Geotechnical Research Centre


A recent grant from CFI (‘Enhancing the Resilience and Sustainability of Critical Geotechnical Infrastructure’, Newson et al.) for a large drum centrifuge at Western will further enable Dr. Newson and his collaborators to conduct world-leading transformative geotechnical research on buried structures and other important geotechnical problems.  The centrifuge is the only large drum centrifuge in North America.

Members of the GRC cover wide areas in geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering.  The results of their research have been extensively used by the industries nationally and internationally.  Examples include the investigation and design of tunnels in swelling rock; methodology for the safety evaluation of concrete dams; design of machine foundations for dynamic loading and novel pile foundations; novel technology for restoration of contaminated sites; methods of barrier design of tailings dams using soil and water cover; and an emerging technology of the application of electrokinetics to the dewatering of oil sand tailing dams is underway.

Several novel technologies for the restoration of contaminated sites have been developed in Dr. Gerhard’s laboratory and upscaled to practice at field sites, including in situ treatment by nano-scale particles and oxidants.  Contaminated site remediation by smouldering has progressed from bench-top proof of concept to field trials and now full-scale commercialization, including nine granted patents and a spin-out company.  This technology, known as STAR, is now used widely by major oil companies, chemical companies, and electrical utilities to address legacy, toxic contamination and permits sustainable site redevelopment.  Further research in the GRC is adapting STAR to new applications, including a novel toilet for the developing world in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, and for treatment of sludges produced by industrial plants.  The latter is being upscaled for commercial use by the wastewater treatment industry. 

Dr. El Naggar was the lead developer and co-author of a computer program called DYNA, used to calculate and analyze the response and design of foundations subjected to different types of dynamic loading. The software has since been adopted by more than 250 organizations worldwide and is becoming the standard tool in Canada for designing foundations to resist dynamic loads resulting from earthquake and machine vibrations.  He also developed an approach to predict the bearing capacity of piles using the Statnamic© load test – a faster and more economical test for assessing the load carrying capacity of deep foundations than that used previously.

Dr. Julie Shang is undertaking extensive research on soil improvement by Electrokinetics (EK) and chemical stabilization (quick lime, Portland cement and coal fly ash).  The objective is to study the effects of chemical grouts on loose sand in terms of strength gain, syneresis, gel time, grout dilution and setting goals.

Over the years, Dr. Yanful has undertaken research that has led to the development of innovative methods for measuring oxygen diffusion in soils, especially cover soils used for mitigating acid drainage in mine waste. Consulting companies and other researchers are currently using the methods. 

With respect to scholastic activities in the last five years (2013-2017), GRC members’ accomplishments may be reflected in the publication of more than 160 journal papers and 350 articles in conference proceedings, large numbers of invited and keynote addresses, and prestigious awards for research, teaching and industrial application from various organizations.