men on a construction site

Geotechnical Research Overview at UNH

Unless you plan to spend your career working on the space station, everything you design as a civil engineer has to eventually be connected to the earth. Research in geotechnical engineering at UNH concentrates on field and laboratory measurements of the material properties required to predict how different soils will behave under the static and dyanamic loads. In some cases, the structure will be made of soil (earth dams, for example) so you will need soil properties to design the structure itself. As computer models of soils grow more sophisticated and complex, more and different soil properties have to be fed to them as input, including not only stresses and strains at failure, but also at working-stress levels. The geotechnical research at UNH covers a wide variety of topics including:

  • In-Situ Testing and Measuring While Drilling
  • SMART Rock in Debris Flow Modeling
  • Harvesting Wind Energy From Bridges 
  • Centrifuge Physical Modeling
  • Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering and Seismic Soil-Structure Interaction 
  • Geo-Environmental Engineering
  • Laboratory Dynamic Material Characterization



The geotechnical engineering group laboratories contain state-of-the-art educational and research equipment.

Geotechnical Laboratory

lab in UNH

The geotechnical group at the University of New Hampshire is also equipped with a cluster of advanced soil testing equipment suitable for characterization of soils. These facilities are particularly suitable for experimental research involving advanced modeling of the constitutive behavior of soils. This includes a cyclic triaxial cell suitable for cyclic triaxial or resilient modulus evaluation. The laboratory also contains an automated cyclic simple shear device and an advanced torsional ring shear apparatus. An Instron loading machine is available for compression testing as well. In addition, Point Load apparatus is available for rock testing. The lab also contains California Bearing Ratio testing apparatus and falling weight deflectometer useful for pavement testing. A state-of-the-art flow pump system is designed for precisely controlling the flow rates during the suction-controlled testing of unsaturated soils. A full-scale shake table facility in structural lab can also be used for 1-g modeling of geotechnical systems and soil-structure interaction probles.

student working machine in lab

Static and Cyclic Triaxial


machine in unh lab

Cyclic Simple Shear


student working machine in lab

Torsional Cyclic Ring Shear


Geotechnical Centrifuge Laboratory

Geotechnical Centrifuge is a convenient equipment for scaled physical modeling.  A 5 g-ton centrifuge at UNH is suitable for seismic soil models, slope stability evaluation, seepage mechanisms and contaminant transport study, soil-structure interaction problems. An inflight hydraulic shake table enables the researcher to study the response of geotechnical systems under earthquake loads. Various types of container are available serving different research projects including several rigid containers and a laminar container. This lab is equipped with advanced measurement sensors including LVDTs, accelerometers, pore water pressure sensors, moisture content probes.

Site Investigation Laboratory

A set of advanced in situ testing equipment are available in this laboratory. This includes Jean Lutz CL88n drilling parameter recorder, with associated sensors, flowmeters and software. In addition, this lab is equipped with a Hogentogler 10-ton digital seismic piezocone penetrometer, dynamic cone, BAT sampler, Marchetti flat dilatometer, instrumented dilatometer, Cambridge self-boring pressuremeter, permeafor, Geonor field vane and Geometrics seismic refraction system. A portable pushing frame is also available for penetration testing using some of these devices.

Soils Laboratory

The instructional geotechnical laboratory is used to conduct laboratory sessions that are part of the coursework for undergraduate classes (Soil Mechanics and Foundation Design). The lab consists of soil characterization facilities including standard soil classification equipment, simple shear apparatus, direct shear apparatus, triaxial cell setup which can be used for conventional triaxial tests (CU, CD, UU) as well as consolidation tests, consolidometers and flexible wall permeameter.