Semi-analytical solution for the 3D response of a tunnel embedded in an elastic half-space subject to seismic waves

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This paper presents a semi-analytical solution for the 3D problem of a cylindrical tunnel embedded in an elastic half-space subject to plane harmonic compressional and shear waves. Both the tunnel and soil are modelled as an elastic continuum. Conformal mapping is employed to transform the original physical domain with boundary surfaces of two different types onto an image domain with surfaces of the same type, which makes the problem easier to solve. The total wave field in the half-space consists of incident and reflected (from the half-space surface) plane waves, as well as directly and secondary scattered cylindrical waves, while the total wave field in the tunnel consists of refracted cylindrical waves. The secondary scattered waves, generated when the cylindrical waves directly scattered from the tunnel meet the half-space surface, are represented by cylindrical waves that originate from an image source, which is in line with the spirit of the method of images. The unknown amplitude coefficients of the cylindrical waves are determined from the boundary and continuity conditions of the tunnel–soil system by projecting those onto the set of circumferential modes, which results in a set of algebraic equations. Results show that the present method converges for a small number of circumferential modes. We observe very good agreement between the obtained results and those in literature. In a systematic evaluation, we demonstrate that the method works well for the frequency band of seismic waves, as well as for the complete considered ranges of the tunnel/soil stiffness ratio, the embedded depth of the tunnel, the vertical incident angle and the tunnel thickness. However, the results obtained for a moderate tunnel–soil stiffness contrast under the incident compressional wave are inaccurate when Hankel functions are used to represent the cylindrical waves in the tunnel, which is due to the refracted shear waves in the tunnel transitioning from propagating to evanescent (in the 3D case). These inaccuracies can be perfectly overcome by representing the waves in the tunnel by Bessel functions. We also find that the present method generally works better for the incident compressional wave than for the incident shear wave, as the condition number of the matrix (related to the mentioned algebraic equations) is often larger in the latter case. In view of engineering practice, we conclude that the tunnel is safer when the surrounding soil is stiffer, the tunnel is thicker and the vertical incident angle is larger. Finally, the present method, which is in general fast, elegant and accurate, can be used in preliminary design so as to avoid pronounced resonances, and to assess stress distributions and ground vibrations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108171
Number of pages21
JournalSoil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Underground tunnel
  • Seismic waves
  • Semi-analytical solution
  • Conformal mapping
  • Method performance

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