Upper bound limit analysis of slope stability using rigid finite elements and nonlinear programming

Jian Chen, Jianhua Yin, C. F. Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, the development and application of a new upper bound limit method for two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) slope stability problems is presented. Rigid finite elements are used to construct a kinematically admissible velocity field. Kinematically admissible velocity discontinuities are permitted to occur at all inter-element boundaries. The proposed method formulates the slope stability problem as an optimization problem based on the upper bound theorem. The objective function for determination of the minimum value of the factor of safety has a number of unknowns that are subject to a set of linear and nonlinear equality constraints as well as linear inequality constraints. The objective function and constrain equations are derived from an energy-work balance equation, the Mohr-Coulomb failure (yield) criterion, an associated flow rule, and a number of boundary conditions. The objective function with constraints leads to a standard nonlinear programming problem, which can be solved by a sequential quadratic algorithm. A computer program has been developed for finding the factor of safety of a slope, which makes the present method simple to implement. Four typical 2D and 3D slope stability problems are selected from the literature and are analysed using the present method. The results of the present limit analysis are compared with those produced by other approaches reported in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-752
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2003


  • Limit analysis
  • Nonlinear programming
  • Rigid finite element
  • Sequential quadratic algorithm
  • Slope stability
  • Upper bound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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