Published in Computational Particle Mechanics, Vol. 7 (1), pp. 87-99, 2020
Changes in direction and cross section in supercritical hydraulic channels generate shockwaves which result in an increase in flow depth with regard to that for uniform regime. These disturbances are propagated downstream and need to be considered in the design of the chute walls. In dam spillways, where flow rates are often high, this phenomenon can have significant implications for the cost and complexity of the solution. It has been traditionally analysed by means of reduced-scale experimental tests, as it has a clear three-dimensional character and therefore cannot be approached with two-dimensional numerical models. In this work, the ability of the particle finite element method (PFEM) to reproduce this phenomenon is analysed. PFEM has been successfully applied in previous works to problems involving high irregularities in free surface. First, simple test cases available in the technical bibliography were selected to be reproduced with PFEM. Subsequently, the method was applied in two spillways of real dams. The results show that PFEM is capable of capturing the shockwave fronts generated both in the contractions and in the expansions that occur behind the spillway piers. This suggests that the method may be useful as a complement to laboratory test campaigns for the design and hydraulic analysis of dam spillways with complex geometries.