Geomaterials subjected to repetitive loading: implications on energy systems
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Improvements in quality of life, population growth, and environmental restrictions associated with the burning of fossil fuels will accentuate the need for renewable energy and energy geo-storage. A salient characteristic of these systems is that they impose numerous cycles of effective stress, temperature, and humidity on the surrounding geomaterials. This thesis quantifies future energy consumption based on realizable scenarios and explores the behavior of geomaterials subjected to mechanical and thermal cycles in view of energy-related applications. The long-term behavior of geotechnical systems subjected to a large number of mechanical load cycles is studied with a new numerical scheme based on a hybrid finite element formulation. The numerical scheme satisfies initial conditions as well as fundamental characteristics of soil behavior, such as threshold strain, terminal density, and long-term ratcheting. Numerical results show that shallow foundations subjected to repetitive loading experience strain accumulation and stress redistribution. On the other hand, the long-term behavior of energy piles, exposed geomembranes on slopes, and jointed rock masses subjected to cyclic thermal changes is studied using a combination of numerical, analytical, and experimental methods. Results show that thermal cycles lead to the gradual accumulation of plastic displacements, which may be amplified by thermally-induced wedging in jointed rock masses. In general, cumulative effects caused by repetitive loads increase with the number of cycles, the static factor of safety, the amplitude of the cyclic excitation, and the magnitude of the cyclically-induced displacement with respect to the critical elastic displacement.