2024 Physical Modeling in Geotechnics

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Academic unit or major
Graduate major in Civil Engineering
Takahashi Akihiro  Sawada Mai 
Class Format
Media-enhanced courses
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Course description and aims

Geo-materials have complex mechanical properties with a lot of influential factors, which cause complicated behaviors of geotechnical structures such as foundations, slopes and tunnels. Physical modeling using scaled models under clear initial and boundary conditions is one of the effective approaches to observe the behaviors and study the influence of critical factors.
This course instructs theory, requirements, technology needed in physical modeling of geotechnical problems such as the scaling laws, appropriate simplification, sample preparation and measurement of the soil behaviors.

Student learning outcomes

Through lectures and group works, the students acquire fundamental knowledge of physical modeling in the field of geotechnics such as scaling laws for various geotechnical problems under static and dynamic loading conditions, simplification in model construction, soil preparation methods, measurement strategy, loading techniques.


properties of geo-materials, scaled models, scaling law, sample preparation, measurement strategy and sensors, static problems, dynamic problems, group work

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

Combination of the lectures on basic subjects on physical modeling in geotechnics and group exercises. Each group will conduct centrifuge model tests on the problems set by each group..

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Introduction - role of physical model in geotechnical engineering Advantages of physical modeling and its role in geotechnical engineering practice
Class 2 Similitude and modeling principles Dimensional Analysis, scaling law, modeling strategy of scaled physical model
Class 3 Design of physical model and model ground preparation Modeling of soil, structures and loading, soil sample preparation techniques
Class 4 Modeling exercise -1: preparation of dry sand model ground in a mold Exercise of dry sand sample preparation and
Class 5 Measurements strategy and sensors Understanding sensing technology and instrumentation
Class 6 Recent development in physical modeling – static problems Modeling for geotechnical problems under static loading conditions
Class 7 Modeling exercise-2: Bearing capacity of shallow foundation on dry sand Model planing and excution of scaled 1G model
Class 8 Modeling exercise-2: continue Idem
Class 9 Presentation of exercise results and discussion – Exercises 1 & 2 Idem
Class 10 Recent development in physical modeling – dynamic problems Modeling for geotechnical problems under dynamic loading conditions
Class 11 Modeling exercise-3: Modeling of soil-structure interaction problems by centrifuge model and verification of numerical or analytical model: Orientation and Group discussion Centrifuge modeling on soil - structure interaction problems
Class 12 Modeling exercise-3: Proposal Understanding the condtions and key behavior studied in the model
Class 13 Modeling exercise-3: continue & progress report: Idem
Class 14 Presentation of exercise results and discussion – Exercise-3 Derivation of main conclusions, confirmation of the accuracy and significance

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

To enhance effective learning, students are encouraged to spend approximately 100 minutes preparing for class and another 100 minutes reviewing class content afterwards (including assignments) for each class.
They should do so by referring to textbooks and other course material.


Handouts on each topic will be provided by lecturer.

Reference books, course materials, etc.

Geotechnical Centrifuge Technology, Blackie Academic & Professional

Assessment criteria and methods

Assignments, Reports of exercise, presentation of experimental work

Related courses

  • CVE.C201 : Soil Mechanics I
  • CVE.C202 : Soil Mechanics II
  • CVE.C311 : Geotechnical Engineering in Practice
  • CVE.C401 : Mechanics of Geomaterials
  • CVE.C403 : Geo-environmental Engineering
  • CVE.C402 : Stability Problems in Geotechnical Engineering

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Knowledge of soil mechnaics and geotechnical engineering
Interests or curiocity on any observed behavior in the model and insight to find the mechanism behind

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