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Dr. Axel Volkwein



visiting scientist


Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf


Birmensdorf Bi LG E 23



Experimental analysis rockfall processes

Natural rockfalls are extremely variable. Not a single rockfall is the same as another. Selective and specific field tests allow to (i) study single elements of rockfall trajectories and (ii) use repeatable test setups.


Numerical simulation of flexible rockfall protection barriers

The simulation software FARO provides a tool for the simulation of flexible rockfall protection barriers. It can be used for an efficient development or optimisation of new types due to a reduced number of expensive prototype field tests. In addition, the use of software provides the possibility to simulate projected barriers considering special load cases, which cannot be reproduced in field tests, as well as special geometrical boundary conditions for individual sceneries.


Numerical modeling and design of flexible debris flow barriers

The research project leads to a numerical simulation tool that models the interaction between a debris flow and a flexible protection barrier. Similar types of barriers are also used against rockfalls. But compared to this application with a well-known load due to the rigid behaviour of the rock, the loads submitted by a debris flow are quite unknown. An extensive experimental programme with full-size and laboratory dynamic tests delivers the needed information for proper simulation models.


Spatial tracking using acceleration sensors

In order to reconstruct the three-dimensional trajectory of a falling rock we use accelerometers integrated in an artificial spherical boulder together with a computer control unit. This resolves the extremely short-term high acceleration peaks that cannot properly be resolved by even high-speed video systems. Main focus is set on the numerical treatment of the measured data in order to obtain the most correct trajectory by integration over the time.


Short CV

since 2012 Scientific staff member research unit mountain hydrology and mass movements
2009 - 2016 Head notified testing laboraroy for rockfall protection systems
2006 - 2011
Head Team Rockfall & Tree Mechanics at Swiss Fed. Research Institute for Forest, Snow & Landscape WSL
2004 - 2006 Post-Doc at Swiss Fed. Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
1999 - 2004 Research assistant at Institute of Structural Engineering at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and doctoral studies (Dr. sc. techn.) under supervision of Prof. E. Anderheggen
1993 - 1999 Studies of civil engineering (Dipl. Ing.) at University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and University of Sydney, Australia
1993 Abitur /Matura (University Entrance Examination) from humanistic Wilhelms-Gymnasium in Munich
1974 Born in Munich, Germany