The Geotechnical Engineering research group’s mission is to make infrastructure safer, more reliable and cost-effective. We are internationally renowned for our excellence in experimental, theoretical and applied soil, rock, tailings and asphalt research. Our research is centred around unsaturated soil mechanics, computational geomechanics, dam and rock engineering, energy geotechnics and earthquake engineering.  

The group has collaborative links with leading international research institutions, including Cambridge, Stanford, McGill, Bristol, MIT, EPFL and Paris Ecole Polytechnique. 

Research themes

Researchers in the Geotechnical Engineering group are experts in the areas of:  

  • Unsaturated soil mechanics, including fundamentals, applications in engineering practice and knowledge transfer to industry 
  • Development of novel numerical and analytical problem-solving techniques 
  • Dam and rock engineering, particularly problems related to scour and erosion, and tailings storages, and development of practical design tools  
  • Energy geotechnics, especially energy geo-structures and underground climate change 
  • Dynamics, liquefaction and earthquake engineering 

Research facilities

The Geotechnical Engineering suite of laboratories contain a diverse range of conventional soil, rock, tailings and asphalt testing equipment, along with specialist equipment used primarily to support research. These include: 

  • Numerous triaxial cells, pressure plates and oedometers for testing saturated and unsaturated soils and tailings at normal and elevated temperatures, under standard and user-defined stress paths including true triaxial conditions 
  • Calibration chamber for conducting cone penetration tests in unsaturated soils and tailings 
  • Biaxial earthquake shaking table and laminated shear stack  
  • Dynamics testing laboratory including triaxial, simple shear, resonant column and CRS devices for testing saturated and unsaturated soils and tailings 
  • Lateral earth pressure testing rig and a shallow foundation testing rig to research foundations involving unsaturated soils 
  • Rotating cylinder, a specialist pin-hole apparatus and a piping chamber and a suffusion triaxial cell for testing erosion of soils and tailings 
  • Ring shear apparatus, a large shear box and high pressure (60MPa) triaxial cells for testing gravel, rock and sands undergoing particle crushing 
  • Asphalt testing laboratory

Our people