50g-Tonne 4m Diameter Civil Engineering Centrifuge: Centre for Energy & Infrastructure Ground Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Civil and Structural Engineering

Abstract

Ground Engineering is of critical importance to society through the provision of infrastructure and underpins key challenges relating to energy provision, dealing with the impact of climate change on our infrastructure and manufacturing the future through the use of novel material in construction.

The extent of Civil Engineering infrastructure and variable ground conditions frequently preclude full-scale field trials placing high value infrastructure assets at risk due to uncertainty in performance. The stress dependent strength and stiffness behaviour of soil prevent small bench scale model tests to effectively capture full-scale behaviour unless stress levels are artificially enhanced. Gravitational acceleration produced by an engineering centrifuge enhances stresses and therefore enables observations of small scale models tested at elevated gravity to represent full-scale conditions. Distinct advantages of this method are that it (i) offers a more cost effective approach compared to full scale testing for validating behaviour, (ii) enables new designs to be safely evaluated, (iii) enables us to learn from previous failures to provide improved engineering design, and (iv) offers the ability to predict future performance of our infrastructure to extreme climate change events, thus enabling prevention strategies to be adopted.

The University of Sheffield, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering will establish a flagship research centre, 'The Centre for Energy and Infrastructure Research' targeted specifically at developing connectivity between Ground Engineering and key areas of strategic national importance in Energy, Living with Environmental Change and Manufacturing the Future, to deliver modern infrastructure and inform management strategies for existing assets to prolong their life cycle. Central to this facility will be a 50g-tonne 4m diameter beam centrifuge, capable of rotating a mass of 500kg at 150g, equipped with the latest technological advancements, instrumentation and robotic actuator control, to unlock vital scientific knowledge that will enable enhanced understanding of complex construction problems.

The centre will be embedded at the heart of one of the UK's premier engineering faculties and will capitalise on a portfolio of multi-disciplinary research to explore new innovative scientific discovery. We will work with academics in other institutions by operating the centrifuge as a shared resource which will establish a hub of expertise to deliver interdisciplinary research providing fundamental understanding and applied guidance to government and industry stakeholders to optimise investment in infrastructure management and development.

Planned Impact

Operating as a shared resource for academic researchers at 11 partnering institutions: Belfast, Bolton, Bradford, Dublin (UCD), Durham, Galway, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle Salford and Sheffield; the centrifuge will have an immeasurable impact on academia. Our proposal clearly outlines the unique state-of-the-art scientific capabilities the centrifuge will provide; and the impact these will have in allowing the academic community to unlock new scientific understanding. This proposal will unite academic experience, foster new relations and trigger innovative cross-institution multi-disciplinary research over many decades.Training of high quality early career researcher will be an important output of our programme to develop the next generation of future research leaders.

There will be an immediate benefit to challenges areas of national importance (Energy, Living with Environmental Change and Manufacturing the Future) and thematic research subjects identified to be of 'Maintain' or 'Grow' status. Technology translation to cognate engineering disciplines (Materials, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng.) provides an interesting juxtaposition for wider academic impact beyond the traditional field of ground engineering. This application will deliver impact regionally by mitigating inadequate provision of similar facilities in the North of England; nationally through the integration of partners beyond the geographical region and our ambition to enable national access via entry to EPSRC's facility database; and translated internationally via high quality publications which will demonstrate the investment and strength of UK research on the world stage, thus supporting economic recovery and stimulating growth.

Industry (consultants and contractors) will benefit as centrifuge modelling has played a pivotal role in developing understanding of complex geotechnical problems. Notable contributions include: foundation design, retaining structures and offshore geomechnics. The unrivalled capability of recreating full scale ground stress conditions have made centrifuge technology a cost effective approach to generate vital scientific evidence of prototype performance though observation of realistic failure mechanics which are not possible at full scale. There is increasing demand for this service from the construction industry to enhance design for competitive advantage, revise industry standards, validate numerical models and de-risk multi-million infrastructure projects. Industrial relevant output will be highly beneficial to government authorities (i.e. Dept. of Transport, Environment, Energy & Climate Change) concerned with formulating infrastructure investment policies, asset management and risk mitigation strategies to deliver resilience infrastructure that is vital to the UK's future prosperity.

The general public and society will ultimately benefit through the delivery of nationally important research that will provide superior resilient new infrastructure and extended life of existing assets which in turn will minimise public expenditure. We will target public engagement to help change the current 'taken for granted' attitude to infrastructure, informing the next generation of the need to alter societal habits regarding energy usage and the need for renewable/carbon neutral strategies.

Lastly, there will be direct benefits for the environment and the economy as the equipment will be specifically targeted at areas of immediate and high impact such as renewable energy or assessing the impact of climate change on infrastructure.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have successfully established a world leading experimental facility that is underpinning many streams of research related to energy and infrastructure in the ground engineering sector. Many new experimental techniques have resulted from our scientific developments that have informed other international research centres - i.e. advanced visualisation methods and real-time inflight control systems. Scientific discovery has been significant in the area of offshore wind energy. Our research has produced new insight of soil structure interaction under cyclic loading (x10^6), which has informed current design methods as to the long-term determination of pile foundations. Also, we are a leading member in a newly formed international consortium evaluating new renewable foundations systems by centrifuging methods.
Exploitation Route New design methodologies, adoption of advanced testing techniques, changing design guidance and management strategies for infrastructure resilience.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Transport

 
Description Training of highly skilled staff and research students. Informed industry about design protocol and impact to long-term sustainability of renewable energy foundations.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Construction,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description AArsleff - Driven Pile Project 
Organisation Aarsleff Ground Engineering
PI Contribution Consultancy project to investigate the performance of driven piles in consolidating clay embankments. Our contribution developed an analytical model to predict the soil consolidation and resultant transfer of moment onto the raked pile foundations.
Collaborator Contribution Consultancy project to investigate the performance of driven piles in consolidating clay embankments. Our partner contribution was providing access to case histories and support the development of the design tools.
Impact A technical article resulted from the work that was published in the Institution of Civil Engineers, Ground Engineering Magazine: entitled Challenging the Perception of Precast Piles: Bayton SM; Black JA; Smith CC; Handley B and Primett C.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Government 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Support to centre and identifying research challenges. Access to design info, field site data etc.
Collaborator Contribution Support to centre and identifying research challenges. Access to design info, field site data etc.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industry 
Organisation Fugro
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges. Access to design info, field site data etc.
Collaborator Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges. Access to design info, field site data etc.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industry 
Organisation Huesker
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges
Collaborator Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges. In-kind support by way of consumable supplies.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industry - Aktins Geotechnics 
Organisation WS Atkins
Department Atkins Process Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Support/direction on design of offshore energy foundations, research data.
Collaborator Contribution Industry support to a PhD research project. Access to design info, field site data etc.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2014
 
Description International Collaboration 
Organisation Hong Kong University of Science and Tech
Country Hong Kong 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Impact Exchange of technologies.
Start Year 2014
 
Description International Collaboration 
Organisation Queen's University
Department Faculty of Civil Engineering
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network steering committee panel member
Collaborator Contribution Network steering committee panel member - strategic development.
Impact Facility development and identifying national/international research challenges.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Collaboration 
Organisation Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department Civil and Environmental Engineering
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Impact Exchange of technologies.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Collaboration 
Organisation University of California, Davis
Department Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Impact Exchange of technologies.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Collaboration 
Organisation University of Colorado Boulder
Department Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of research/facility development and identifying international research challenges.
Impact Exchange of technologies.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Bolton 
Organisation University of Bolton
Department Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Bradford 
Organisation University of Bradford
Department Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Durham 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Leeds 
Organisation University of Leeds
Department School of Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Manchester 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Newcastle 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Queens 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Host organisation - coordinating test requirements for the geotechnical centrifuge.
Collaborator Contribution Network collaborating partner
Impact Early stage collaboration - 1 joint PhD student started Oct 2014.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Queens 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Network Partner - Salford 
Organisation University of Salford
Department Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Network host: facilitate access to the centrifuge facility and support the development of research projects/proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to the research strategy, research projects and output.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Offshore Foundations - Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) 
Organisation Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Country Norway 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution NGI and the Centre for Energy & Infrastructure Ground Research are collaborating on offshore monopile foundations. Recent exchange trips have lead to the development of a joint research programme. We are providing experimental data to validate design models currently being developed to support more efficient foundation systems.
Collaborator Contribution NGI and the Centre for Energy & Infrastructure Ground Research are collaborating on offshore monopile foundations. Recent exchange trips have lead to the development of a joint research programme. NGI and undertaking numerical model studies to complement the physical experiments.
Impact Collaboration recently started - no outcome yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Description industry 
Organisation Arup Group
Department Advanced Technology and Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Description industry 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges.
Collaborator Contribution Industry support to centre and identifying research challenges.
Impact None to date.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Soil Imaging systems 
Description With setting up the centre several new experimental facilities have been developed - for example a bespoke soil imaging system for the centrifuge environment. This system was developed in conjunction with the centrifuge manufacturer and has seen be sold into 4 other international research centres for their experimental work. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This system has seen be sold into 4 other international research centres and enabled a wide range of scientific investigations. 
 
Description A talk or presentation - Student Visits & Widening Participation (five events in 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Visit the the centrifuge centre for schools during engineering visit days to inform them about engineering, research activities and opportunities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Learning and Teaching 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Students more aware of modelling capabilities in geotechnical engineering and research challenges.

From this group of 20 students, 2 have returned for PhD research studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Open Days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Potential students and parents were shown and demonstrated the test facility. Generated considerable interest in the physics of the experimental system and the research that would be conducted and its impact to society.

Students and parents more aware of societal issues and the role of civil engineering to provide a better environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Presentation - Buffalo University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation to academics and UG Students on Physical modelling in Education - specifically centrifuge testing. Followup discussions with staff have resulted in supporting them with a research application to establish similar educational practice and centrifuge facility in Buffalo. Grant submitted and awaiting outcome.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation and workshop - Royal Military College, Kingston 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation to academics and UG Students on Physical modelling in Education - specifically centrifuge testing. Followup with lab workshop and demonstrations of theory connecting with physical model tests. Research collaboration commenced.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Student Visits & Widening Participation (five events in 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Potential students and parents were shown and demonstrated the test facility. Generated considerable interest in the physics of the experimental system and the research that would be conducted and its impact to society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Visit - International students (Yamaguchi) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Visit to the centrifuge centre by international students from Yamaguchi, Japan to learn about the research and impact we are having on offshore engineering.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017