Geotechnical Laboratory

The Geotechnical Laboratory supports a very large, nine-year, slope stability project conducted jointly by the Department of Geosciences at Western Michigan University and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Geotechnical data are obtained from a large area of slumping Lake Michigan coastal bluff. This provides classification and strength data used for predictions as to whether segments of the bluff are stable or are susceptible to the development of slow or catastrophic landslides. Laboratory data support the following research activities:

  • Computer modeling of slope stability under a variety of ground water loading, wave erosion and surcharge loading condition.
  • Correlation of soils among outcrops and drill cores.
  • Engineering characterization of soils and comparisons with failing soils at other sites.
  • Moisture contents of potentially failing soils.

The laboratory provides the capabilities for classification and establishment of strength characteristics for soils. All of these tests conform to the American Society for Testing and Materials International standards. The tests we conduct are:

  • Atterberg limits testing
  • Consolidation testing
  • Gradation analyses for all size ranges
  • Heavy and magnetic mineral separations and analyses
  • High resolution polarized or unpolarized microscopy and digital photomicrography
  • Limit equilibrium computer modeling using UTEXAS33, SLOPE and GALENA
  • Permeability determinations for unconsolidated soils
  • Physical properties and moisture contents
  • Shear box testing of unconsolidated soils and establishment of failure criteria
  • Triaxial load testing of consolidated soils and establishment of failure criteria

The significant equipment items in this lab include:

  • Frantz Isodynamic Magnetic Separator
  • Geocomp™ LoadTrac II and FlowTrac II triaxial compression and consolidation system with computer and Web interface
  • Geocomp™ ShearTrac II direct shear system with computer and Web interface
  • Leitz and Zeiss binocular and trinocular research microscopes
  • Modern hood system for heavy liquid separations, settling analyses under constant air flow and conversion to a humid space for preparation of damp or saturated soils
  • Sony digital microcamera, monitor and capabilities for still or VCR photography
  • Tyler RoTap sieve system