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Geotechnical Laboratory

The Geotechnical Laboratory is well-equipped with testing equipment for evaluating all engineering properties of soils and rocks, including index properties, compaction characteristics of soils, hydraulic characteristics, compressibility, rate of consolidation and shear strength.

The equipment ranges from the most fundamental to the most sophisticated and is used in both undergraduate and graduate teaching and research. The laboratory is also equipped with the most complete facility for assessing the effects of earthquake shaking on soils and rocks and foundation performance. The laboratory has the most extensive in-house collection of cyclic triaxial test data on liquefaction of soils.

After 20 years, researchers around the world are still asking for related research reports. High school students from Colorado call it “Earthquake Lab” after the liquefaction demonstrations they have seen in the lab over the last three decades.

The capabilities of the Geotechnical Laboratory are quite diverse and complete. It is equipped with teaching and research equipment, from simple to complex. Besides some fundamental apparatuses, it also contains the following specialty equipment:

  • five hydroelectric universal test systems with capacities ranging from 20 kips to 1,000 kips for testing all kinds of materials, like soils, rocks and structure materials with digital controllers for both static and dynamic loading tests
  • a complete set of 15 cyclic triaxial cells for samples with diameters ranging from 2.0 to 6.0 inches for static strength, dynamic properties and liquefaction resistance evaluation
  • one earthquake-induced liquefaction demonstration shaking table
  • one large size hollow cylinder triaxial test apparatus, one of very few in the world, for specialty research in soil mechanics
  • laboratory vane shear test apparatus
  • a flow pump system with triaxial cells for assessing the permeability of low permeable soils and rocks and also the effects of deicing chemicals on engineering properties of soils
  • a 10-ton overhead crane and thick reaction floor with anchor bolt strength of 100 kips each designed for testing full-scale geostructure

In sum, the Geotechnical Laboratory has excellent facilities for testing soils and rocks for their static and dynamic engineering characteristics involved in static and earthquake resistance designs of buildings and associated foundations. The lab is equipped to handle both geotechnical and structural teaching and research.

The Geotechnical Laboratory is run by the following professors:

Load and Resistance Factor Design of Driven Piles Seismic Responses of High Rise Buildings


Dynamic Properties of Soils

  • Low and high strain dynamic soil properties
  • Resilient modulus of soils for pavement design

Earthquake Engineering

  • Bridge bent isolation under seismic shaking
  • Earthquake Ground Motion Amplification
  • Liquefaction
    1. Effects of sand gradation characteristics
    2. Effects of percentage and plasticity of fine-grained soils
  • Seismic Soil-Structure Interaction
    • Dynamic Interface Behavior of Composite Dams
    • SSI effects on high rises
    • MSE Retaining Walls and Bridge Abutments
    • Soil-pile-pier Interaction
    • Seismic Resistance of Dams

Expansive Soils

  • Large model and full-scale drilled pier tests
  • Characteristics of expansive soils
  • Expansive soil-structure interface characteristics
  • Chemical treatment of expansive soils

Geo-Environmental Engineering

  • Environmentally sensitive sanding and deicing practices
  • Cost of winter sanding practices
  • Auto-windshield damage due to flying sand grains
  • Deicing chemical effects on clay properties

Highway Facilities

  • Three-dimensional load transfer mechanism in highway safety rails under high impact loads
  • CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) foundation design and LRFD (load resistant factor design) Strategic Plan
  • Noise barrier and sign/signal posts foundation design guidelines

The following courses are related to the Geotechnical Laboratory:

  • Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering
  • Intermediate Soil Mechanics
  • Intermediate Foundation Engineering
  • Senior Design Project
  • Advanced Soil Mechanics
  • Engineering Properties of Soils
  • Advanced Foundation Engineering
  • Ground Water and Seepage
  • Ground Water Hydrology
  • Expansive Soil Foundation Design
  • Design of Municipal Landfills
  • Shear Strength and Stability
  • Dynamics of Soils and Foundations
  • Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering
  • Earthquake-induced Soil Liquefaction

For complete, up-to-date course descriptions, visit the CU Denver academic catalog and search for the course titles listed above.