Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)

Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)
Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)

GeoEngineering Centre at Queen's-RMC

The GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s–RMC is using field-scale experiments to address critical environmental and infrastructure problems

The GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s–RMC is a team of almost 20 faculty in the Departments of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering at Queen’s University, and Civil Engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada, collaborating in research and the education of graduate students. Together they train almost 100 research students and post-docs, or about 20% of the geotechnical, geoenvironmental and geological engineers being trained in Canada.  The centre hosts a unique collaborative graduate program, and has world-class experimental facilities for research in a broad range of geoengineering sub-disciplines.

The infrastructure and environmental challenges

Countries across the world face extraordinary challenges associated with building and maintaining the civil and environmental infrastructure systems needed by communities. For example, many of the extensive pipe networks built in European, North American and Asian cities after WWII for supply of water and removal of wastewater are in urgent need of repair or replacement. Management of municipal, industrial and mine waste presents environmental challenges. GeoEngineering researchers at Queen’s are using large-scale experiments to understand, evaluate and apply new technologies that contribute to solving these issues.

Geosynthetic barriers to prevent groundwater contamination

Geosynthetics are polymer products used to solve a variety of ground engineering problems, including geomembranes (solid polymer sheets) and geosynthetic clay liners (bentonite clay held between polymer layers) which can limit movement of contaminants from solid waste landfills and tailings ponds out into the environment beyond. Professors Kerry Rowe, Richard Brachman and Andy Take and their trainees are investigating the effective lifespan of these barriers using a large-scale test site at Godfrey, Ontario, together with laboratory facilities that simulate the temperatures, pressures and chemical exposures that occur. Fieldwork at landfill and tailings sites stretching from Pole to Pole and the experiments at the Godfrey Field Site reveal the roles of construction practices, geosynthetic properties, and climate on geosynthetic barrier performance. For example, the research has revealed how wrinkling of the black geomembranes exposed to sunlight and erosion of the bentonite clay from within a Geosynthetic Clay Liner can greatly increase contaminant leakage. Testing at Godfrey is also used to evaluate new rules for product selection and installation. The research is contributing to successful design, construction and operation of waste containment facilities internationally.

Buried pipes for water and wastewater transport

Large scale buried pipe testing facilities developed by Professors Ian Moore and Richard Brachman include large testing pits and ‘deep burial’ chambers that permit field-scale experiments in the laboratory. For example, sewer, culvert and water pipe strength and rehabilitation is being studied using a variety of new procedures, including ‘trenchless’ construction methods involving installation of polymer and cementitious liners within the damaged pipe. The strength of the deteriorated metal, concrete or other pipes buried in the laboratory can be measured either before or after repair using real and simulated truck and earth loads, revealing the failure modes and the interactions that occur between the soil, pipe and liner. The research is guiding optimal decision-making, in North America and internationally, on when and how to repair.

Large scale buried pipe testing facility