The project aims to further develop a thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) constitutive framework for expansive clays based on hypoplasticity, and apply it to slope stability problems. The research group is currently investigating the effect of temperature on the behaviour of unsaturated expansive clays with respect to their performance as hydro-chemical insulators in radioactive waste repositories. Experimental results demonstrate the significance of thermal effects, which have been partly incorporated into the THM constitutive framework developed by the group. However, thermal effects can also occur due to different processes, such as seasonal thermal variations in shallow clay-rich soil layers on mountain slopes, possibly enhanced by climate change. The (still very limited) research in this field has shown that some landslides might be activated by thermal excursions, which may also alter the soil’s shear-rate dependent (and viscous) behaviour, potentially triggering runaway responses to small increases in external loading. In the proposed project, compression and shear laboratory experiments at various temperatures are planned, the results of which will be used for calibrating and validating improvements in the thermo-hydro-mechanical model. The final goal will be to quantify, through finite-element numerical modelling using an inhouse software, changes in stability condition of a clay slope under realistic THM forcing.

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