Our group focuses on three major research themes on the mechanics and physics of geomaterials, as detailed below.

  1. The hidden role of surface forces on the mechanics of porous materials

One of our grand research goals is to discover the role of surface forces on the mechanics of materials. We demonstrate surface processes are the key to understand various geomechanical phenomena including the sorption-induced deformation of coal and clay, environmentally enhanced crack growth in brittle rocks, and water weakening effect on gain crushing in consolidated/unconsolidated sands. Current projects are highlighted below.

2. Geomaterials under multiphysical loading

Geological materials is at the center of engineering solutions to many global-scale grand challenges such as global warming, sustainable energy, energy storage, and long-term nuclear waste disposal. In a recently DOE-funded project, we studies the thermal-hydraulic-mechanical-chemical (THMC) behavior of shale and salt rocks subjected under long-term loading to better understand the robustness of underground nuclear waste repositories.

3. Micromechanics of granular materials

Extreme stresses often exist in large geo-structure such as tall dams. We investigate the behavior of granular soils (e.g., sand, rockfill) under short- and long-term high-stress loadings to understand the stability and deformation characteristics of large geo-structures. The outcome of this research can help diagnose the cause of failure and excessive settlement of extremely tall rockfill and tailings dams.