Researchers at the University of Sydney are creating new mathematical models that could help in reducing rock fracturing and soil liquefaction.
Dr. Luming Shen, the study's chief investigator,said the outcomes of the research could improve safety levels in mining.
Shen, a senior lecturer at the School of Civil Engineering, said although the study of the dynamic behaviour of unsaturated porous media under heavy loading is still in its infancy, the project is still breaking new ground in geotechnical engineering.
“It is a new and vital component of geotechnical engineering and could hold the key to solving a number of issues associated with seismic damage of underground structures” he stated.
Loading from explosives often generate stress wave propagation through unsaturated granular media and can lead to rock fracturing.
“A fracture can divide the rock into two or more pieces and form a deep fissure or crevice in the rock. It usually occurs when stress exceeds the rock strength, causing the rock to lose cohesion along its weakest plane,” Shen explained.
“Understanding the response of unsaturated porous media to high-rate loading will assist in reducing seismic damage to underground structures such as tunnels
“It would also assist in the control of blast-induced fragmentation in block cave mining, and the reduction of contaminant transport through fractures in porous rock,” he says.
The three year study will work in collaboration with the University of Adelaide.
“We will conduct mesoscale experiments,studying the interactions between the solid, liquid and gas phases and compare the results to macroscopic or humanly visible dynamic responses,” Shen added.