Research in Geotechnical Engineering deals with the development of methodologies for improved analysis, design and construction of major infrastructure projects ranging from foundations, to tunnels and offshore structures, and for the mitigation of the impact of natural hazards such landslides and earthquakes. Also subjects of research are geoenvironmental problems related to subsurface waste containment, groundwater contamination and site remediation are also a major focus of the research, as well as problems related to resource and energy extraction, including engineered geothermal systems. Research emphasizes balance between theory and practice to provide results and methodologies that have real-world applicability and context.
Natural Geologic Risk Assessment for Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has embarked on an aggressive economic development plan that involves the planning and delivery of a significant number of urban infrastructure systems. The coastal and island geology of Abu Dhabi is characterized by the presence of high salinity geologic layers, whose spatial distribution is not very well known, and whose properties are time varying and dependent on the groundwater flow conditions. These layers pose a significant danger, especially during wetting and drying cycles during construction processes, which can lead to differential settlements, subsidence, swelling and cavity collapse, at both the construction site as well as neighboring sites. This research studies the underlying mechanisms that cause the dissolution of these geologic materials, numerically and experimentally. In addition, we focus on developing geologic risk maps for the region of Abu Dhabi. The ultimate aim is to develop a GIS decision support tool that stakeholders can use to support decisions related to planning, construction and operation of urban systems in a sustainable and efficient integrated manner.
Industry Partners: Municipality of Abu Dhabi and ADSSC
PI: Rita L Sousa
AARE Award (ADEK)
Ground-Motion Characterization of Small-to-Moderate Magnitude (SMM) Earthquakes for Civil Infrastructures
Research involves the development of a ground motion database of earthquakes such as those potentially induced by hydraulic fracturing. Evaluations of earthquake magnitude, data processing, ground-motion characteristics such as high-frequency attenuations and directionality are major interests. The research focuses on structural-component damages and potential of soil liquefaction which are important for critical facilities. Recent research includes (a) Moment Magnitude Estimation for SMM earthquakes between Japan and Taiwan, (b) Multivariate Predictions of Moment Magnitude in Iran for SMM earthquakes, (c) Comparison of Manual and Automated Data Processing, (d) Ground-Motion Directionality.
(a) Moment Magnitude estimation between Japan and Taiwan,
(b) Multivariate Predictions of Moment Magnitude in Iran,
PI: Tadahiro Kishida
Experimental and simulation approach to optimize hydraulic fracturing design for unconventional reservoirs
The research focuses on the development of an innovative experimental set up using a high pressure triaxial cell that can simulate hydraulic fracturing under reservoir conditions. Experiments are being conducted on actual reservoir rock specimens to study the effects of different parameters and different rock fabrics on the hydraulic fracturing process. In parallel, a novel hydro-fracturing stochastic modelling tool is developed that will be compatible with a Discrete Fracture Network Model and which will be validated with experimental test results.
Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations Ltd (now ADNOC on shore)
Plastic Enhanced Asphalt Mixture (PEAM)
Many studies have been recently carried out in the attempt to combine traditional pavement materials with polymeric waste to obtain a better performing product from the mechanical as well as the environmental perspective.
Plastic waste represents a massive source of polymeric material. Every second about 20,000 plastic bottles are being bought around the world which corresponds to about 480 billion plastic bottles. It is expected that by 2021 the production will increase to 583 billion. Most plastic bottles are made from PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET) which is highly recyclable. Nevertheless, data from 2016 shows that less than half of the bottles bought in one year were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most ended up in a landfill or in the ocean. Even though recycling technologies are currently available for reprocessing plastic, it is still extremely difficult to deal with the impressive quantity of plastic accumulated over the years. In the UAE, it has been evaluated that around 5 billion tons of general plastic waste will be reversed in the environment by 2030. This is the equivalent plastic amount generated by over 380 trillion plastic bottles.
The PEAM project aims to investigate the chemo-physical interactions between different types of plastic waste and the asphalt bitumen in the view of developing a reliable methodology to combine these two materials and enhance the mechanical properties of the final mix.
Industry Partners: Municipality of Abu Dhabi
PI: Michele Lanotte
Khalifa University of Science and Technology – Faculty Start-up Award
Predicting Subsurface Soil Properties from Satellite Data in Abu Dhabi
The satellite data are expected to bring significant benefits to many industries including civil and infrastructure engineering. Digital elevation models (DEM) and satellite images are used to obtain geologic and soil information for construction sites in Abu Dhabi. This study aims to develop data processing technology to characterize the geologic and geotechnical site conditions in Abu Dhabi by using DEMs and satellite images through data analysis by machine-learning techniques. The study will be useful for the City of Abu Dhabi which is under expansion, in particular the areas where the soil exploration data are limited.
PI: Tadahiro Kishida
Partners: Municipality of Abu Dhabi, Hiroshima University, Japan
ADEK Award for Research Excellence
High Performance Sustainable Ballast Technology
The UAE is planning the development of an extensive national railway system (Etihad Rail) connecting the country’s principal commercial, industrial, and residential hubs through a state-of-the-art freight and passenger network. Even though the railway has several advantages over roads, there are major drawbacks, such as maintenance costs due to track deterioration, which limits its implementation.
In particular, ballast, a layer consisting of coarse angular aggregates placed underneath the sleepers, and a vital component of railway tracks as it provides stability and drainage is the main cause of track maintenance needs. The objective this project is to engineer new high-performance, sustainable ballast to drastically increase the lifespan of the track, decrease the level of maintenance and potentially the level of noise and vibration. Lab testing of locally available natural and recycled materials, and smart technologies are being used together with constitutive and finite element modeling to develop enhanced solutions.
Fig. 1 Natural and recycled materials being used in the development of new enhanced ballast solutions (a) natural aggregate; (b) aluminum white dross (AWD) (source: EGA); (b) Electric arc furnace (EAF) slag (source: Emirates Steel); (d) crushed concrete
Fig. 2 DSR test for adhesive damage evaluation
Etihad Rail – Egis Rail