Degradation-induced evolution of particle roundness and its effect on the shear behaviour of railway ballast

Zong Tang Zhang, Wen Hua Gao, Xiang Wang, Jun Qi Zhang, Xiao Yu Tang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Ballast degradation has a strong effect on railway track performance (including accumulative deformation, ballast resistance, and drainage). The main objective of this research is to determine the evolution of roundness during ballast degradation and investigate the mechanical properties of real ballast shape at different abrasion stages. To this end, the Los Angeles (LA) abrasion test is conducted on three groups of fresh ballast materials with different sizes (i.e., 25–30 mm, 40–50 mm, and 50–60 mm). Then, a homemade image-acquisition platform is used to extract ballast outlines from multiple projection directions. Next, the corner sharpness of the degraded ballast is quantified by particle roundness. The LA abrasion test shows that particle roundness gradually increases with increasing abrasion. Subsequently, biaxial shear tests are performed on ballasts with different roundness characteristics based on the discrete element method (DEM). The shear behaviours of degraded ballasts with different degrees of roundness are investigated through macroscopic (e.g., the shear strength and dilatancy response) to microscopic (e.g., the mean coordination number, the ratio of sliding contacts, and the mean particle contact moment) analyses. The results show that the shear strength slightly increases in the peak state, while a substantial reduction in shear strength is observed in the residual state with increasing roundness. Moreover, the microscopic analysis shows that greater roundness results in a smaller mean coordination number, as well as decreases in the ratio of sliding contacts and the mean particle contact moment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100388
JournalTransportation Geotechnics
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Ballast
  • Degradation
  • DEM
  • Morphology
  • Roundness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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