Structural behaviour of shotcrete in hard rock tunnels

Abstract: Tunnels in hard and jointed rock are normally excavated in an arch shape to enable the rock mass to support its weight. Since the beginning of the 1980's, fibre reinforced shotcrete (FRS) in combination with rock bolts have been the dominating support method for hard rock tunnels. This type of rock support is a complex composite structure in which the structural behaviour depends on interaction between shotcrete, rock and bolts. The design is commonly based on a rock mass classification system in combination with analytical solutions or finite element (FE) modelling. However, the in-situ variations of important properties of the shotcrete are normally neglected.The aim of this thesis is to describe and explain how the variations in shotcrete thickness and bond strength affect the structural behaviour and capacity for a shotcrete lining. Especially, the influence of local variations in shotcrete thickness and bond strength has been studied in detail. For this purpose, a numerical framework capable of simulating bond failure, cracking of FRS and pull-out failure of grouted rock bolts have been developed. Moreover, in-situ data for shotcrete thickness and bond strength have been collected and analysed to characterize  the variations in important shotcrete parameters.The results in this thesis show that when shotcrete is subjected to shrinkage, local variations in shotcrete thickness affects the crack pattern. However, the number and width of the cracks are similar to the case with uniform thickness. Most importantly, a pattern of fine and narrow cracks develops in unreinforced shotcrete subjected to shrinkage when a continuous bond to the rock exists. When shotcrete is subjected to the load from a loose block, the force is transferred to the surrounding rock through bond stresses distributed over a narrow band. Simulations have shown that the structural capacity, with respect to bond failure, depends on the shotcrete thickness. Moreover, a strong linear correlation was found between the mean value of the bond strength and shotcrete thickness around the perimeter of the block and the structural capacity. Local weak areas, i.e. with low bond strength or thickness, may exist around the perimeter without having a significant effect on the structural capacity. Design of bolt-anchored shotcrete linings is based on failure modes previously derived from experimental testing. This thesis has contributed to an increased understanding of the failure mechanisms of the lining and has confirmed that the design can be based on individual failure mechanisms.