The potential of Smartstone probes in landslide experiments: how to read motion data



J.B. Dost, O. Gronz, M.C. Casper, and A. Krein


Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, vol. 20, no. 12, pp. 3501-3519, 2020


Laboratory landslide experiments enable the observation of specific properties of these natural hazards. However, these observations are limited by traditional techniques: frequently used high-speed video analysis and wired sensors (e.g. displacement). These techniques lead to the drawback that either only the surface and 2D profiles can be observed or wires confine the motion behaviour. In contrast, an unconfined observation of the total spatiotemporal dynamics of landslides is needed for an adequate understanding of these natural hazards.

The present study introduces an autonomous and wireless probe to characterize motion features of single clasts within laboratory-scale landslides. The Smartstone probe is based on an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and records acceleration and rotation at a sampling rate of 100 Hz. The recording ranges are +/- 16 g (accelerometer) and +/- 2000 degrees s(-1) (gyroscope). The plastic tube housing is 55 mm long with a diameter of 10 mm The probe is controlled, and data are read out via active radio frequency identification (active RFID) technology. Due to this technique, the probe works under low-power conditions, enabling the use of small button cell batteries and minimizing its size.

Using the Smartstone probe, the motion of single clasts (gravel size, median particle diameter d(50) of 42 mm) within approx. 520 kg of a uniformly graded pebble material was observed in a laboratory experiment. Single pebbles were equipped with probes and placed embedded and superficially in or on the material. In a first analysis step, the data of one pebble are interpreted qualitatively, allowing for the determination of different transport modes, such as translation, rotation and saltation. In a second step, the motion is quantified by means of derived movement characteristics: the analysed pebble moves mainly in the vertical direction during the first motion phase with a maximal vertical velocity of approx. 1.7 m s(-1). A strong acceleration peak of approx. 36 m s(-2) is interpreted as a pronounced hit and leads to a complex rotational-motion pattern. In a third step, displacement is derived and amounts to approx. 1.0 m in the vertical direction. The deviation compared to laser distance measurements was approx. -10 %. Furthermore, a full 3D spatiotemporal trajectory of the pebble is reconstructed and visualized supporting the interpretations. Finally, it is demonstrated that multiple pebbles can be analysed simultaneously within one experiment. Compared to other observation methods Smartstone probes allow for the quantification of internal movement characteristics and, consequently, a motion sampling in landslide experiments.



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