PhD Thesis Defense by Seth Mallett

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Ph.D. Thesis Defense Announcement

Mechanical Behavior of Fibrous Root-Inspired Anchorage Systems


Seth Mallet



Dr. J. David Frost (CEE)

Committee Members:

Dr. Susan E. Burns (CEE), Dr. Arun M. Gokhale (MSE), Dr. Michael E. Helms (CEISMIC), Dr. Paul W. Mayne (CEE)


Date & Time: Thursday, October 10, at 2pm

Location: Sustainable Education Building (SEB), Room 110


Plant root-inspired geotechnics seeks to harness the principles of one of Earth's most ubiquitous foundation elements to redesign or enhance conventional geotechnical infrastructure. In particular, the anchorage and material efficiency attributes of fibrous root systems are encapsulated in a novel root-inspired anchor that has the capability of surpassing conventional anchorage systems (e.g. tiebacks, tiedowns, plate and pile anchors) particularly in areas with weak soil or spatial constraints. The scope of this research fully exposes the application of the bio-inspired design process to the realization of root-inspired anchorage systems from 1) the reasoning behind the selection of fibrous root systems as a prime source of inspiration for sustainable, resilient anchor elements (e.g. plastic and thigmotropic adaptability properties, multi-functionality), to 2) the identification of the critical attributes of fibrous root systems to pullout behavior through testing of leek (Allium porrum) and spider (Chlorophytum comosum) plants, to 3) the design and fabrication of root-inspired anchor models, to 4) an extensive performance evaluation. More specifically, the root-inspired anchors are assessed in terms of their pullout behavior through a combination of analytical, experimental, and numerical analyses. The slip line method from plasticity theory is used as the basis for the prediction of plate anchor pullout capacity that is further modified to account for the more complex geometry of root-inspired anchors through mechanics-informed insights. Experimentally, a series of 1g pullout tests are performed to parametrically study the role of root-inspired anchor features (i.e. morphology, topology, material properties, and interface roughness) as well as soil properties (i.e. relative density, particle angularity, and particle size) on pullout behavior. Additionally, through a combination of x-ray CT imaging and digital image correlation (DIC), the formation and evolution of the soil failure surface during the uplift of a root-inspired anchor model is visualized and analyzed to connect the local soil kinematics to the global pullout response. With the finite volume method, the uplift process is simulated to validate experimental results and to extend the parametric study to a wider range of anchor and soil conditions. Finally a few considerations are highlighted concerning the upscaled design, installation, and testing of these next generation anchor elements.


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