• SPH (smoothed particle hydrodynamics);
  • segmental retaining wall;
  • large deformation;
  • post-failure;
  • soil–structure interaction;
  • elasto-plasticity


Segmental retaining wall (SRW) systems are commonly used in geotechnical practice to stabilize cut and fill slopes. Because of their flexibility, these systems can tolerate minor movements and settlements without incurring damage or crack. Despite these advantages, very few numerical studies of large deformations and post-failure behavior of SRW systems are found in the current literature. Traditional numerical methods, such as the finite element method, suffer from mesh entanglement, thus are unable to simulate large deformations and flexible behavior of retaining wall blocks in SRW systems. To overcome the above limitations, a novel computational framework based on the smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) method was developed to simulate large deformations and post-failure behavior of soils and retaining wall blocks in SRW systems. The proposed numerical framework is a hybrid continuum/discontinuum approach that can model soil as an elasto-plastic material and retaining wall blocks as independent rigid bodies associated with both translational and rotational degrees of freedom. A new contact model is proposed within the SPH framework to simulate the interaction between the soil and the blocks and between the blocks. As an application of the proposed numerical method, a two-dimensional simulation of an SRW collapse was simulated and compared to experimental results conducted under the same conditions. The results showed that the proposed computational approach provided satisfactory agreement with the experiment. This suggests that the new framework is a promising numerical approach to model SRW systems. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.