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NSF Grant Supports Development of New Soil Testing Measures

October 11, 2006

The National Science Foundation has awarded a three-year, $208,974 grant to researchers in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Arlington to develop mechanisms and processes to predict when soils reach a point of developing landslides and mudslides. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that between 15 and 25 people die annually in the U.S. due to these incidents, and hundreds more die worldwide.

The project will explore the mechanical behavior of various soil materials and large deformations due to torsion loading. Drs. Laureano Hoyos, the principal investigator, and Anand Puppala, the co-principal investigator, will create a novel ring-shear testing apparatus that will be the first of its kind to ever be implemented at any geotechnical research institution in the U.S. and will constitute a major advancement in soil testing.

“We will be reproducing and using actual field specimens and subjecting them to shear stress,” said Dr. Hoyos. “We’ll be able to record a wide spectrum of deformations. Our results should aid civil engineers as they plan the construction of such man-made slopes as embankments, levees and dams.”

UT Arlington in known for its research strengths in soil mechanics. In this project, Drs. Hoyos and Puppala will be assisted by a Ph.D. student; they hope to include two or three undergraduate students as the project progresses. The results of their research will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms governing long-runout landslides triggered by rainfalls, such as the slope failures in La Conchita, California, where 10 died and the entire town had to be evacuated.