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CEE Students Finding “Cracks” in Geotechnical Theory

A pair of CEE students recently got a chance to conduct new earth science research at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) in Chicago, Illinois.

Mohammed Elnur and Mohammed Safi, who are studying under CEE Associate Department Head of Graduate Studies and Professor Khalid Alshibli, were investigating what happens when cracks form in grains of waterlogged sand under high pressure.

Previously, geotechnical engineers had assumed that the cracks filled entirely with water. However, Alshibli and his students discovered that air bubbles appear in some of the new cracks—a finding that changes the predicted stability of underwater sand as a foundation material.

Elnur and Safi conducted the experiment on the 13 BM-D Beamline, which captures 3D computed tomography (CT scan) images of the inside of materials under experimental pressure. 13 BM-D is part of The University of Chicago’s GeoSoilEnviro Center for Advanced Radiation Sources (GSECARS), which tweeted out a photo of the students’ visit.