Geoengineering and earthen construction
Geoengineering research at Durham covers a wide range of topics using analytical, computational and experimental techniques. Links to staff involved in these areas follow the descriptions. Ideas for PhD and MRes projects are in the list here.
Unsaturated soil mechanics
We have an international reputation in unsaturated soil mechanics with activity in laboratory and field testing, development of constitutive models and numerical simulations and we have developed instruments for measuring suctions in conjunction with industry. Durham University was the coordinator of the MUSE Network (Mechanics of Unsaturated Soils for Engineering), a Marie Curie Research Training Network funded by the European Commission between 2004-8. The Network involved six European universities, namely Durham University, Università degli Studi di Trento (Italy), Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (France), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain), University of Glasgow (UK) and Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (Italy). Durham hosted the First European Conference on Unsaturated Soils in July 2008. The facilities available for geotechnical engineering research at Durham are excellent. We have extensive geotechnical and geomechanical testing facilities available in our laboratories, for soils and for rocks. We have a temperature controlled chamber in the laboratory for experiments on unsaturated soils. Current facilities include double-walled triaxial cells, pressure plates, transistor psychrometer and miniature tensiometers for measuring high suctions. DGT CEA
On the computational side of geotechnics, we are interested in the stability of tunnels and the effects that tunnel construction and pile installation have on surface structures or adjacent infrastructure. This work has been extended to examine the stability of sinkholes, formed by geological processes or the activities of man. Complex finite element analysis, in 2D and 3D, is often necessary for this research and we are involved in the development of these numerical methods to make them easier to use in commercial practice, working with mathematicians and software vendors (e.g. Oasys) to speed up calculations. ASO CEA. Non-numerical computational geotechnics research is concerned with geo-engineering knowledge-based systems, and methods for web-based knowledge delivery and have a stong presence on the Joint Technical Committee of the Federation of Geo-Engineering Societies JTC2 DGT
Foundation systems for offshore wind installations are a major interest of the group and providing an overlap to the major research work elsewhere in the School in the Energy group. We have developed numerical methods for analysing wave slamming on coastal structures and the dynamic stability of cellular caissons under wave breaking. We have developed software programs which are used commercially for frame analysis, bridge, and pile analysis and design. We have also developed an analytical method for predicting ground deformations of offshore foundations. This method is conceived within the framework of the bound theorems of plasticity, but incorporates strain-hardening. We have also developed test equipment, pore water pressure measurement devices and data acquisition systems for field and laboratory testing. ASO RSC CEA DGT
Man has used earth for construction for thousands of years and it is estimated that 2 billion people worldwide live in buildings with a component of earthen construction. Many important heritage structures contain earthen components (such as the Great Wall of China and the Alhambra in Granada). Modern earth building is widespread in certain parts of the world, e.g. Western Australia, where many structures are built using "stabilised" earthen construction materials (i.e. where we add cement to the basic mix of subsoils). Since cement production is a considerable contributor to man's CO2 emissions, any building materials that could help us to move away from, or reduce reliance, on cement for construction would be welcomed, and earthen construction materials seem to offer this possibility. At Durham our interests in earthen construction lie in material characterization using geotechnics, improved understanding of how 'old' earthen construction materials behave (in, for instance, heritage structures) and how conservation might be improved given the potential effects of a changing climate. Find out more here. CEA DGT