Prediction of the bullet effect for rockfall barriers: A scaling approach

M. Spadari, A. Giacomini, O. Buzzi*, J. P. Hambleton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The so-called "bullet effect" refers to the perforation of a rockfall protection mesh by impact of a small block, which has a kinetic energy lower than the design value, where the design value is determined through tests with relatively large blocks. Despite playing a key role in the overall performance of a flexible rockfall barrier, this phenomenon is still poorly understood at present. An innovative approach for quantitatively characterizing this effect based on dimensional analysis is proposed in this paper. The analysis rests on a hypothesis that the relevant variables in the impact problem can be combined into three strongly correlated dimensionless parameters. The relationship between these dimensionless parameters (i.e., the scaling relationship) is subsequently investigated and validated by means of data generated with a finite element model. The validation process shows that the dimensionless parameters are apt and that the proposed scaling relationship characterizes the bullet effect with a reasonable level of accuracy. An example from the literature involving numerical simulation of a full rock barrier is considered, and satisfactory agreement between the calculated performance of the barrier and that predicted by the established scaling relationship is observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-134
Number of pages4
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Bullet effect
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Kinetic energy
  • Rockfall barrier
  • Stress concentration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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