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Geotechnical Research Meets Grandest Challenges of the New World

Angel Palomino.Associate Professor Angel Palomino has contributed a chapter to a new book entitled Geotechnical Fundamentals for Addressing New World Challenges. New World Challenges include some of the most pressing problems facing society, including the four covered in the book: climate adaptation, urban sustainability, energy and material resources, and global water resources.

The book was the result of the Workshop on Geotechnical Fundamentals in the Face of New World Challenges, which was held in 2016 with 40 geotechnical engineering professors from around the country. Its four primary goals were to:

  • identify clear milestones in fundamental research that sustain the geotechnical engineering field;
  • document current development in the field and capture visions for future research;
  • identify gaps and needs as well as applications that hold potential for future impact, and;
  • explore the approaches for enhancing the teaching of fundamental principles in geotechnical engineering.

Every chapter of the book is dedicated to the different topics covered in the workshop.

The idea was to bring together all of these top people in geotechnical engineering and mesh people with different backgrounds to come up with better ways of solving these grand challenges.”

—Angel Palomino

“We got together in different groups depending on our areas of expertise, so this was a combination of the state-of-the-art-type knowledge but then thinking toward the future of how we can leverage our expertise to address imminent challenges,” she added.

Palomino has three areas of expertise, but she is best known for her use of clays in creating different materials, such as “tunable” clay-polymer composites made with responsive polymers. Responsive polymer molecules are long-chain molecules that either contract and/or expand, depending on the surrounding environmental conditions. They are very responsive to external stimuli, and some polymers can be photosensitive or chemically sensitive.

People have been looking at polymers mixed with clays mostly in the landfill lining systems because of their ability to hold back water and contaminants from going through the barrier. Palomino’s fundamental research on polymers is an important driver of future environmental sustainability solutions where clay is involved.