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GEO-engineering EXChanges between Europe and Latin-America

Final Report Summary - GEO-EXCEL (GEO-engineering EXChanges between Europe and Latin-America)

The Geo-Excel project has involved four European Universities and four Latin-American Universities:

University of Strathclyde UK - USTRAT
Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya UPC Spain - UPC
Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées France - ENPC
Politecnico di Milano Italy - POLIMI
Universidad Nacional de San Juan Argentina - UNSJ
Universidade de Brasilia Brazil - UnB
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco Brazil - UFPE
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Mexico - UNAM

The aims of Geo-Excel projects were i) to develop novel experimental approaches to investigate the coupled hydro-thermal-chemo-mechanical behaviour of geomaterials ii) to formulate numerical tools to predict the response of geo-structures subjected to mechanical and environmental (thermal, chemical, and hydraulic) loading and iii) to train through research Early-Stage Researchers (ERS) seconded from European to Latin-American universities and vice versa.

The project was built upon complementary expertise of researchers from Latin-American and European Universities working in the area of geo-mechanics and was aimed to expand and enhance research knowledge of ESRs during their stays at the partner institutions. The ESRs could benefit from mentoring by Experienced Researchers (ER) at the Host Institution and the research visits by Experienced Researches (ERs) at their Home institutions.

Two workshops, organised in Europe and Latin-America respectively, were crucial project activities oriented to human resource development and dissemination of the research performed within the partnership. The Transfer of Knowledge (including seminars, courses, etc.) was oriented to develop and upgrade the expertise of the researches involved in the exchange programme, and to share their local geo-engineering knowledge and innovation.

Scientific achievements based on the cooperation between European and Latin-American researchers included

• Development of experimental techniques to investigate the hydro- mechanical response of tailing dam geomaterials

• Development of techniques to characterise microstructure of geomaterials

• Validation of a novel micro seismic monitoring technique on Brazilian sites in to image flowing fracture network in rock surrounding tunnel walls

• Validation of nanoseismic monitoring technique to detect time and location of slope failure based on large-scale field experiment

• Development of a technique to monitor crack formation and propagation in clayey geomaterials

• Implementation of a Material Point Method to model failure of geo-structures including dams and embankments

• Development of a numerical model to predict time-dependent behaviour of rockfill embankments and dams

• Development of a numerical model to predict formation and propagation of drying cracks in geomaterials

• Development of a numerical model to simulate the hydro-mechanical response of expansive soils in slope instability problems.

• Development of a numerical model for chemo-poromechanical behaviour of geomaterials in the context of carbon storage in deep saline aquifer

• Development of a model to predict degradation and swelling of clayey rocks bearing calcium-sulphate

• Development of a numerical approach to model penetration of Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM),

The results of these fundamental studies have been already applied to real engineering problems (e.g. Lilla tunnel excavated for the Madrid-Barcelona high speed railway line in Spain, Line 9 (L9) of the Barcelona Underground) and they have the potential to be applied to the design and/or remediation of a broad scope of geo-structures subjected to climatic loading including dams, road and railway embankments, levees, geological deposits for carbon storage. Geo-Excel has involved secondments of more than 40 among doctoral and post-doctoral researchers and about 20 senior researchers (from European to Latin-American universities and vice versa).

For the European researchers, the access to local knowledge and techniques used in Latin-America and exposure to the Latin-American culture will be key benefit in their professional profile. We expect that the experience gained in this project will be an asset for European companies recruiting our researchers and operating in Latin-America, giving companies an edge in the rapidly expanding and highly competitive Latin-American geotechnical construction market.
On the other hand, we expect that providing the visiting Latin-American researchers a good cultural and work experience in a European context will raise the attractiveness of Europe for external researchers and contribute to the technological and professional leadership of Europe in the geotechnical construction market.

For more information about GEO-EXCEL, please visit the project Website ( or email Professor Alessandro Tarantino (