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How can Earth Pressure Balance TBM maintain stability of tunnel face?

Earth Pressure Balance (EPB) TBMs are used in excavating and advancing tunnels through any type of soft ground or soil condition, particularly below the water table. The EPB method consists of a cutting chamber located behind the cutterhead. This chamber is used to mix the soil with water foam. It is maintained under pressure by the mucking system. The ground at the cutting face is supported by earth pressure by balancing the advancement of the tunnel with the discharge rate of the excavated soil.


The underlying principle of the EPB method is that the excavated soil itself is used to provide continuous support to the tunnel face by balancing earth pressure against the forward pressure of the machine. The thrust forces generated from rear section of TBM is transferred to the earth in the cutterhead chamber so as to prevent uncontrolled intrusion of excavated materials into the chamber. When the shield advances at the face of excavation, the excavated soil is then mixed together with a special foam material which changes its viscosity or thickness and transforms it into a flowing material. This muck is then stored and is used to provide support and to balance pressure at the tunnel face during the excavation process.

This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.

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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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