2 sec
0.4 sec
0.6 sec
0.8 sec
A pressure pulse is
applied inside the
tunnel. Contours of
velocity magnitude
are plotted, with the
same interval for all
(velocity-magnitude contours)
Observations & cautions
The quiet boundary is a perfect absorber only for waves of
normal incidence, and for p- and s-waves only.

For oblique waves, and for Rayleigh waves, energy is
absorbed, but there is some reflected energy.

Therefore, boundaries should be placed far enough
away, so that material damping and/or geometric spreading
prevent significant boundary reflections from returning to
the area of concern. (Check with different boundary locations)
External sources & quiet
boundaries
For external seismic sources through a compliant (soft) foundation, we
cant apply a velocity (or acceleration) condition at the boundary
because the quiet boundary needed for the soft foundation would be
nullified by the imposed velocity condition.

Therefore, we apply a stress condition that is equivalent to the
velocity (or acceleration) in the incident wave. We use the formula
given previously:

2
S s
C v t =
However, there is a factor of 2 because the input energy
divides into a downward- & upward-propagating wave.
Input through quiet boundary
apply xquiet yquiet j=1
apply sxy -2e5 hist wave j=1
1000 =
100
S
C =
2
S s
C v t =
equivalent to a velocity of 1.0
Quiet boundary
& stress input
Free surface
Lateral boundaries, for
seismic input at base
In a 2D case with seismic input at the base, how do we deal with
quiet lateral boundaries? Consider our tunnel example, with
stress-wave input at the base. At 0.2 sec .

quiet
quiet
quiet
Note that the lateral quiet boundaries distort the
incoming wave its no longer a plane wave there
Free-field boundaries
To avoid the boundary distortion of the incident wave, we perform
two, 1D calculations for the free field, and use this data to
eliminate energy absorption if the main-grid motion is identical
to the free-field motion. (However, reflected waves are absorbed).
Results with free-field
0.2 sec
0.4 sec
apply xquiet j=1
apply ff
apply sxy=1e5 hist=wave j=1
FLAC commands -
Note the
uniform
conditions at
the lateral
boundaries
Cautions with ff boundaries
All properties, conditions & variables are transferred from
from side columns in the main grid when APPLY FF is
given.
Things that are changed in the main grid afterwards are
not seen by the free field, apart from applied motion.
Interfaces and ATTACH lines cannot extend to the FF. To
emulate an interface, use a thin layer of weak zones. To
avoid boundary ATTACHes, use a wrap-around grid
This grid, with internal,
attached fine grid, was
created by the GIICs
grid library feature.
Attach
line
Further FF points
Any model or nonlinear behavior may exist in the free field, as
well as fluid coupling and flow (vertical only!).

However, the FF performs a small strain calculation, although
the main grid may be executing in large strain mode. In this
case, the results will be approximately correct if the
deformations near the FF boundaries are relatively small
(e.g., compared to grid dimensions).
Multistepping
As mentioned, FLACs time step is determined by the smallest
zone with the highest stiffness. For models with a few stiff
elements (e.g., a concrete tunnel liner in soft soil), the calculation
can be very inefficient.
Multistepping takes account of the natural time step of each
zone. Zones with large natural time steps are only updated
infrequently, compared to those with small natural time steps.
Significant savings in calculation time are obtained, if the system
contains objects with great contrasts in stiffness. The smallest
time step is still taken, but there is far less work per step.
Multistepping (2)
In this example (from Unterberger et
al, 1997), the tunnel liner is concrete
and the surrounding material is soft
the rail bed, and vibrations at ground
surface monitored.

The use of multistepping reduced
calculation time by a factor of 5 times.
Provided that the wavelength limit is
respected, tests have shown that
errors of less than 1% are introduced
by multistepping.
Material Models and Damping
Ideally, a comprehensive model for soil would account for all the
dissipation, volume changes and stiffness degradation.

An ideal model does not exist, so we need to compromise, and
account for some important aspects (such as damping and
cyclic volume changes) separately.

First, we consider the important attributes of soil, and then how
to capture their effects in a FLAC model.
Soil characteristics
1. Continuously nonlinear; apparent modulus degrades with strain.
2. Hysteresis for all levels of cyclic strain, resulting in an increasing
level of damping with cyclic amplitude. Damping is rate-
independent.
3. Hysteresis for superimposed mini-cycles; damping for all
components of a complex waveform.
4. Appropriate volume strain induced by shear strain; in particular,
volume-strain accumulation with cycles of shear strain.
stress, but varying angles of principal axes).

Elastic/plastic models
The built-in models in FLAC consist of various
elastic/perfectly-plastic relations. There is only
hysteresis for cyclic excursions that involve yielding.
strain
stress
(Note that even this crude model produces
continuous damping and modulus
relations, for excursions above yield)
There may be volume
changes during yield
but normally they are
dilatant (not such as
to cause liquefaction)
Other approaches ELM*
SHAKE, and other frequency-domain schemes, use viscous
damping, but scaled with frequency so that the dissipation
appears to be independent of frequency. However, this implies
unrealistic stress/strain curves:
Note that the material
anticipates the impending
change in direction of shear
strain increment (since the
response curves downwards
before the reversal point). This
is not possible generally it
violates causality!
*Equivalent Linear Method
Using elastic/plastic models
If we use an elastic/perfectly-plastic model, we may need to
account for additional factors, such as:
1. damping, for stress cycles below the yield limit;
2. volume-strain accumulation, as a function of number of
cycles and their amplitude;
3. modulus degradation, by using tables based on averaged
strain levels (not normally done).
We will consider damping and volume-change formulations
shortly, but note that the elastic/plastic model in spite of its
simplicity is good in many situations, particularly those in
which the accumulated plastic deformation (slumping, partial
slip) is required to be estimated. The model is not so good for
estimating amplification factors of acceleration, for low-level
shaking.
Damping overview
Note that - even without explicit material damping - energy
may be absorbed in FLAC simulations:

by absorption at quiet boundaries;
by plastic flow in yield models;
Rayleigh damping
Rayleigh damping may be used in FLAC as an approximation to
hysteretic (frequency-independent) damping. Two viscous
elements are used to make up the damping matrix:
The mass-proportional term is like a dashpot connecting each
gridpoint to ground. The stiffness-proportional term is like a
dashpot connected across each zone (responding to strainrate).
Although both dashpots are frequency-dependent, an
approximately frequency-independent response can be obtained
over a limited frequency range, by the appropriate choice of
coefficients.
Rayleigh damping cont.
frequency
ratio of damping to critical
combined
stiffness-proportional only
mass-proportional only
Note 3:1 frequency range over which
combined damping is almost constant
A Suggested Procedure for
Selecting Rayleigh Damping
Parameters
1 - Estimate Material Damping from Cyclic
(triaxial or shear) Tests
o
1
- o
3

o
A
A
D
B
C o
C
c
c
A
c
C
D = 1 (Aw)
4 t w
where:
D = fraction of critical damping
Aw = energy dissipated during cycle, and
w = stored energy at peak
Aw = 1 [(o
D
- o
B
) (c
A
+

c
C
)]
2
w = 1 |o
A
| c
A

2

Typical Results from Cyclic
Triaxial Tests
2- Compute Damping Ratio for
Elastic/Plastic Model
Damping Ratio = D = 2 ( -
m
)
t
t

m

G
3 - Perform dynamic analysis
of dam assuming elastic
material behavior

Collect histories of cyclic shear strain for
representative elements (i.e., elements that
represent the behavior of different materials
and positions within dam).
4 - Determine required
damping ratio
For each group of elements determine
required damping ratio based on difference
between lab damping and model damping in
the range of expected shear strains.

Typical damping ratios are 5% or less.

5 - Perform FFT analysis of shear strain time
histories to determine central frequency for
each group of elements

The central objective of Rayleigh damping is
to supply constant damping (independent of
frequency) over a wide a frequency range as
possible.

Rayleigh damping approximates hysteretic
damping over a 3-to-1 frequency range.

Rayleigh damping cont.
The drawbacks with Rayleigh damping are that:
1. The center frequency must be chosen from
sometimes conflicting data (e.g., the site resonance or
the earthquake average frequency)
2. The stiffness-proportional term causes the time step to
be reduced as the damping ratio (lambda), at the
highest natural frequency, is increased:
Other approaches - bilinear
It is tempting to use a simple hysteretic formulation e.g., a bi-linear
law but this can lead to unrealistic effects, such as the conversion
of low-frequency energy to high frequency energy (see above).
Other approaches
continuous functions
The particular form of the stress/strain relation is very important.
Using a smooth law (similar to a bounding-surface law) leads to
much more realistic spectra:
Fully nonlinear FLAC models
FLAC can import material models either written in the FISH
needed. The latter feature is relatively new.
Itasca has recently implemented as a DLL the model
described by Wang, Dafalias & Shen (ASCE J. Eng.
Mech.,1990). This is known as the bounding surface
hypoplasticty model for sand (referred to as the Wang model).
The model displays all the soil characteristics noted earlier. Some
results from FLAC single-zone tests illustrate these.
The Wang model some
FLAC results
The following plot shows the results of a shearbox test, in which
there are several mini-cycles of strain within the main cycle.
Note that the
response is
continuous, and
that there is
dissipation for
small sub-cycles
shear strain
shear stress
Wang model results (2)
An undrained, cyclic triaxial test is simulated, giving the following
results for a loose material.
The effective mean
stress reduces,
causing the shear
stress-difference to
decrease, due to
material yield.
effective mean stress
stress difference
Wang model results (3)
Further results from the undrained, cyclic triaxial test:
axial strain
stress difference
The results show
a progressive
modulus, with
increasing cycles
Wang model use
In principle, the Wang model is capable of reproducing many
important aspects of soil behavior, including those that are involved

However, the model needs up to 15 material parameters (although
several of these have default values). The calibration procedure is
therefore more complicated than that of a simple model, such as
Mohr Coulomb.

The Itasca-implemented Wang model is currently being tested, and
will be made available on the web site when its operation seems to
be correct. It also works with FLAC3D.

The model is an example of a C++ User Defined Model.
Fully-nonlinear with Mohr
Coulomb?
Finally, if many elements can be used, it is possible to approximate
continuous yielding with the M-C model. For example, a shear box is
set up with a Gaussian distribution of friction angle
grid 40 20
m m
prop dens 2000 sh 1e8 bu 2e8 fric 25 rdev 10 tens 1e10
def qqq
loop i (1,izones)
loop j (1,jzones)
friction(i,j) = max(0.0,friction(i,j))
endLoop
endLoop
end
qqq
Contours of friction angle
Shear displacement
Shear stress
With the non-uniform strength material , we get the following response:
Cyclic strain = 4 units Cyclic strain = 5 units
Note (a) the continuously-nonlinear response, and (b) the
larger specific energy loss for greater cyclic strain.
This approach would is useful if the model can contain large
numbers of elements. The distribution of strengths needs to
be chosen so that the laboratory results for damping &
modulus versus strain are matched.
The advantages are: (a) that the response is similar to that of a
fully nonlinear model, and (b) the time-step is unaffected (recall
that Rayleigh damping causes the timestep to reduce).
A new damping formulation
For the next releases of FLAC and FLAC3D, an optional
hysteretic damping will be available for dynamic simulations. The
damping is independent of the material models, and consists of a
strain-dependent multiplier on the tangent shear modulus.
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Cyclic strain %
M
o
d
u
l
u
s

r
e
d
u
c
t
i
o
n

f
a
c
t
o
r
If the secant modulus is given by
tangent modulus can be derived:
s
s
t s
M
dM d
M M
d d
t
t

=
= = +
secant modulus
tangent modulus
shear stress
shear strain
s
t
M
M
t

=
=
=
=
From Seed & Idris (1970)
Given a particular modulus-degradation function, the resulting
tangent-modulus is used to multiply the apparent shear modulus
(G) provided by the constitutive model:
t
G M G ' =
The apparent strain is the
deviatoric strain
accumulated since the
previous reversal point.
Such reversal-points are
kept in a stack so that
embedded cycles within a
main cycle may be
followed.
FLAC (Version 4.00)
LEGEND
12-Feb-03 15:39
step 3700

HISTORY PLOT
Y-axis :
Ave. SXY ( 1, 1)
X-axis :
X displacement( 1, 2)
-40 -20 0 20 40
(10 )
-05
-2.000
-1.000
0.000
1.000
2.000
(10 )
+04
JOB TITLE :
Itasca Consulting Group, Inc.
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Thus, energy is dissipated for mini-loops as well as the
main hysteresis loop.
The new damping formulation has three advantages.
1. Standard G/Gmax degradation curves used in
equivalent-linear analyses may be used directly in FLAC
& FLAC3D, to perform fully nonlinear simulations with the
same material response.
2. The damping does not affect the time step (in contrast to
Rayleigh damping, which may profoundly reduce the time
step).
3. The damping may be used with any material model, and
with any of the other damping schemes (optionally)
active.
to be inconsistent i.e., a hysteretic model that conforms to the
G/Gmax curve does not necessarily conform to the associated
damping curve
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Seed data
FLAC - Sig3 fit
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Seed data
FLAC - Sig3 fit
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Seed data
FLAC - default model
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Seed data
FLAC - default model
Good fit to Seed & Idris data for G/Gmax (sigmoidal 3-parameter
function) note inconsistent damping result.
Approximate fit to both G/Gmax and damping curves (default FLAC
2-parameter model)
G/Gmax
G/Gmax
D - % of
critical
D - % of
critical
So far, no serious simulations have been performed using
the new formulation. Comparisons with similar equivalent-
linear analyses will be made before the new feature is
released.