Geotechnical Lab




Lena de Vries

Laboratory Management


+49 241 80-96788



The geotechnical laboratory

The Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology has a geotechnical laboratory which is used for a variety of purposes. The laboratory work takes place in two sections and serves teaching and research in the field of soil and rock mechanics.


Teaching includes internships and the supervision of bachelor and master students.With the help of various experiments the following soil-physical characteristics can be determined according to DIN/ ISO:

  • Water content
  • Grain size distribution by sieving
  • Particle size distribution by slurry analysis
  • Grain density
  • yield and roll-out limit
  • Shrink limit
  • Water absorption capacity
  • Lime content
  • Loss on ignition
  • Compaction behaviour according to Proctor
  • Compression behaviour with impeded lateral expansion
  • Shear Strength


Apart from teaching activities, the laboratory is used for conducting geotechnical experiments in various research projects - often involving students in the context of final theses. In the following individual projects will be presented as examples to give a clear impression of the laboratory activities.

  Opalinus Clay Specimen Copyright: © LIH

Hydromechanical characterisation of the Opalinus Clay

Opalinus clay represents a promising lithological formation for the final disposal of radioactive waste. In the geotechnical laboratory of LIH the hydromechanical behaviour of corresponding clay samples is investigated in triaxial compression tests (axial load: 100 kN, restraint up to 30 MPa). In the two cells of the device, the samples can be isostatically saturated and consolidated and then sheared off under the test frame at very low deformation

  Shear Test Specimen Copyright: © LIH

Direct shear tests on 3D-printed specimens

Modern 3D printing techniques enable the production of sandstone-analogue specimens with defined and highly reproducible properties and (fracture) geometries. By means of direct shear tests (100kN) on such specimens, the influence of different parameters on the shear strength can be investigated in a much more isolated way than is possible with natural specimens.

  Copyright: © LIH Soil liquefaction in landslide deposits

Soil liquefaction in landslide deposits

In a further laboratory experiment, the pore pressure development in landslide deposits during subsequent events will be investigated under undrained as well as drained conditions. For this experiment, a plexiglass box was built in which the soil sample is fully saturated before the experiment begins. In order to simulate the impact of a landslide on the debris deposits at the foot of the slope, a second volume of soil is dropped into the Plexiglas box from above using a funnel. Sensors positioned on the sides of the box continuously record the pore pressure in the sediment.

FEAR - Fault activation and earthquake rapture

The "FEAR" project deals with various shear tests in which granite surfaces are sheared against each other and the frictional behavior is investigated as a function of the shear rate, the shear stresses and the surface properties. An acoustic emission system is integrated into the test setup, which records and localizes microcracks that occur on the surfaces of the granite samples during the shearing process and evaluates them using seismological methods.


Available devices

The LIH has extensive equipment for carrying out experiments in the laboratory and on site:

laboratory equipment field instruments
  • Frame shearing machine for loose rock
  • Direct shearing device for rock samples (100kN)
  • Triaxial press (axial load:100kN, clamping up to 30 MPa)
  • climate chamber with a temperature range of -10°C to +30°C and a relative humidity of 30% to 95%
  • High-resolution camera for Digital Image Correlation (DIC)
  • Various data acquisition systems for strain, pore pressure and force measurement as well as measuring microacoustic signals
  • Borehole camera for the inspection of boreholes
  • surveryor's level device for measuring differences in height
  • Field vane probe for the determination of the layer-oriented, undrained shear strength in the borehole
  • Guelph permeameter to determine the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the soil
  • Cobra for ram core probing
  • Dynamic probe for dynamic probing
  • Pürkhauer and cutting cylinder for sampling
  • Laser scanner for the observation of surface deformations
  • Teledyne Optech Polaris
    • Range: up to 2,000 m
    • Repetition rate : up to 500 kHz
    • integrated color camera
  • ZEB-REVO GeoSLAM (Mobil)
    • Range: max. 30m
    • Data acquisition rate : 43.2 kHz
  • Faro Focus3D X330
    • Range: 0.6- 330 m
    • Measurement rate : up to 976 kHz
  • FO-DTS (Fibre optical distributed temperature sensing) for fibre optical temperature measurement in boreholes up to 300m depth
  • High pressure pumps + flowboard for performing pressure and rate controlled hydraulic tests and stimulations with up to 100 l/min at 20 MPa in solid rock
  • High resolution camera for DIC
  • High resolution camera including range finder, GPS system and software for digital photogrammetry

Outlook into the future

Currently, another laboratory area is being set up in the basement (36m²) to create space for another triaxial testing machine, among other things. This will be able to apply an axial load of 350 kN and a restraint of up to 70 MPa. Delivery of the testing machine is scheduled for spring 2022.