The combination of climate change, energy transition, water scarcity and flooding, continued urbanization, and the push for circularity are all creating great, new societal challenges. Environmental and anthropic fast modifications strongly influence the mechanical behavior of natural materials and their evolution.
In the case of soils, drying-wetting, loading-unloading, tear-healing cycles are relevant examples that result in erosion, displacement and alteration of characteristics, with implication on safety. Similarly, immediate interventions (as nearby construction works or soil improvement strategies) impact geotechnical properties and infrastructure integrity; construction works, as expected for the energy transition, create changes and dynamic loadings; biological activity (e.g. roots, burrowing) also influences soil properties. Geotechnical modelling of these dynamics and their impact is key in risk mitigation. Soil mechanical models are key in understanding the functioning and integrity of infrastructures.
Goal is to combine the fundamental study of soil mechanics and the application to (earth) construction materials. Research focus is on the development of novel, smart technologies to improve/optimize earth construction works and the soil-structures interaction, as related to the UT research themes sustainability, efficiency, safety.
Soil MicroMechanics offers the exciting opportunity to establish a new field of research: microscale features can be exploited to modify soil as desired and tune hydro-mechanical properties, toward the concept of Smart Soils, with the final goal to design construction materials by need. The research approach uses advanced numerical tools such as discrete element modelling (DEM) as well as theoretical modelling and experimental techniques to look at fundamental soil behaviour, including sand, clays and peats, the application to construction works and buried infrastructures as utilities, the prediction and mitigation of risks related to those.