Laboratory simulation of clast abrasion

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Experimental abrasion of river-bed materials has been widely undertaken, producing downstream fining rates that generally are believed to be much less than those observed in the field. A conclusion commonly adopted has been that sorting processes are more effective than abrasion processes. A comparative evaluation of results from an abrasion tank and a tumbling barrel are presented, which show that abrasion patterns and rates differ according to the equipment used, clast size and shape, the clast charge (barrel) and water velocity and bed material (tank). Abrasion is a composite process, and the effects achieved appear to be dominated by percussion in the tank and grinding in the barrel. Breakage, crushing and sandblasting are not modelled effectively, nor are effects achieved on clasts when they form part of the bed. Comparisons are made with other equipment used, the very limited amount of direct field abrasion monitoring, and with the probable suite of processes that may occur under field conditions. Also reviewed are the problems that arise when laboratory weight-loss abrasion coefficients are used or converted into ones of size diminution, as usually derived from field observations of down-channel trends. It is concluded that field abrasion rates generally have been underestimated, as the processes involved are at best only selectively represented by the experimental equipment so far used, and because the results obtained experimentally are capable of misinterpretation when related to field trends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-164
Number of pages20
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • abrasion
  • abrasion tank
  • tumbling barrel
  • downstream fining


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