Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
Research article
27 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 27 Aug 2014

The impact of particle shape on the angle of internal friction and the implications for sediment dynamics at a steep, mixed sand–gravel beach

N. Stark, A. E. Hay, R. Cheel, and C. B. Lake

Abstract. The impact of particle shape on the angle of internal friction, and the resulting impact on beach sediment dynamics, is still poorly understood. In areas characterized by sediments of specific shape, particularly non-rounded particles, this can lead to large departures from the expected sediment dynamics. The steep slope (1 : 10) of the mixed sand–gravel beach at Advocate Harbour is stable in large-scale morphology over decades, despite a high tidal range of 10 m or more, and intense shore-break action during storms. The Advocate sand (d < 2 mm) was found to have an elliptic, plate-like shape (Corey Shape Index, CSI ≈ 0.2–0.6). High angles of internal friction of this material were determined using direct shear, ranging from φ ≈ 41 to 49°, while the round to angular gravel was characterized as φ = 33°. The addition of 25% of the elliptic plate-like sand-sized material to the gravel led to an immediate increase in friction angle to φ = 38°. Furthermore, re-organization of the particles occurred during shearing, characterized by a short phase of settling and compaction, followed by a pronounced strong dilatory behavior and an accompanying strong increase of resistance to shear and, thus, shear stress. Long-term shearing (24 h) using a ring shear apparatus led to destruction of the particles without re-compaction. Finally, submerged particle mobilization was simulated using a tilted tray submerged in a water-filled tank. Despite a smooth tray surface, particle motion was not initiated until reaching tray tilt angles of 31° and more, being ≥7° steeper than for motion initiation of the gravel mixtures. In conclusion, geotechnical laboratory experiments quantified the important impact of the elliptic, plate-like shape of Advocate Beach sand on the angles of internal friction of both pure sand and sand–gravel mixtures. The resulting effect on initiation of particle motion was confirmed in tilting tray experiments. This makes it a vivid example of how particle shape can contribute to the stabilization of the beach face.