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Mineralogical and Micro-structural Investigation into the Mechanical Behaviour of a Soft Calcareous Mudstone

Lookup NU author(s): David Simpson, Dr Mohamed Rouainia, Dr Gaetano EliaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021, The Author(s). The construction industry in Abu Dhabi is thriving and its coastline has some of the most ambitious structures in the world. Whilst the subsurface evaporitic and calcareous soft rocks of this region are of great geological interest, they are relatively poorly understood from a geotechnical engineering perspective, forcing foundation designs to be overly conservative. Understanding the stiffness of the underlying geology at small strains is of great importance for the accurate estimation of ground movements around excavations and foundations, and yet routine post-SI laboratory testing programmes tend to focus on basic rock mechanics tests such as UCS tests. These procedures are generally unsuitable for use with calcareous rocks due to their friable and moisture sensitive nature, and rarely obtain parameters representative of actual in situ behaviour. The calcareous mudstone investigated in this paper has mechanical and structural characteristics falling between those of a soil and those typical of a rock and, as such, requires a geotechnical testing approach that combines methods from both soil and rock mechanics disciplines. The mineralogical, micro-structural and mechanical characteristics of this lithology have been examined via a suite of testing techniques, including XRPD, SEM, advanced triaxial with bender elements, along with industry standard procedures. Shearing, tensile and consolidation behaviours have been explored. Examination of the micro- and macro-scale features of this material shows it to be highly structured, with strength and stiffness being controlled by inter-granular bonding of Dolomite grains, as well as by mean effective stress state and rate of strain. The presence of fibrous Palygorskite acts to reduce the degree of bonding, causing specimens rich in this clay mineral to have a more ductile mechanical behaviour.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Simpson D, Rouainia M, Elia G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

Year: 2021

Volume: 54

Pages: 2707-2722

Print publication date: 01/06/2021

Online publication date: 31/03/2021

Acceptance date: 28/02/2021

Date deposited: 24/05/2021

ISSN (print): 0723-2632

ISSN (electronic): 1434-453X

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00603-021-02426-x


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