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Research Facilities

The geotechnical engineering laboratory within the Department of Engineering is a fully equipped geotechnical laboratory specialising in unsaturated soil mechanics and large scale soils testing. The laboratory is equipped with temperature and humidity controlled zones to provide a stable environment for sensitive experiments and is supported by experienced technical staff and an engineering workshop for bespoke testing applications. Research conducted in the geotechnical engineering laboratory is complemented by other facilities within the school, particularly the X-ray Computed Tomography facility.

The laboratory has recently been the recipient of £300k of internal university funding for the development of a Vadose Zone facility and £180k for triaxial/simple shear testing equipment which expand existing capabilities in unsaturated soil mechanics and environmental testing.

A summary of the notable equipment and facilities within the laboratory are listed below.

X-ray Computed Tomography Facility

An XRadia/Zeiss VersaXRM 410 providing 1um resolution x-ray tomography (installed September 2013) is managed by Professor Charles Augarde. It is located in room E267, Higginson Building. Details here

The principal scientific features of interest to the users of the machine are:

  • Up to 0.9um resolution (depending on sample size)
  • Maximum sample mass 15kg
  • Maximum sample size 300mm
A single 3D volume takes between 4 and 24hrs depending on the resolution.

The instrument is configured to allow the installation of additional environments or sample cells. We would be particularly interested in hearing from users who would like to collaborate in developing this capability.

Please see the access pages for charges and availability. This facility is available to external (both commercial and non-profit) users, please see the access page.

Mechanical Testing

  • 60mm, 100mm and 300mm direct shear testing
  • Triaxial/dynamic triaxial testing
  • Direct tensile testing of soils
  • Small strain stiffness (local strain LVDTs)
  • Deformation characteristics (oedometer)

Hydraulic and electrical conductivity

  • Soil permeability using constant head and falling head methods
  • Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)
  • Thermal conductivity
  • Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR)
  • Mercury porosimetry

Environmental and large scale testing

  • Large scale (1.13m3) lysimeters (equipped with TDR, tensiometers, temperature and ERT monitoring).
  • Gas monitoring N2O, CH4, CO2
  • Solution electrical conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, redox potential