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Enhancing Pile Drivability and Decommissioning in Chalk: An Experimental and Micromechanical Study

Project Description

Chalk covers much of the UK and is widespread under the North and Baltic Seas. Foundations in chalk often pose particular problems because the complex collapsible rock behaviour. Driven piles are often used to support many structures in offshore renewable energy applications. The reliability with which their capacity can be predicted is surprisingly low and geotechnical design uses empirical methods or wished-in-place simulations based upon geotechnical information obtained before installation [2]. Installation effects are conservatively estimated (if considered at all), as the change of chalk properties around the pile during installation cannot be easily quantified. This leads to very significant conservatism in design.

In this PhD project, the installation effects of pile driving in Chalk will be addressed experimentally and numerically. Standard geomechanical tests and centrifuge physical models of driven piles will be designed and used to identify the damage processes occurring at the chalk pile interface. Attention will also be placed on the pull-out phase to estimate extraction loads for design of safe extraction techniques. Following [3] these experiments will be simulated numerically by means of the discrete element model (DEM). The SMART-MicroCT (ERDF SMART Centre) scanner will be used to visualize and quantify rock damage during pile installation.

The successful candidate will be supervised jointly by Dr Matteo Ciantia and Dr Michael Brown at the University of Dundee. Additional project supervision is provided externally by Dr Marcos Arroyo & Prof. Antonio Gens of UPC, Barcelona. The candidate will hence have the opportunity to undergo part of his PhD in Barcelona. Some experience in either experimental geomechanics, the discrete element method (DEM), FE numerical modelling or programming is highly desirable.

Applicants wishing to apply should submit a one-page covering letter stating your background, academic qualifications (i.e. Masters degree at 2:1 or above in a related subject), past research experience and interests, and future career aspirations. Please include a full CV, a copy of your academic transcript and the names and contact details of two referees to either and . Please also send any other informal inquiries or queries to the same email addresses.


[1] Ziogos, A., Brown, M.J., Ivanovic, A. and Morgan, N. (2017) Chalk-steel Interface testing for marine energy foundations. Proc. Inst. of Civil Engineers: Geotechnical Engineering Journal, Vol 170, GE3. pp. 285-298. DOI: 10.1680/jgeen.16.00112. ISSN 1353-2618. Themed issue: Geotechnics in energy provision.
[2] Lord, J. A., Clayton, C.R. and Mortimore R. N. (2002) Engineering in Chalk. CIRIA, London, UK, CIRIA Publication C574
[3] Ciantia, M. O., Arroyo, M., Butlanska, J. & Gens, A. (2016) DEM modelling of cone penetration tests in a double-porosity crushable granular material. Computers and Geotechnics. 73, 109–127

Funding Notes

To be eligible for a fully-funded PhD studentship, covering tuition fees and an annual stipend set at UKRI rates, the candidate must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education, further guidance can be found on the EPSRC website). Due to funding requirements the University of Dundee is limited to accepting only UK students.

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