Instability of vibrations of an oscillator moving at high speed through a tunnel embedded in soft soil

Mingjuan Zhao*, João Manuel de Oliveira Barbosa, Jun Yuan, Andrei V. Metrikine, Karel N. van Dalen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper investigates the instability of vertical vibrations of an object moving uniformly through a tunnel embedded in soft soil. Using the indirect Boundary Element Method in the frequency domain, the equivalent dynamic stiffness of the tunnel-soil system at the point of contact with the moving object, modelled as a mass-spring system or as the limiting case of a single mass, is computed numerically. Using the equivalent stiffness, the original 2.5D model is reduced to an equivalent discrete model, whose parameters depend on the vibration frequency and the object's velocity. The critical velocity beyond which the instability of the object vibration may occur is found, and it is the same for both the oscillator and the single mass. This critical velocity turns out to be much larger than the operational velocity of high-speed trains and ultra-high-speed transportation vehicles. This means that the model adopted in this paper does not predict the vibrations of Maglev and Hyperloop vehicles to become unstable. Furthermore, the critical velocity for resonance of the system is found to be slightly smaller than the velocity of Rayleigh waves, which is very similar to that for the model of a half-space with a regular track placed on top (with damping). However, for that model, the critical velocity for instability is only slightly larger than the critical velocity for resonance (of the undamped system), while for the current model the critical velocity for instability is much larger than the critical velocity for resonance due to the large stiffness of the tunnel and the radiation damping of the waves excited in the tunnel. A parametric study shows that the thickness and material damping ratio of the tunnel, the stiffness of the soil and the burial depth have a stabilising effect, while the damping of the soil may have a slightly destabilising effect (i.e., lower critical velocity for instability). In order to investigate the instability of the moving object for velocities larger than the identified critical velocity for instability, we employ the D-decomposition method and find instability domains in the space of system parameters. In addition, the dependency of the critical mass and stiffness on the velocity is found. We conclude that the higher the velocity, the smaller the mass of the object should be to ensure stability (single mass case); moreover, the higher the velocity, the larger the stiffness of the spring should be when a spring is added (oscillator case). Finally, in view of the stability assessment of Maglev and Hyperloop vehicles, the approach presented in this paper can be applied to more advanced models with more points of contact between the moving object and the tunnel, which resembles reality even better.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115776
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Sound and Vibration
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Critical velocity for instability
  • D-decomposition method
  • High-speed oscillator
  • Indirect BEM
  • Tunnel embedded in soft soil
  • Vibration instability

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