Research developed by the Geomechanics team covers a wide range of areas, including laboratory testing, microstructure analysis, constitutive modelling and geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering studies. In particular, researchers have an interest in unsaturated soils behaviour at micro and macro-scale.

Research activities

Recently, work has concentrated on testing soils at different suction and temperature levels and correlating the macro and micro-scale response. This work has special relevance to heavily compacted clays surrounding radioactive nuclear waste disposal as well as applications such as burial of high voltage cables, drilling of deep offshore wells and foundations subjected to temperature and suction changes. Research into unsaturated soils represents a relatively new area in geotechnical engineering. Climatic changes makes this topic highly relevant and research work focuses on the thermo-hydro-mechanical behaviour of these soil-water-air systems. The team collaborates with international leading researchers in this area. Work into the effects of cyclic wetting and drying on soil behaviour has been in progress for several years and is continuing. This is very relevant when investigating the effect of flooding events on soil response and microstructure.

Research is also being undertaken in the effect of suction changes on granular materials (eg sand, glass beads, coal, etc). This work is of particular relevance when handling granular materials that can be expose to different relative humidity environments (ie different suction levels can happen).

In addition, researchers have expanded their particular interest in earth construction hydro-mechanical behaviour. The data is used to examine the mechanics associated with water migration and the structure performance. This research is undertaken with industrial collaboration.

Laboratory testing & facilities

Researchers make use of the state-of-the-art facilities of the Geotechnical and Materials laboratories. Facilities for unsaturated soil testing are available, such as unsaturated triaxial apparatus, pressure cells, suction controlled oedometer apparatus and temperature chambers for testing. In addition, the Geotechnical laboratory is equipped with standard characterisation test apparatuses and is fitted with high pressure lines, power supplies for heavy loads and digital control units. Moreover, the laboratory is equipped with a big scale direct shear apparatus.

Contributing staff

  • Dr Gabriela Medero
  • Prof John McCarter
  • Prof Peter J. Woodward
  • Dr David Connolly
  • Dr Abdellah El-Kacimi

External collaborators

  • Dr Alessio Ferrari and Prof Lyesse Laloui Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Prof Jin Ooi University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • Prof Fernando Marinho University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Prof Lucila Candela Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Manoel Porfírio Cordão Neto University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
  • Prof Fernando Schnaid Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil