Professor at the Division of Geoengineering, Leader of the Geotechnical Engineering Research group
The core of the research of the Geotechnics group is “constitutive modelling of geomaterials”, which means modelling the complex material response under arbitrary stress paths. The research group is doing experimental testing, developing their own models, implementing those models into numerical codes and applying them on real problems.
- Sometimes we can even validate our models with field measurements, so we are basically covering the whole range from testing to applications. In terms of experiments we develop our own equipment, so you can say that even though we do some conventional soil testing, we mainly do non-standard testing, really probing the soil response.
The research of Minna and her group is focussed on soft sensitive clays, which is a quite niche area. However, soft sensitive clay is a material that the Gothenburg area got plenty of and is indeed a major environmental hazard in Scandinavia. The amount of international research activity in the field is limited, and Minna’s group is the leading group in Europe (and indeed in the world) in modelling and testing of sensitive soft soils. The research group has strong linkages to other European Universities. Thanks to Minna Karstunen’s and Jelke Dijkstra’s research track record Chalmers was invited in 2014 to join “ALERT Geomaterials”, a European “club” of leading universities working on modelling and testing of geomaterials. Minna was also elected as a working member of the KVVS in December.
- Everything has to be founded on rocks and soils, regardless of whether we are on the Earth, on the Moon or on Mars. Since those materials are not manufactured, and are instead created by geological processes, they offer a great deal of challenge in terms characterization and understanding of material behaviour. The material is as it is, we have to characterise it, and then cleverly engineer it when we construct on it.
Given her expertise Minna Karstunen is engaged as the expert in Geotechnics in Expertrådet of Västlänken: a project with bigger and deeper excavations that has ever done before in Gothenburg, and a project that suits the research area well. The soil models developed by the research group for deformation analyses are perfectly suited for the forthcoming challenges.
Link between research and teaching
Regarding research’s connection to education, it is a natural consequence that the geotechnics courses in the MSc programme have strong focus on soft soil modelling and ground improvement. Field examples found in the region offer more substance than what is typically available in textbooks used in MSc courses.
- As for MSc dissertations, the students typically use industry standard software, but utilising the state of the art soil models developed by us. They are hence front-runners, using things which are not yet available for industry. A perk directly connected to the results of our research!
The year in review and the future
As for the results accomplished during 2015, the publication of the new creep model is one of the highlights.
- I am most proud of the fact that we published a new creep model. To maximise its potential use, a complementing user-friendly tool for model simulations was developed by Jean-Philippe Gras, our Marie Curie post-doc fellow. Both the model and the tool will be made available for academia and industry. A commercial software company will provide the support for users, so that other parties really can use it. That is a big achievement considering utilization of our research. On scientific side, the highlight was testing sensitive clay in the MAX III Lab in Lund as part of Jelke’s VR project. It offers for the first time opportunity to really understand how the materials behaves at micro level, leading eventually to even more clever models than we have developed until now.