Geomaterials – soils, aggregates, rock, concrete and some manufactured building materials – are key components in many applications that aim to understand and predict the performance of systems, especially geologically-evolving systems.
Geomaterials research follows the logic that mechano-bio-thermo-chemical processes cause textural changes which govern properties. It is fundamentally about knowing, understanding and predicting the properties and performance of geomaterials in diverse areas of research ranging from the structural and depositional evolution of basins to historic buildings conservation and low carbon construction.
An understanding of geomaterials is derived from real-world observations, experimental studies (e.g. sediment bio-modification; rock damage under mechanical loading/heating/chemical changes) and from synthetic or numerical geomaterials. Textural analysis is the keystone geomaterials technology. This involves the widest-possible range of 2D imagery (e.g. optical methods; multi-scale SEM augmented with BSE, CL, EBSD, EDX) providing input to 3D digital model creation, 3/4D full-field experimental techniques (acoustic / X-ray / neutron tomography; digital image correlation) and use of nano-scale sensors to report states in situ. Properties (fluid-flow, electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical) are determined by both lab measurements and calculations using 3D digital texture models.
Geomaterial behaviour and evolution is captured in constitutive laws, which underpin numerical simulations of systems whose responses are compared with observations. A parallel thread derives effective properties at larger scales.
Geomaterials understanding is a critical requirement in the identification and exploitation of natural resources and the Lyell Centre could provide the research space for innovative research in this area. This may also lead to realisation of the aspiration to create a comprehensive catalogue that links properties to observable textures and to the prior processes recorded in that textural evolution.