Compressibility and microstructure of kaolin in varying thermo-hydro-mechanical states imposed by energy geostructures

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The thermal volumetric behaviour of soils plays a critical role in designing energy geostructures, withstanding temperature fluctuations. This study examined, for the first time, the thermal deformation of the partially saturated kaolin clay (matric suction of 0–300 kPa) within the operating temperature range of energy geostructures (8 °C to 45 °C), subjected to varying most recent stress histories (normal stress of 0–400 kPa). The thermal cycle has been applied to samples with identical hydro-mechanical stress histories initiated by heating or cooling from room temperature. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) tests have been performed to investigate the impact of temperature on soil microstructure as a potential determining mechanism of thermal deformation. The volumetric deformation associated with thermal cycles is analysed, considering the concurrent role of the overconsolidation ratio and the most recent stress. Secondary thermal consolidation (i.e., particle rearrangement) mainly depends on the most recent stress history, occurring only in samples heated beyond the yield limit, with cooling preventing secondary thermal consolidation. A clear relationship between thermal volume change and matric suction was observed, with higher matric suction resulting in less pronounced particle rearrangement. Further SEM analysis revealed that heating beyond the yield limit alters the soil microstructure permanently, with cooling showing no impact.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107248
JournalEngineering Geology
Early online date30 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Consolidation
  • Microstructure
  • Renewable energy
  • Suction
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology

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